Benton, Josiah (1843-1917) Collection of the Book of Common Prayer

(Rare Books & Manuscripts)

The Benton Collection of Editions of the Book of Common Prayer is one of the most extensive existing collections of its kind and includes first-edition copies of the Prayer Book of 1549, King Edward’s second Prayer Book of 1552, Queen Elizabeth’s Book of 1559, King James' of 1604, and five copies of the final alteration of 1662, in addition to hundreds of other editions. There are also nearly 100 translations of The Book of Common Prayer into the languages of peoples from around the world.

The "American" portion of the collection contains the first edition of of The Book of Common Prayer printed in America (1710), the "Mohawk Prayer Book" of 1715, Benjamin Franklin’s abridgment of 1773, and the liturgy of the first Episcopal Church in Boston, 1785.

The multiple editions and revisions of The Book of Common Prayer brought together by this collection represent not only the history of the Church of England, but also the history of early modern European printing and Anglo-American bookbinding more generally. A majority of the books are in contemporary bindings, with material evidence of provenance entirely intact.

In addition to The Book of Common Prayer itself, the collection also contains some of the scarcest English Primers, prayers books, and religious tracts, including the Scottish liturgy of 1637, and the first Prayer Book of the Church of Ireland of 1721,

The original collection was bequeathed by Boston Public Library trustee Josiah H. Benton in 1919. It began with 658 volumes and now numbers well over 1,500. 

Online access

Those items that have been electronically cataloged are retrievable through either of the online catalogs, opens a new window through a title search for "Benton Collection of Editions of the Book of Common Prayer."

Digitized materials from this collection can be accessed through both Internet Archive, opens a new window and Digital Commonwealth, opens a new window.

(Rare Books & Manuscripts)