Category Archives: Anglicanism

Books As Objects: Including Reminiscences of Oxford & London, in Which Places I Saw Books

After two weeks of research in Oxford, I stopped off in London Friday night until my train whisked me back home to Edinburgh last night at 1700. Whilst in London, I spent the night at James’s and Saturday afternoon with Katie, Kai, and Dave. On Saturday morning, James and I walked along the South Bank of the Thames to Lambeth Palace where I went to the fabulous exhibit, ‘Royal Devotion’, about the history of the Book of Common Prayer, whose most popular edition, that of 1662, celebrates 350 years this year (with much less fervour than the KJV of 1611 of last year).

James asked me if I had ever thought of work in the business world. I said I hadn’t, really, except for a couple of small business ideas I’ve had. One was simply to open up a used bookshop. The other was Scriptorium, which would primarily focus on printing using antique or replica printing presses. We’d print books, posters, invitations, business cards, and do it with style, all old-school like. James wanted to know if there is a real difference in old techniques of printing. I said that there is, because, unlike modern litho, older printing actually prints on the page, which gives the printed book a literally different feel (and also a different aesthetic).

To demonstrate this tactile difference between the generations of printed books, I pulled out my 1939 edition of selected Essays by G K Chesterton, published by Collins. I opened it randomly to a page and got James to feel it. You can actually feel where the type pressed the book when it printed the words. You see — printing press. As it turns out, just re-feeling the book now, my 1939 Chesterton Essays is not the most pressed book out there. I have some old sheet music that is more dramatically pressed by far. But it made the point.

James had to leave at Lambeth, necessity drawing him to Jason’s wedding that afternoon. I paid admission to the exhibit, about which I had read in History Today where it was lauded as the best exhibit in London at present. I was very impressed. There were mediaeval breviaries and Books of Hours, as well as early printed missals. A copy of Quignon’s breviary was there as well, a book that stood as the precursor in many ways to Cranmer’s reformed Office. We had early Lutheran liturgies and Queen Mary’s mid-16th-century printing of Sarum on display; copies of every edition of the Prayer Book (1549, 1552, 1558, 1562, 1662 as well as the Scottish 1637) and the developing services, from the first English liturgy (the Litany) to the services of ordination; and there was the first Mohawk Prayer Book, a Diamond Jubilee Prayer Book from 1897, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s own copy of the Coronation service from 1953 as well as from the wedding of Will and Kate last year.

Outside of being testaments to the development of the liturgy over time — which they were, and which a student of liturgy would love to see in detail, from Sarum to Quignon to the Lutherans to Cranmer to his successors to Baxter’s attempts at a Puritan liturgy to New Zealand and North America — these books were objects. Beautiful objects like Richard III’s illuminated Book of Hours or the massive 1662 BCP in pride of place.

They are also useable and used objects. In a Breviary on display, in the Kalendar, Sts Damasus and Silvester had the word papa scratched out from beside their names. Another had two pages open where every saints day was crossed out by black Xs. There were handwritten rubrics by William Laud. There was a pre-1662 Prayer Book full of annotations for the new Prayer Book and sealed by the bishops’ seals. There was a Prayer Book with part cut out and a new prayer written in its place on the facing page. There was a prayer in the very hand of Queen Anne for the monarch’s protection.

Books are objects.

That afternoon with Katie, Kai, and Dave, I saw the treasures on display at the British Library. There was St Cuthbert’s Gospel of John, a manuscript of Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, and a beautiful illuminated Life of St Cuthbert by Bede. There were illuminated manuscripts from around the world — the Golden Haggadah in Hebrew, the intricacies of Islamic geometric illumination, many Bibles and Books of Hours, an illuminated Armenian book of saints’ lives, and a fantastically illuminated Ethiopian copy of Revelation.  Two Wycliffite Bibles were on display, and there, on the back of a birthday card, were the lyrics to ‘A Hard Day’s Night.’

In a digital age, words have ceased being things in our minds. They are not inscribed, not carefully inked, not pressed. With the flash of a finger, the backspace key can eliminate them for eternity. Yet words and literature, poetry and prose, have tended historically to have been preserved from one hand to another, one age to another, in books. And books are objects.

