This Unitarian Book of Common Prayer was published in Boston in 1811 and is the 2nd edition of the King's Chapel Prayerbook, printed by Joshua Belcher in Boston. Joseph May was a member of King’s Chapel for more than 55 years and served as Junior Warden. He was the grandfather of famous literary author Louisa May Alcott and a close friend of Reverend James Freeman. Church records list him as “James Freeman’s most intimate friend and his constant helper.” In 1787, Joseph May was one of the congregants who ordained Reverend Dr. James Freeman as the first Unitarian minister, making King’s Chapel the first Christian Unitarian church in America, and also played a key role in adopting Freeman’s version of the Book of Common Prayer.
Joseph May originally gave this prayer book to his daughter Elizabeth Sewall Willis who grew up attending King’s Chapel along with her sister Abigail May Alcott - Louisa May Alcott’s mother. You can see that Elizabeth signed her name “E. S. May” on the inside cover. In 1811 Elizabeth married Benjamin Willis and the couple eventually moved to Portland, Maine. After Elizabeth’s death in 1822, prayer book was passed down to her son Hamilton who inscribed “my mother’s prayer book” below her name.
The full story behind this 2nd edition King’s Chapel Book of Common Prayer was eventually added to the inside cover:
The book was given by Joseph to his daughter Elizabeth Sewall Willis (1798-1822) and passed on her death to her son Hamilton (1818-1878). It was given by Hamilton’s daughter Pauline (1870-) to Benjamin Willis Wells, son of Elizabeth Sewall Wells, grandson of Elizabeth Sewall Willis and great-grandson of Joseph May. He gave this book to King’s Chapel, May 17, 1919.