On May 6, over 450 years ago, William Salesbury published The Book of Common Prayer and Psalms, newly translated, into Welsh.
This 16th century prayer book had been previously written for use within the Church of England by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. The Book of Common Prayer would become an important spiritual ingredient in the daily diet of Christians throughout England, and beyond, and continues to be used by Anglicans, even to this day.
The Book of Common Prayer and Psalms has been deeply revered within Christianity, and a majority of English Bibles were printed and bound with it from the 16th century up to the 19th century. It was that important.
Early 19th century editions published by the British and Foreign Bible Society are among some of the earliest Bibles to exclude the BCP. But earlier printed Bibles such as the Geneva Bible and King James Bibles, all contained Cranmer’s Prayer book.
In the year 1567, William Salesbury had translated his version into Welsh under the title; Lliver Gweddi Gyffredin. Back in those days Parliament was Biblically minded and Westminster had given Salesbury the deadline of 1 March 1567 (St David’s Day) to publish his translation. Sadly that deadline was missed. The Book of Common Prayer and Psalms into Welsh did not appear until May 6. But it was not without its opponents.
Anger had outburst by opponents of the Welsh tongue, and people had aggressively demanded that the translation be utterly abandoned. But such opposition was unfruitful. Salesbury did not give in.
Lliver Gweddi Gyffredin was published on 6 May 1567. But Salesbury was the translator, not the author.
Cranmer’s original Book of Common Prayer had been a work of absolute genius and Christian devotion. Rather than divide the Church, Cranmer sought to unify her through Scripture and Prayer.
Cranmer’s prayer book is a very special gift and people would always do well to read it. The Book of Common Prayer and Psalms is a monumental work that has echoed on through the centuries and has fed the Church of God with Scripture, through with Prayer.
It is not a book of ‘prayers’, it is a book of prayer. We need more of that today, perhaps more now than ever.