They can be beautiful, as I so happily observed yesterday. And so these exhibits were a fitting close to two weeks of daily work with a manuscript from the 1100s, with a book that a scribe or two (I think at least two based on the variation in hands between start and finish, plus whoever the corrector was) wrote in brown and black ink on the skin of several goats. In red, every new item was announced to the reader. Each important section was set out from the rest with a littera notabilior in red or blue ink, the practice of writing the first letter much larger than the rest (occasionally continued today). I loved it.

Perhaps I shall go on about my love of mediaeval books later, however.

Nonetheless, a book is an object. In an age of Kindles and Kobos, of PDFs and printouts, of and Google Books, in an age of perfect and terrible cover art, we have an image of the word as unfleshed. To us, the words are unmediated, and we think there is no difference between a PDF and a Kindle or a new Oxford World’s Classic and an old one. But there is. And the objectified reality of the printed book, especially in the beauty of old ones, reminds us who prefer the book daily that all literature and human thought comes to us through a medium of one sort or another.

Therefore, why not make the medium beautiful? Such was the goal of our forebears. For the literature in a book is not like a cheap whore to be tossed aside at the end of reading. It will stay with you forever. It should be mulled over again and again. I have many a time reread ‘On Lying in Bed.’ My greatest enjoyment was in the 1939 Collins edition of Chesterton’s selected Essays that I showed James yesterday morning on the way to Lambeth Palace.

Mediaeval Wedding

On July 3, my sister got married in Calgary (yay!!).  The event was mediaeval-themed.  And when you gather together a bunch of Hoskins, many of whom are history buffs and many of whom are also believing Anglicans, you don’t get your run-of-the-mill mediaeval wedding where everyone is in mediaeval clothes, whoop-dee-do.

Now, we were in mediaeval clothes — of course.  And not just the bridal party,

clergy (who, as Anglicans, inevitably wore mediaeval clothes),

and most family,

but almost everyone present.

Besides the fantastic garb, the ceremony was pretty mediaeval.  The core of the ceremony was from the 1959/62 Canadian BCP — itself just a trimmed-down version of the mediaeval Sarum marriage ceremony (my translation thereof to be made available soon).  To the BCP order for the solemnization of holy matrimony, certain portions of Sarum were added.

These included a couple of very nice prayers (you could identify at least one because it ends “through the ages of ages” — I translated literally from Latin, rather than the traditional “world without end”) as well as the exchanging of rings.  After Bishop Uncle Derek blessed the rings, the exchange was as follows:

Juniper:  With this ring, I thee wed, with my body I thee honour, and all my worldly goods with thee I share. Then the husband shall place the ring on the thumb of his wife, saying: In the name of the Father, Then on the forefinger, saying: And of the Son, Then on the middle finger, saying: And of the Holy Ghost, Then on the ring finger, saying: Amen.

Janna did likewise.

In keeping with the Sarum Use, after the couple had received reserved Sacrament in the Lady Chapel, the knelt before the high altar of the cathedral.  There a canopy was held over their heads by their attendants, and various prayers of blessing were prayed over them.  The canopy symbolises the home they are to create together as husband and wife.

At the close of the ceremony, Juniper saluted his bride.

After the ceremony, there were the obligatory modern photos in a park.

Some of these you saw above.  Various hijinks ensued, inevitably.

Some of them involved swords.

Following this, we went to the reception.

To make the bride and groom kiss, we all shook blue pennants (cut by me, glued by Jenn).  The stone wall behind the head table was made by our cousin Andrew Hunt to cover up bookshelves.  He did an excellent job.

He also looks good in a kilt.

I was MC, and got to send the tables up.  Each table had a shield with a heraldic figure on it, and they were called in that manner, from House of the Unicorn to House of the Boar (not Bore).  There was ham, chicken, green beans, potatoes, carrots, and salad.  Forks were optional.

There was also mead.  And I got to hold Juniper’s drinking horn, one of the moments of glory in this short life of mine.

Following dinner, there was cake.  Uncle Derek prayed the traditional Hoskin prayer of blessing over wedding cakes, then they cut the cake.

Then I changed into modern clothing and did the mediaeval Scottish sword dance

We followed the Sword Dance with mediaeval group dances, which are clearly the ancestors of Scottish Country Dancing.  We did a Pavane and two things with silly names such as “Peascop.”  They were good fun, and I have no photos to show you of them.

There was also a first dance, of which my photos are trapped on a memory card at the moment.  Here are some more pleasant photos for your viewing pleasure, such as my Dad’s fantastic cope.

