A booke of Christian Prayers, collected out of the ancient writers, and best learned in our time

Chrzanowski 1590dIn 1569 John Day, a printer of exceptional quality books, published Christian Prayers and Meditations, which was reputedly designed for private use by Queen Elizabeth. Now at Lambeth Palace, the only surviving complete copy is carefully colored throughout with added royal arms, probably by Archbishop Matthew Parker’s own artists. Richard Day, his son, first published an adaptation of his father’s work, A Book of Christian Prayers, in 1578. The books are similar in design, distinguished by the woodcut borders that were commissioned for the 1569 publication.

A Book of Christian Prayers is a collection of private devotions with prayers appropriate for all uses: for different times of the day and daily activities, for faith and against sin, for times of affliction or thanks, for redress of sinful activities, for others that are suffering, and for the Church (including a prayer written by martyrologist John Foxe). As is the case in the predecessor book, the pages of prayers are framed throughout by attractive woodcut borders, some of which are based on designs by Albrecht Dürer. There are three series of border designs: one includes scenes from the life of Christ; another illustrates various proverbs and wise sayings and includes symbolic figures of the cardinal virtues; and the third represents the Apocalypse and presents a Dance of Death.

At the beginning of A Book of Christian Prayers is a famous portrait of Queen Elizabeth at prayer, possibly designed by Levina Teerlinc, a Flemish miniaturist who was painter to the English court for Edward VI, Mary, and Elizabeth. Accordingly, the book is widely referred to as “Queen Elizabeth’s Prayer Book.” It is the closest thing in Protestant England to a traditional Book of Hours. Rather than the Virgin Mary, however, the virgin Queen appears prominently in the book.

A Book of Christian Prayers was reprinted in 1581 and 1590. The present copy is the 1590 edition and bears the bookplate of Robert Hoe III, an American producer of printing press equipment, an extraordinary book collector, and first president of the Grolier Club. The copy also belonged to and has been deaccessioned from the Huntington Library.

Chrzanowski 1590d *

STC 6431

Title List

1479–1550 | 1551–1580 | 1583–1608 | 1609–1675