Historic Abbitt-Dupriest Prayer Book Collection dedicated

Posted Dec 15, 2011

Culminating a three-month exhibition, the dedication of the Abbitt-DuPriest Collection of Anglican and Episcopal Prayer Books was held Tuesday, December 6th in Margaret I. King Building of the University of Kentucky. Approximately 75 people from the academic, diocesan, and book arts communities were present for the program.

The collection of prayer books, dating back to 1592, is a gift to Special Collections from Dr. Travis T. DuPriest, who received his Ph.D. from UK and is retired Professor of English at Carthage College and former Director and Vice President of The DeKoven Foundation for Church Work in Racine, Wisc.  Fr. DuPriest, a priest of the Diocese of Milwaukee, was ordained deacon and priest in the Diocese of Lexington.

Rev. Raymond Edgerton Abbitt was an Episcopal priest who served in the Philippines, St. Thomas and St. Croix in the Virgin Islands, and the Diocese of Dallas. Fr. Abbitt was a graduate of the General Theological Seminary in New York City which presented him with a Doctorate of Sacred Theology honorary degree for his work in the mission field and parish day school education.

Starting in the 1940s, after his release from prisoner of war camp, Fr. Abbitt originally hoped to acquire at least one prayer book from the reign of each British monarch. “He came very close, and we hope to add to the Collection when possible,” DuPriest said. At the dedication event, Dr. DuPriest presented Dr. Birchfield, Curator of Rare Books, with additional Prayer Books: one Victorian book bound in ivory; an 1841 British example; and a 2000 Welsh Prayer Book.

Four speakers focused on four different perspectives on the Book of Common Prayer: its history; its various printers and editions; the integrity of the Collection related to other rare book holdings of the University; and the Prayer Book’s influence on English and literature. Dr. DuPriest concluded the program, thanking the participants and speaking briefly about his uncle.

Dr. Paul Holbrook, Director of the King Library Press, oversaw the production of a hand-printed Keepsake which included an excerpt from the Preface of the 1549 Book of Common Prayer and a sonnet by Edmund Spenser, showing the Prayer Book’s influence on literature.

The exhibition opened in October in the Special Collections of the University, selected from over 100 examples, and runs through December, 2011.