And my brother Jonathan and his matching family.

And my lovely wife and I.

And Uncle Ted and my cousin’s fantastic costumes cannot go without mention.  Uncle Ted originally had boot covers, but there was a costume malfunction.  They lie abandoned beside him.

Holy Sonnet XIV

This week’s poem is inspired by the sermon at Evensong at the Cathedral Church of St. James, where the sermon was about John Donne.

Batter my heart, three person’d God; for, you
As yet but knocke, breathe, shine, and seeke to med;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow mee,’and bend
Your force, to breake, blowe, burn and make me new.
I, like an usurpt towne, to’another due,
Labout to’admit you, but Oh, to no end,
Reason your viceroy in mee, mee should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weake or untrue.
Yet dearely’I love you,’and would be loved faine,
But am betroth’d unto your enemie:
Divocre mee,’untie, or breake that knot againe,
Take mee to you, imprison mee, for I
Except you’enthrall mee, never shall be free,
Nor ever chast, except you ravish mee.

Death Be not Proud by John Donne

This week’s poem, “Holy Sonnet X” by the Anglican divine John Donne.  After reading this, go and watch the film or play Wit.

Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not soe,
For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill mee.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better than thy stroake; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

Weekly Poem #27

Now, don’t forget about Dr. Horrible from my last post. But more importantly, don’t forget about St. Francis of Assisi, and most importantly, don’t forget about the Creator Himself. So here, by St. Frank himself, translated by the Rev. W. H. Draper, is “All Creatures of Our God and King,” based upon Psalm 145.

All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam,
Thou silver moon with softer gleam!

O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Thou rushing wind that art so strong
Ye clouds that sail in Heaven along,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou rising moon, in praise rejoice,
Ye lights of evening, find a voice!

O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Thou flowing water, pure and clear,
Make music for thy Lord to hear,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou fire so masterful and bright,
That givest man both warmth and light.

O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Dear mother earth, who day by day
Unfoldest blessings on our way,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
The flowers and fruits that in thee grow,
Let them His glory also show.

O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

And all ye men of tender heart,
Forgiving others, take your part,
O sing ye! Alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
Praise God and on Him cast your care!

O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

And thou most kind and gentle Death,*
Waiting to hush our latest breath,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou leadest home the child of God,
And Christ our Lord the way hath trod.

O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Let all things their Creator bless,
And worship Him in humbleness,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit, Three in One!

O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

*This verse is missing from The Book of Common Praise — who knew they were so squeamish in 1938? One would expect such behaviour from later generations of hymn-book compilers and turd-faced liturgists, but we can see how the seeds of the modern problem were sown early . . .

Two Lists of Ten

I like Canada. I mean, there are things about Canada and many Canadians and whatnot that bother me. But I like Canada overall, this country whose English-speaking culture is British but poised between US and UK with a few new ingredients thrown in–and we ought to embrace this reality as what it means to be Canadian. Being Canadian, uniquely Canadian, doesn’t mean only doing things that only Canadians do. Being uniquely Canadian means the whole jumble. So, while poutine, nanaimo bars, and butter tarts are uniquely Canadian, doughnuts are also an especially Canadian thing (and more universally Canadian than poutine, I might add). So, to celebrate Canadianness, don’t feel awkward about the fact that Canadians are not as multicultural as the government tells us. Just embrace what we are.

So, the first list of ten is things I like about Canada. Post your own lists as comments, O Canadian readers! The order is the order they came to mind:


-The Parliament Buildings

-William Shatner

-Jack Whyte (wrote The Skystone)

-Will Ferguson

-Robert Munsch


-The Rocky Mountains



What do you like about the true North, strong and free?

List Two

Thinking about the Anglicans and my relationship to them. I am Anglican. It is part of my peculiar character in Christ. Ten reasons I love Anglicanism in the order they come to mind:

1. C. S. Lewis

2. John Stott

3. J. I. Packer

4. Miroslav Volf

5. Richard Hooker

6. John Wesley

7. Thomas Cranmer

8. John Newton

9. N. T. Wright

10. Benedicta Ward

Yes, they are all people, mostly clergy (with the exception of Lewis and Volf, in fact — Benedicta Ward is a nun), and all writers. There are many others, and Benedicta Ward is not the only woman. But I promised a list of 10, so I won’t give you any others besides the BCP and the 39 Articles of Religion (found therein).