Mainz Psalter

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From the 1459 second edition : with an illuminated letter Mainz psalter (Fust and Schoeffer).jpg
From the 1459 second edition : with an illuminated letter
The Mainz Psalter (1457) of George III, rebound in 1800 The Mainz Psalter, 1457.jpg
The Mainz Psalter (1457) of George III, rebound in 1800
Printer's mark of Johann Fust and Peter Schoeffer Inkunabel.ValMax.finis.detail.jpg
Printer's mark of Johann Fust and Peter Schoeffer

The Mainz Psalter was the second major book printed with movable type in the West; [1] the first was the Gutenberg Bible. It is a psalter commissioned by the Mainz archbishop in 1457. The Psalter introduced several innovations: it was the first book to feature a printed date of publication, a printed colophon, two sizes of type, printed decorative initials, and the first to be printed in three colours. [1] The colophon also contains the first example of a printer's mark. [2] It was the first important publication issued by Johann Fust and Peter Schoeffer following their split from Johannes Gutenberg.

Movable type system of printing and typography that uses movable components

Movable type is the system and technology of printing and typography that uses movable components to reproduce the elements of a document usually on the medium of paper.

<i>Gutenberg Bible</i> first major book printed

The Gutenberg Bible was among the earliest major books printed using mass-produced movable metal type in Europe. It marked the start of the "Gutenberg Revolution" and the age of printed books in the West. The book is valued and revered for its high aesthetic and artistic qualities as well as its historic significance. It is an edition of the Vulgate printed in the 1450s in Latin by Johannes Gutenberg in Mainz, in present-day Germany. Forty-nine copies have survived. They are thought to be among the world's most valuable books, although no complete copy has been sold since 1978. In March 1455, the future Pope Pius II wrote that he had seen pages from the Gutenberg Bible displayed in Frankfurt to promote the edition. It is not known how many copies were printed; the 1455 letter cites sources for both 158 and 180 copies. The 36-line Bible, said to be the second printed Bible, is also referred to sometimes as a Gutenberg Bible, but may be the work of another printer.

Psalter Volume containing the Book of Psalms and often other devotional material

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 later medieval emergence of the book of hours, psalters were the books most widely owned by wealthy lay persons and 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 Psalter combines printed text with two-colour woodcuts: since both woodcuts and movable print are relief processes, they could be printed together on the same press. The Psalter is printed using black and red inks, with two-colour initials, and large coloured capitals printed in blue and red inks. [3] These capitals were partly the work of the artisan known as the Fust master, who later also worked for Fust and Schöffer on the 1462 Bible. [1] The musical score accompanying the psalms was provided in manuscript, and may have been the model for the type style. [3] Printing in two colors, although feasible on the moveable press of Gutenberg's time (as illustrated by the Mainz Psalter), was apparently abandoned soon afterward as being too time-consuming, as few other examples of such a process are extant. [4]

Woodcut relief printing technique — print produced by xylography technique

Woodcut is a relief printing technique in printmaking. An artist carves an image into the surface of a block of wood—typically with gouges—leaving the printing parts level with the surface while removing the non-printing parts. Areas that the artist cuts away carry no ink, while characters or images at surface level carry the ink to produce the print. The block is cut along the wood grain. The surface is covered with ink by rolling over the surface with an ink-covered roller (brayer), leaving ink upon the flat surface but not in the non-printing areas.

Manuscript document written by hand

A manuscript was, traditionally, any document that is written by hand — or, once practical typewriters became available, typewritten — as opposed to being mechanically printed or reproduced in some indirect or automated way. More recently, the term has come to be understood to further include any written, typed, or word-processed copy of an author's work, as distinguished from its rendition as a printed version of the same. Before the arrival of printing, all documents and books were manuscripts. Manuscripts are not defined by their contents, which may combine writing with mathematical calculations, maps, explanatory figures or illustrations. Manuscripts may be in book form, scrolls or in codex format. Illuminated manuscripts are enriched with pictures, border decorations, elaborately embossed initial letters or full-page illustrations. A document should be at least 75 years old to be considered a manuscript.

Two versions were printed, the short issue and long issue. The short has 143 leaves, and the long has 175 and was intended for use in the diocese of Mainz. All surviving copies and fragments are on vellum, and it is not known if any paper copies were printed. [5] At least one copy was still being used in services in a monastery in the mid-eighteenth century. [6]

Diocese Christian district or see under the supervision of a bishop

The word diocese is derived from the Greek term dioikesis (διοίκησις) meaning "administration". Today, when used in an ecclesiastical sense, it refers to the ecclesiastical district under the jurisdiction of a bishop.

Vellum parchment made from calf skin

Vellum is prepared animal skin or "membrane", typically used as a material for writing on. Parchment is another term for this material, and if vellum is distinguished from this, it is by vellum being made from calfskin, as opposed to that from other animals, or otherwise being of higher quality. Vellum is prepared for writing or printing on, to produce single pages, scrolls, codices or books. The word is derived from the Latin word vitulinum meaning "made from calf", leading to Old French vélin, "calfskin".)


