The Book of Common Prayer (London: Robert Barker, Printer to the King’s Most Excellent Majesty, 1615) Shelfmark: Cpbd.b.2.upper shelf.5

The Book of Common Prayer (London: Robert Barker, Printer to the King’s Most Excellent Majesty, 1615)

This March is the last full month of work for Ruth Ogden, St John’s College’s Deputy Librarian of 35 years, as she will retire before Easter. To send her off in style, the Library has been hosting an exhibition of Ruth’s favourite old books in Hilary Term 2022, which includes this copy of The Book of Common Prayer.

The gilt-tooled armorial binding of King James I and his inscription in pencil on the front endpaper, “James Stuart my book 1616” testifies to previous the royal ownership of this 1615 edition of The Book of Common Prayer.

Being the official liturgical book of the Church of England, The Book of Common Prayer is a product of the English Reformation. Archbishop Thomas Cranmer wrote it in 1549 and then revised it in 1552. Only a few steps away from St John’s College the Martyrs Memorial commemorates Cranmer’s tragic end. Having been prohibited during the reign of Mary I, The Book of Common Prayer was re-published under Elizabeth I, and a new edition was commissioned by James I in 1608.                                            

This particular copy from 1615 is one of St John’s most treasured library books. It was King James I’s own book, given by him to his physician of 22 years, William Paddy. The volume has two manuscript additions: a list of prayers spoken at James I’s deathbed and Paddy’s autograph account of the king’s death. William Paddy bequeathed this volume to his alma mater in 1634 together hundreds of others and monetary gifts. He is still remembered as one of the Library’s most generous benefactors.

If you’d like to find out more about James I’s Book of Common Payer, check out the online version of our Hilary Term 2022 exhibition “The President, the “Prince”, and the Hedgehogs” at

Members of St John’s College may visit the exhibition during Library opening hours at their convenience throughout March. Visitors who would like to see the exhibition in person, should email to arrange an appointment.