The French Prayer Book

A letter to the Editor of the Star newspaper from the Guernsey historian Edith Carey, 14 December 1926, concerning the history of the French Prayer Book, published for the islands, the first (unpopular) edition of which exists in only one copy, in the Lambeth Palace Library.

For the Priaulx Library's editions of these various Prayer Books see Thomas Andros' Commonplace Book.

SIR. There seems to be a certain confusion as to the origin and translation of our French Prayer Book. It was not of 'Calvinist' origin, nor indeed was it used by the Calvinists, but began as a literal translation of the first Prayer Book of Edward VI, as issued in 1549. It was translated in to characteristic 16th century French with all its Classicisms, by a Frenchman named François Philippe, under the auspices of the Bishop of Ely. The title page runs as follows:

Le Livre des Prières Communes, de l'Administration des Sacramens et autres Cérémonies en l'Eglise d'Angleterre. De l'imprimerie de Thomas Gaultier, Imprimeur du Roy en la langue Françoise pour les Isles de Sa Majésté. Avec le privilège général du dict Seigneur, 1553.

A copy of this edition, which is now excessively rare, was sold for £70 at Lord Crawford's sale. It differs in many respects from the Edition now in use; there is no prayer for 'the King,' nor for 'All sorts and conditions of men.' The Commandments, the 7th included, are translated in the form still in use.1

This Prayer Book was accepted by the islanders, and it is worthy of record that, although the Islands had been nominally transferred in 1499 from the Diocese of Coutances to the See of Winchester by a Bull of Pope Alexander VI, yet, in an Order in Council of 1550 having reference to this first English Prayer Book, the Bishop of 'Quittance in Normandie' was allowed the same jurisdiction in the Islands that he and his predecessors had had 'in all things not repugnant to the order in that book.'

The accession of Queen Mary and the religious persecutions which ensued led to many insular Protestants taking refuge in Geneva, and it was at their instigation that Calvin sent Genevan Pastors to replace the Romish Priests deprived, in Queen Elizabeth's reign, of their island livings, and Presbyterianism was therefore practically established. But these Calvinists brought their own Prayer Book with them, and would have nothing to do with the Edward VI Prayer Book. Theirs consisted of long prayers from the pulpit with little or no response from the congregation; it contained no Absolution, no Litany, no Words of Administration; and concluded with an exposition of the Creeds and Commandmentnts much on the lines of the Scottish 'Shorter Catechism.'

This Prayer Book was in use until Anglicanism was re-established. This was done in Jersey in the reign of James I, and we find that the 2nd French Prayer Book then came into use, with the title page:-

La Liturgie Angloise ou Le Livre des Prières Publiques de l'Administration des Sacremens et Autres Ordres et Cérémonies de l'Eglise d'Angleterre. Nouellement traduit en François par l'Ordonnance de Sa Majésté de la Grande Bretagne. A Londres, par Jehan Bill, Imprimeur du Roy, MDCXVI (1616). Avec Privilege de Sa Majésté.

This was an exact translation of the King Edward VI second Prayer Book and contained a prayer for the King and altered rubrics. This translation was due to Dr Peter de Laune, Minister of the Conformist Walloon Church at Norwich.

After the Restoration, in 1665, when Anglicanism was established in both of the islands, Dr John Durell, a native of Jersey and afterwards Dean of Windsor, revised the book and brought it in to line with the revised English Version of 1662. Two successive revisions were made in the last century, one by the Rev. Dr. Godfray, and one by the local Committee of the SPCK, to which is attached a copy of the Royal Authorization of Dean Durell's version.

I hope I have succeeded in making it clear that our French Prayer Book is therefore just as Anglican as the English Prayer book itself, of which it is but a literal translation.

I am, yours faithfully,

Edith F. Carey, Mesnil Careye, December 14th, 1926.

1 She adds: 'The well-known Dictionary of Old French into Modern issued in 1732 by Pierre Richelet refers to the use of the verb paillarder by such eminent 16th century authors as Rabelais and Brantôme.'

The Comet, June 24 1849

A rare tome

At a sale of Lord Crawford's effects, held in London last week, Messrs Sotheby sold to Messrs Ellis, of Bond Street, a Prayer Book, translated into French for the special use of Channel Islanders. The book dates as far back as 1553, and was sold for the price of £70.

The following is a full description of the book, as taken from the catalogue:

678.—Liturgy, Livre des prieres comunes de l'administration des sacramens et autres cérémonies en l'Eglise de l'Angleterre. Traduit en Francoys par Francoys Philippe, servituer de Monsieur le Grand Chancelier d'Angleterre. [Fine copy in blue morocco, extra gilt edges, by W Pratt, excessively rare.]

Sm 4to (Paris). De l'Imprimerie de Thomas Gaullier, Imprimeur du Roy en la langue Française, pour les Iles de Sa Majesté, 1553. 

The following is the collation of this extremely rare edition, purchased in the Tenison sale for £39 (4) ff. Title contents Epistle to Bp of Ely, sig. A1-iv † (4) ff. Preface des cérémonies en sign. B 1 iv † (14) ff. Table & Kalendar, Proper Psalms & Lessons. Acte pour Uniformité, 4 (184) ff. Texte. The translation was made from the second book of King Edward VI for the use of the inhabitants of the Channel Islands.