PRIMER: Ecclesiastically, an elementary book upon the cardinal points of Christian belief; liturgically, the name given to a series of works which have an important place in the history of the Anglican Prayer Book (see COMMON PRAYER, BOOK OF). The earliest example of the liturgical primer (with which this article is principally concerned) was compiled about 1390. The first of consequence was that by William Marshall, Prymer in Englysshe (London, 1535), which contained expositions of the Apostles' Creed, Decalogue, Lord's Prayer, and Ave Maria, also the various offices and hours, seven penitential Psalms, the Dirige, and the Roman Commendations. The next of importance was the "Bishops' Book," The Godly and Pious Institution of a Christian Man (1537), authorized by the king, the two archbishops, and a number of other ecclesiastical authorities, and marking a great step in advance from Romanism to Anglicanism. Bishop Hilsey's Manuall of Prayers, or the Prymer in Englyshe (1539) furnished a basis for the system of lessons and for that of the epistles and gospels. A step further was taken by The Prymer set forth by the King's Majesty (1545, reprinted 1547), which included the Litany. In 1553 appeared the Primer of Private Prayers, which was used in making Queen Elizabeth's First Primer (1560); her second (1566) incorporated many changes. The last known was issued in 1571. The employment of these belongs to the history of the Prayer Book (see COMMON PRAYER, BOOK OF, § 1).
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Consult the literature under COMMON PRAYER, BOOK OF, especially F. Procter and W. H. Frere, A New History of the Book of Common Prayer, chaps. i.-ii., London, 1905. The three primers (Marshall's, Hilsey's, and King Henry's of 1545) were reprinted in E. Burton's Three Primers put forth in the Reign of Henry VIII., Oxford, 1834, 2d ed., 1848.
PRIMICERIUS: In the medieval Church an administrative church official of lesser rank. He was classed with the archdeacon and treasurer, and his duties included, according to Isidore of Seville (Epist., i. 13), the supervision of the acolytes, exorcists, and psalmists; the furnishing of an example for the clergy in duties, morals, devotions, and zeal of perfection; the distribution of assignments to the clergy and the regulation of chanting and the bearing of candles at feasts; the giving of advice to the parish priests; and direction through the Ostiarii (q.v.) of the episcopal letters enjoining fasts. The office was in vogue everywhere in the West in the sixth and seventh centuries. Later with the introduction of the canonical order the office was attached to the chapter. The decretals of Gregory IX. (1227-41) placed the primicerius after the archdeacon, and made him the superior over the minor clergy with special supervision of the service in the choir, thus identifying him with the pręcentor. In many dioceses the primicerius discharged the functions of the scholasticus and was the head of the cathedral school. Later still a portion of his functions were transferred to the dean, while special pręcentori were frequently retained in the chapters. A peculiar development of the primicerius took place at Rome, where the office occurs possibly as early as the fourth century, and where almost a complete list of the primicerii notariorum from 544 to 1297 has been preserved (P. L. Galetti, Del primicero della ,Santa Sede Apostolica, pp. 20 sqq., Rome, 1776). This primicerius notariorum belonged to the lower clergy and had charge of parrochial correspondence, of the martyrology, and the like; and after Gregory the Great (590-604) he was the scribe of papal documents. He thus became the chancellor and director of the papal archives. By the seventh and eighth centuries he had risen to such importance, that he, together with the archdeacon and archpresbyter, acted as pope during a vacancy. Late in the tenth century he was the first of the seven papal judges palatine. With the end of the thirteenth century, however, the office seems to have disappeared.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Bingham, Origines, II., xxi. 11, III., xiii. 5; DCA, ii. 1709-1710; G. Phillips, Kirchenrecht, vi. 343, Regensburg, 1884; P. Hinschius, Kirchenrecht, i. 380-381, Berlin, 1889; H. Breslau, Handbuch der Urkundenlehre, i. 157 sqq., Leipsic, 1889.
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