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A Dissertation upon the Ancient
Service Books of the Church
HERE is no subject which earlier calls upon the attention of the inquirer into the history of the Liturgy, the Divine Offices, Sand Ritual of the Church of England, than this: viz. the number of, and distinctive differences between the books in which anciently that Ritual was contained. In modern days the limit is small indeed: one volume, and that not a large one, under the comprehensive title of the Book of Common Prayer, includes the daily worship of the people, the liturgy, the occasional offices, the ordinal, and the rubrics, which her ministers are to observe.
But the student cannot make one step beyond the middle of the xvith century, before he meets with the names at least, of many Service Books: the titles, for example, of Missal, Breviary, Horæ, Manual, Pontifical, sometimes according to the Use of one Church, sometimes of another; now of York, and now of Sarum, and then of Hereford; tell him as plainly as words can speak, how different the case was in earlier years,
up to the time when England became a Christian country.
And as he will find this to be a most important point of inquiry, in fact, although hitherto neglected, yet indispensable; so also is it one of no little difficulty. The books whose titles I have just alluded to are amongst the rarest which still exist, and except in a few instances, are to be found (whether printed or manuscript) only in the great public libraries. These often will be beyond his reach and opportunity: and he will be driven to search in the commentators upon our present Book, for the knowledge which he wants. We shall presently see what this is, both in quality and
I shall therefore in the beginning of these volumes, address myself to this subject: and I enter upon it, trusting that I may make some addition to the amount of information which is already at hand. Premising only, which I am bound to do, that when I speak of Service-Books, as in the title to this Dissertation, and as the subject upon which we are about to enter, I do not use the term in its proper and strict sense, limited to the Service of the Holy Communion: but as applicable to all parts of the public worship, much in the same way as very learned writers, Azevedo for example, have not scrupled to call treatises upon the Daily Office, Liturgical.
Let me then collect first what has been said by those to whom usually recourse is had in such inquiries. Bp. Sparrow in his Rationale, and Dean Comber in his Companion to the Temple, take no notice of the matter: nor indeed does it exactly enter into the object which they proposed. Hamon L'Estrange in his Alliance of Divine Offices, also passes it over without re