Category Archives: Episcopal Church history

An instance of his industry

An instance of his industry and perseverance may be given. A few years ago, it occurred to him that the earlier records of Ordinations in this country were very imperfect; that it was even then, in many cases, difficult to ascertain by whom a clergyman had been ordained, or at what time, and that every year which passed must increase the difficulty. He therefore undertook to ascertain, as far as possible, the date of every Ordination that had taken place in this country and the name of the ordaining Bishop. He found his self-imposed task by no means an easy one, and in a letter written at the time, he says, “Some things are discouraging as to the early, not the earliest, ordinations; but many of them, if not all, can still be accurately recorded, with some pains. The difficulties show how important it is that such a list, if it is .ever to be complete, should now be arranged.”

In order to collect this information, an immense number of letters was necessarily written, and when all the answers were received, the record was still to be made. He procured a large blank book, and to make the record permanently legible, printed it all with his own hand, intending to present the fruit of his labors to the General Convention that it might be continued from year to year, and become a source of reference when such information was needed. While this work was in progress, other names, from time to time, came to his knowledge, which he was obliged to interline. When all was finished, he was not satisfied with its appearance, marred, as he thought, by interlineations, and he resolved to rewrite the whole. He might have employed a secretary to copy it, but he preferred to make it throughout the work of his own hand. Another book was procured, and he set himself patiently to the labor of copying. It was no light task, and the day preceding the meeting of the General Convention of 1862 found it unfinished. He would not give up his determination to complete it before reaching the Convention. He took the two books, pens and a pocket inkstand with him in the cars. The books lay open on his knees, his pen was in his hand, the inkstand was held by his travelling companion. The moment the cars stopped, his pen was dipped in the ink, and at each station he succeeded in copying one, two, or three names. He was amused to think what the other inmates of the car thought of him; but he was rewarded for his perseverance. Before he arrived at New York, the last name had been copied.

From Alexander Burgess, Memoir of the Life of the Right Reverend George Burgess, D. D., First Bishop of Maine (Philadelphia: Claxton, Remsen, and Haffelfinger, 1869), pp. 30-31.

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A Bibliographic Discovery, Unfortunately Apophatic

In connection with an upcoming paper and presentation on Charles Chapman Grafton (1830-1912) and his introduction of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament to the United States, I have been working in some detail with a small volume called Meditations of a Bishop. Its title page has no identifying information for an author or publisher, and just the date 1916. It is similar in font and general style to contemporary publications of the Young Churchman Company, based in Milwaukee, and associated in the Episcopal Church with decades of Anglo-Catholic literature. Bookseller catalogues identify it as an anonymous publication of Bishop Grafton, given the similarity of the chalice and host design on the cover and spine to a similar decoration on the covers of one edition of the collected works of Grafton.

Meditations of a Bishop is present in just three North American libraries: the former Seabury-Western Library, now at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois; the University of Virginia Library; and the Cardinal Stafford Library at Saint John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, Colorado. Grafton’s contemporary James Otis Sargent Huntington (1854-1923) reviewed the book favorably just after its publication, but did not himself at that time identify the anonymous author as Grafton. Nevertheless, I have been keen to work with the plausible assumption that Grafton was this work’s author, and that the anonymous nature of the publication may have had to do with his advancement of what were still at the time of his death considered “extreme” and “advanced” eucharistic positions for North American Anglicans.

I’ve discovered this week to my dismay that Meditations of a Bishop is definitely not by Bishop Grafton, but rather the work of a Roman Catholic coadjutor bishop of Bordeaux named François-Alexandre Roullet de la Bouillerie (1810-1882). It is in fact identical in all but a few respects to a much earlier publication by a priest of the Church of England, which was itself a translation of this Roman Catholic devotional work:

Meditations on the Eucharist (Oxford: A. R. Mowbray & Co.; London: Simpkin, Marshall & Co.; J. Masters & Co., 1870)

This work went through at least four editions in its Mowbrays version, and it had also been printed previously in English under Roman Catholic auspices as

Hours before the Altar; or, Meditations on the Holy Eucharist (London: Richardson and Son, 1858).

The only differences between the 1916 anonymous publication and the nineteenth-century English editions are the omission of textual citations from the Vulgate, and the absence of any prefatory material.

Meditations on the Eucharist was translated into English by a Church of England priest who signed himself “R.H.N.B.” His very slight adaptation of the text to Anglican doctrine was the omission of a final chapter on Mary and the Eucharist. R.H.N.B. is Robert Henry Nisbett Browne, author of at least one published sermon and a succession of typological commentaries on the Old Testament:

Confession and Absolution: A Sermon Preached in the Parish Church of St. Edward, Romford, on the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity, September 26, 1858 (London: J. Masters, 1858).

Christ in Genesis; or, Types and Shadows of the Cross (London: J. Masters, 1870).

Christ in Exodus; or, Foreshadowings of the Gospel (London: J. Masters, 1871).

Christ in Leviticus: The One Sacrifice for Sin.  (London: J. Masters, 1871).

Christ in Numbers; or, The Church in the Wilderness (London: J. Masters, 1872).

Christ in the Prophets (London: J. Masters, 1873).

Following his translation of Roullet de la Boullerie’s Meditations, he also published a translation of the same author’s Holy Teachings in Nature (Oxford and London: A.R. Mowbray, 1885). I have been unable to learn much about Browne’s biography, but he was a sometime curate at St. Edward the Confessor, Romford, in the Diocese of Chelmsford. He was a signatory of the large 1871 protest by Ritualist-sympathizing clergy against the Purchas judgment; a correspondent on liturgical matters in the columns of Notes and Queries in 1859 and 1861; an elected member of the Royal Institution of Great Britain from 1875; and a member of the Natal Guild of the Church of England. His addresses in periodical correspondence point to a likely connection with the Church of St. Matthias, Stoke Newington, which was a strong center of Ritualism in north London in a building designed by William Butterfield.

Academic take-away: it’s as important to identify what was not written by one’s subject as it is important to identify what was written by one’s subject. By assuming the association of Grafton with Meditations of a Bishop (1916), I would have written a very different paper on Charles Chapman Grafton and the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament than I should or would have otherwise.

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Ristretto del Libro delle Preghiere Pubbliche della Chiesa Episcopale (1922)

Today I finished digitizing this title, the only translation into Italian of portions of the American Book of Common Prayer between 1909 and 1999:

Ristretto del Libro delle Preghiere Pubbliche della Chiesa Episcopale.
Selections from the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.
New York: Foreign-Born Americans Division, Department of Missions, 1922.

Part of what I found most interest about working with this book is that it’s diglot—with English and Italian on facing pages, rather than a plain translation. The translator notes that the book was  “published for the private use of Italians in America that they may understand and follow more readily the services of the Episcopal Church.” Unlike earlier translations for “foreign-born Americans,” then, this envisions I think a transitional stage in which Italian speakers will also understand and learn English. The usual notion of celebrating in a non-English language—as explicit in Italian translations published in 1909 and 1999—is not quite the same here.

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Christ Church, New Haven cookbook

Off and on for a good decade, I’ve been digitizing historical material connected with Christ Church, New Haven, a parish I’ve enjoyed attending occasionally for about the same about of time.

This month, I thought I would work on one of the more delightful pieces of Anglo-Catholic parish history I could ever imagine, The True and Tried Cook Book, Published by the Ladies of Christ Church, New Haven (1887).

After losing an attempt to purchase it on eBay, I placed an ILL order through the Yale Divinity Library. To my amazement, the Connecticut State Library digitized it almost immediately for free, and it’s now available for anyone to view and download: behold!

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