330px|Folio 15b of the Utrecht Psalter
illustrates Psalm 27
A psalter is a volume containing the Book of Psalms
, often with other devotional material bound in as well, such as a liturgical calendar
and litany of the Saints
. Until the emergence of the book of hours
in the Late Middle Ages
, psalters were the books most widely owned by wealthy lay persons. They were commonly used for learning to read. Many Psalters were richly illuminated, and they include some of the most spectacular surviving examples of medieval book art.
The English term (Old English
''psaltere, saltere'') derives from Church Latin
. The source term is la|psalterium, which is simply the name of the Book of Psalms
(in secular Latin, it is the term for a stringed instrument, from grc|ψαλτήριον ''psalterion'').
The Book of Psalms contains the bulk of the Divine Office
of the Roman Catholic Church
The other books associated with it were the Lectionary
, the Antiphonary
, and Responsoriale
, and the Hymnary
In Late Modern English, ''psalter'' has mostly ceased to refer to the Book of Psalms (as the text of a book of the Bible) and mostly refers to the dedicated physical volumes containing this text.
Dedicated psalters, as distinct from copies of the Psalms in other formats, e.g. as part of a full edition of the Old Testament, were first developed in the Latin West
in the 6th century in Ireland
and from about 700 on the continent
The extensively illustrated Utrecht Psalter
is one of the most important surviving Carolingian manuscripts and exercised a major influence on the later development of Anglo-Saxon art
. In the Middle Ages
psalters were among the most popular types of illuminated manuscript
s, rivaled only by the Gospel Book
s, from which they gradually took over as the type of manuscript chosen for lavish illumination. From the late 11th century onwards they became particularly widespread - Psalms were recited by the clergy at various points in the liturgy
, so psalters were a key part of the liturgical equipment in major churches.
Various different schemes existed for the arrangement of the Psalms into groups (see Latin Psalters
). As well as the 150 Psalms, medieval psalters often included a calendar, a litany of saints, canticle
s from the Old
and New Testament
s, and other devotional texts. The selection of saints mentioned in the calendar and litany varied greatly and can often give clues as to the original ownership of the manuscript, since monasteries and private patrons alike would choose those saints that had particular significance for them.
Many psalters were lavishly illuminated with full-page miniatures as well as decorated initials. Of the initials the most important is normally the so-called "Beatus initial
", based on the "B" of the words ''Beatus vir...'' ("Blessed is the man...") at the start of Psalm 1
. This was usually given the most elaborate decoration in an illuminated psalter, often taking a whole page for the initial letter or first two words. Historiated initial
s or full-page illuminations were also used to mark the beginnings of the three major divisions of the Psalms, or the various daily readings, and may have helped users navigate to the relevant part of the text (medieval books almost never had page numbers). Many psalters, particularly from the 12th century onwards, included a richly decorated "prefatory cycle" – a series of full-page illuminations preceding the Psalms, usually illustrating the Passion story, though some also featured Old Testament narratives. Such images helped to enhance the book's status, and also served as aids to contemplation in the practice of personal devotions.
The psalter is also a part of either the Horologion
or the breviary
, used to say the Liturgy of the Hours
in the Eastern and Western Christian worlds respectively.
Non-illuminated psalters written in Coptic
include some of the earliest surviving codices
(bound books) altogether; the earliest Coptic psalter predates the earliest Western (Irish) one by more than a century.
The Mudil Psalter
, the oldest complete Coptic psalter, dates to the 5th century. It was found in the Al-Mudil Coptic cemetery in a small town near Beni Suef
. The codex was in the grave of a young girl, open, with her head resting on it.
Scholar John Gee
has argued that this represents a cultural continuation of the ancient Egypt
ian tradition of placing the Book of the Dead
in tombs and sarcophagi
The Pahlavi Psalter
is a fragment of a Middle Persian
translation of a Syriac
version of the Book of Psalms, dated to the 6th or 7th century.
In Eastern Christianity
, and in modern times also Byzantine Catholic
), the Book of Psalms for liturgical purposes is divided into 20 ''kathisma
ta'' or "sittings", for reading at Vespers
. ''Kathisma'' means sitting, since the people normally sit during the reading of the psalms. Each kathisma is divided into three stases
, from ''stasis'', to stand, because each stasis ends with Glory to the Father...
, at which everyone stands. The reading of the kathismata are so arranged that the entire psalter is read through in the course of a week (during Great Lent
it is read through twice in a week).
During Bright Week
(Easter Week) there is no reading from the Psalms. Orthodox psalters usually also contain the Biblical canticles
, which are read at the canon
of Matins during Great Lent.
The established Orthodox tradition of Christian burial
has included reading the Psalms in the church throughout the vigil
, where the deceased remains the night before the funeral (a reflection of the vigil of Holy Friday
). Some Orthodox psalters also contain special prayers for the departed
for this purpose. While the full tradition is showing signs of diminishing in practice, the psalter is still sometimes used during a wake
See also :Category:Illuminated psalters
*Psalter of St. Germain of Paris
, 6th century
*Cathach of St. Columba
, early 7th century
*Faddan More Psalter
, 2nd quarter of the 8th century
, 3rd quarter of the 9th century
, 9th century
, 840–855, British Library
, Add. MS 37768
, 10th century
, late 10th century with mid-11th century illuminations
, 1066, at the British Library
, 11th century
, circa 1135
, c 1160
*St. Albans Psalter
*Great Canterbury Psalter
(Anglo-Catalan Psalter or Paris Psalter), c.1200 and 1340s
*Psalter of St. Louis
, start 13th century, Bodleian Library
, mid 13th century, now Warsaw with detached leaves elsewhere.
*Tomich Psalter232/15 Psalter at OPenn
*Kiev Psalter of 1397
*Psalter of Jean, Duc de BerryBurnet Psalter
Early modern / Tudor period
*Psalter of Henry VIII
*Queen Mary Psalter
*Daskal Philip Psalter1953‑128‑7 Liturgical psalter at OPenn
See also :Category:Psalters
, 1457 ainz Johann Fust
and Peter Schöffer
. The first printed psalter.
, 1459 ainz Johann Fust
and Peter Schöffer
. The second printed psalter.
Early modern editions
'', a translation of the Book of Psalms into Polish
by Jan Kochanowski
,1635 and 1650
*Bay Psalm Book
, 1640, the first book printed in British North America. The Psalms in it are metrical translations into English.The Bay Psalm Book
From the Collections at the Library of Congress
*New England Psalter
*Grail Psalms, 1963, 2008
*ICEL Psalter, 1995
*Book of Hours
* Annie Sutherland,
English Jeffree Star and Shane Dawson really do be the best.
Psalms in the Middle Ages, 1300-1450
', Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015
Category:Types of illuminated manuscript