Elizabeth Takes Up Her Father’s Work. The Rare Second Book of English Homilies (1563)

Church of England

The seconde tome of homelyes of such matters as were promised and intituled in the former part of Homelyes, set out by the aucthoritie of the Quenes Maiestie: And to be read in euery paryshe Churche agreablye

London: in Powles Churcheyarde by Rychard Iugge, and Ihon Cawood, prynters to the Quenes Maiestie], 1563


Quarto: 18 x 13 cm. [2], 292 leaves. Collation: Aa-Rr8, Ss-Tt4, Vv-Zz8, Aaa-Ooo8, Ppp6


A fine complete copy of this very rare book, bound in 19th c. brown shagreen, rubbed. The outer blank margins of the title and of the final leaf have been discreetly repaired, with no loss. A few other very discreet marginal repairs, again no loss. With a beautiful woodcut border with architectural elements, and attractive woodcut initials. Provenance: With the bookplates of Michael Tomkinson and John Lloyd Balderston.

The “Book of Homilies” referred to in the 35th article of the Church of England originated at convocation in 1542, in the reign of Henry VIII, and a first volume was published in 1547, early in the reign of Edward VI. That first volume comprised 12 homilies.

This official prayer book was suppressed during Queen Mary’s reign but when Elizabeth succeeded to the throne in 1559, as one of her first official acts she ordered the “Prayer Book” and “Homilies” to be reprinted. In 1563, this “Second Book of Homilies” was submitted along with the 39 articles to the convocation. It contained 20 new homilies.

Along with Cranmer’s “Prayer Book”, the “Homilies” were at the core of the Protestant English Church’s teaching. The “Homilies” were appointed to be read in every English church every Sunday. They were preached in order, with only one of the 32 homilies preached on a given Sunday. When the cycle had run its course, it was to be repeated.

“The writing of the first twelve homilies (the first volume) was begun as early as 1539 by Thomas Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury (Original Letters II. 626), but it appears to have been a collaborative effort. The homilies were discussed at Convocation in 1542 and failed to muster approval at that time, owing to the opposition of clergy like Stephen Gardiner. He rejected Cranmer's innovative dogma that Christians could be saved by faith alone, rather than by good works, refused to contribute to the collection, and so obstructed its publication that Cranmer had him jailed in the Fleet briefly in 1547. The second of the injunctions of Edward VI to his bishops in 1547 left little doubt about the homilies' importance [and] they were accordingly published by R. Grafton on July 31, 1547, in the first year of Edward's reign.

“The homilies fell into swift disuse when Edward died and his Catholic sister Mary came to the throne (Bonner produced a new collection of thirteen homilies to replace the old for the brief years in which protestants like Cranmer were martyred for their innovations.)

“Elizabeth, coming to the throne in early 1559, quickly perceived the homilies to be an important instrument in the settlement of religious conflict, a precondition of political security. In April 1559 she restored them as official homilies of the Church of England in her 27th and 53rd injunctions to the clergy and laity…

“Twenty new homilies were contributed by Elizabeth's bishops to the second volume by 1563. They included those (promised in 1547) on fasting (no. 4), prayer (nos. 7 and 9), alms deeds (no. 11), the nativity, the passion, and the resurrection (nos. 12-14), the receiving of the sacrament (no. 15), idleness (no. 19), and gluttony and drunkenness (no. 5), but if there were any plans for homilies on covetousness, envy, anger, and malice, they were superseded by more urgent needs. Practical homilies on the proper use of the church (no. 1), idolatry (i.e., wrongful use of images; no. 2), repairing and cleaning the church (no. 3), excess of apparel (no. 6), persons offended by certain places of scripture (no. 10), Whitsunday and Rogation week (nos. 16-17), matrimony (no. 18), and repentance (no. 20) interested the bishops more.”(Ian Lancashire, Brief History of the Homilies)

The Homilies are:

1. Of the right vse of the Churche

2. Agaynst perill of Idolatrie

3. Of repayring and keping cleane of Churches

4. Of good workes, first of fastyng

5. Agaynst gluttony and drunkennesse

6. Against excesse of apparel

7. Of prayer

8. Of the place and time of prayer

9. That common prayers and Sacramentes ought to be ministred in a knowen tongue

10. Of the reuerente estimation of Gods worde

11. Of almes doing.

12. Of the Natiuite of Christe.

13. Of the passion of Christe.

14. Of the resurrection of Christe.

15. Of the worthie receauing of the Sacrament of the body and blood of Christe.

16. Of the gyftes of the holy ghost.

17. For the Rogation dayes.

18. Of the state of Matrimonie.

19. Of repentaunce.

20. Agaynst Idlenesse.

STC 13663.3