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Jeremy Taylor’s Life of Christ

By Emma Laws, Cathedral Librarian

If you are a regular reader of Cathedral Life you will likely recall this beautiful image or others like it. The engraving is from Jeremy Taylor’s Life of Christ, our go-to resource for images of events from Christ’s life. The book was first published in 1649 and we have four editions in the Cathedral Library ranging from the third edition of 1657 to the eight edition of 1849.

Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667) was a ‘Caroline Divine’, one of a group of influential Church of England Royalist theologians who lived during the reigns of Charles I and Charles II and witnessed the horrors of regicide, civil war, and military rule. Under the patronage of William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, Taylor became chaplain to Charles I; following the execution of both the King and Archbishop, Taylor was imprisoned on several occasions but kept his head and enjoyed promotion under Charles II.

Taylor is often referred to as the ‘Shakespeare of the Divines’ because of his poetic writing style. In his preface to his life of Christ, he suggests his book will ‘better entertaine’ the spirits of his readers ‘than a Romance’. His ‘great purpose’, however, was for his book to bless both author and reader: ‘to goe forth into a blessing to all that shall use it, and reflect blessings upon mee all the way, that my spark may grow greater by kindling my brothers Taper, and GOD may bee glorified in us both.’

Taylor intersperses commentary with prayer. His prayer for today – Good Friday – reads:

‘Lord, who has done so much for me, now onely speak the word and thy servant shall be whole: let thy wounds heal me, thy vertues amend me, thy death quicken me.’
A very happy and peaceful Easter to all our readers from the Cathedral Library and Archives.