In our modern society, it is easy to imagine throwing away objects that no longer fully serve their purpose. But during the period of the English Reformation, obtaining the materials to construct a new prayer book would not have been easy. The printing press was invented in 1436, just prior...
In our modern society, it is easy to imagine throwing away objects that no longer fully serve their purpose. But during the period of the English Reformation, obtaining the materials to construct a new prayer book would not have been easy. The printing press was invented in 1436, just prior to the rule of King Henry VIII. When he broke away from the authority of the Pope in order to absolve his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, he established the Church of England. In doing so, he began to reform some of the common religious practices in England in order to be more theologically sound (according to the king).
At this time, most prayer books were only created for liturgical practices, not private use. Therefore, it would have been exceedingly difficult for commoners to obtain a prayer book for private use at all. As time passed, however, prayer books were developed to offer personal training in piety for specific societal roles, including for the duties of women and students.
At the same time, there was still a significant portion of England's populace who remained devoutly Catholic, particularly those were were loyal to their first Queen, Catherine. Of course, challenging the king's divine authority often proved disastrous and sometimes ended with public executions. Those whose faith remained loyal to the Roman Catholic Church objected to various assertions of the new Church of England, particularly the rejection of transubstantiation. Some citizens also objected to the use of English in the prayer books.
Theology was shifting quickly under the rule of a monarch who didn't hesitate to execute those who disagreed with him. It would have been impractical to dispose of prayer books in a time when paper, printing, and binding were valuable commodities. Instead, a modification of existing texts was more feasible for ordinary worshippers.
Interestingly, Henry VIII himself used a prayer book to exchange secret and flirtatious messages with Anne Boleyn, who would become his second wife following the dissolution of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. There are other existing prayer books with Henry VIII's own notes from times of pensive religious meditation. It can therefore be assumed that writing in prayer books was viewed as a means of thoughtful reflection upon the words and Scriptures.