The Psalter is the earliest European book with a printed date of publication, though not the first printed book to feature a date associated with its production: in August 1456 the binder and rubricator of a copy of the Gutenberg Bible added handwritten dates to show when these tasks were completed. [7]


Rubrication was one of several steps in the medieval process of manuscript making. Practitioners of rubrication, so-called rubricators or rubrishers, were specialized scribes who received text from the manuscript's original scribe and supplemented it with additional text in red ink for emphasis. The term rubrication comes from the Latin rubrico, "to color red".

The colophon can be translated as follows:

Gernsheim Place in Hesse, Germany

Gernsheim is a town in Groß-Gerau district and Darmstadt region in Hesse, Germany, lying on the Rhine.

Assumption of Mary the bodily taking up of the Virgin Mary into Heaven at the end of her earthly life

The Assumption of Mary into Heaven is, according to the beliefs of the Catholic Church, Eastern and Oriental Orthodoxy, the bodily taking up of the Virgin Mary into Heaven at the end of her earthly life.

New editions, using the same type, were printed in 1459 (dated August 29), 1490, 1502 (Schöffer's last publication) and 1516.

Surviving copies

It is "the second printed book ever published, and the first with rubricated (red as well as black) printing". There are only ten copies in existence, and as such, this book is rarer than the Gutenberg Bible [9] .

Many fragments also survive. [5] . The ten known copies of the 1457 edition are listed below.

See also



  1. 1 2 3 Ikeda, Mayumi (2010). "The first experiments in printing at the Fust-Schöffer press". In Wagner, Bettina; Reed, Marcia (eds.). Early Printed Books as Material Objects: Proceedings of the Conference Organized by the Ifla Rare Books and Manuscripts Section Munich, 19–21 August 2009. De Gruyter Sur. pp. 39–49. ISBN   978-3-11-025324-5.
  2. Roberts, William (1893). Printers' Marks, by. London: George Bell & Sons, York Street, Covent Garden, & New York.
  3. 1 2 "The Mainz Psalter". Royal Collection. Retrieved 2016-01-16.
  4. André Horch. "Gutenberg-Museum Mainz: Veranstaltungsüberblick". Retrieved 2016-01-16.
  5. 1 2 Incunabula Short Title Catalogue accessed 3 February 2012
  6. 1 2 3 Jensen, Kristian (2011). Revolution and the Antiquarian Book : Reshaping the Past, 1780-1815. Cambridge University Press. ISBN   978-1107000513.
  7. Clausen Books, Gutenberg Bible Census accessed 3 February 2012
  8. Connections (TV series), "Connections" by James Burke, p. 100
  9. "Early printed books, manuscripts, fine bindings and private presses: incunabula". Retrieved Oct 26, 2018.
  10. "History: Information bulletin: Mainz Psalter returned". Retrieved 2016-01-16.

Further reading

Related Research Articles

Incunable book, pamphlet, or broadside that was printed before the year 1501 in Europe

An incunable, or sometimes incunabulum, is a book, pamphlet, or broadside printed in Europe before the year 1501. Incunabula are not manuscripts, which are documents written by hand. As of 2014, there are about 30,000 distinct known incunable editions extant, but the probable number of surviving copies in Germany alone is estimated at around 125,000.

Johannes Gutenberg German blacksmith, goldsmith, printer and publisher

Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg was a German blacksmith, goldsmith, inventor, printer, and publisher who introduced printing to Europe with the printing press. His introduction of mechanical movable type printing to Europe started the Printing Revolution and is regarded as a milestone of the second millennium, ushering in the modern period of human history. It played a key role in the development of the Renaissance, Reformation, the Age of Enlightenment, and the scientific revolution and laid the material basis for the modern knowledge-based economy and the spread of learning to the masses.

Printing press device for evenly printing ink onto a print medium

A printing press is a mechanical device for applying pressure to an inked surface resting upon a print medium, thereby transferring the ink. It marked a dramatic improvement on earlier printing methods in which the cloth, paper or other medium was brushed or rubbed repeatedly to achieve the transfer of ink, and accelerated the process. Typically used for texts, the invention and global spread of the printing press was one of the most influential events in the second millennium.

Johann Fust German printer

Johann Fust or Faust was an early German printer.

Ulrich Zell German printer

Ulrich Zell was an early printer in Cologne, Germany.

Block book early printed books

Block books, also called xylographica, are short books of up to 50 leaves, block printed in Europe in the second half of the 15th century as woodcuts with blocks carved to include both text and illustrations. The content of the books was nearly always religious, aimed at a popular audience, and a few titles were often reprinted in several editions using new woodcuts. Although many had believed that block books preceded Gutenberg's invention of movable type in the first part of the 1450s, it now is accepted that most of the surviving block books were printed in the 1460s or later, and that the earliest surviving examples may date to about 1451. They seem to have functioned as a cheap popular alternative to the typeset book, which was still very expensive at this stage. Single-leaf woodcuts from the preceding decades often included passages of text with prayers, indulgences and other material; the block book was an extension of this form. Block books are very rare, some editions surviving only in fragments, and many probably not surviving at all.

Peter Schöffer German printer

Peter Schöffer or Petrus Schoeffer was an early German printer, who studied in Paris and worked as a manuscript copyist in 1451 before apprenticing with Johannes Gutenberg and joining Johann Fust, a goldsmith, lawyer, and money lender.

Global spread of the printing press

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Albrecht Pfister German printer

Albrecht Pfister was one of the very first European printers to use movable type, following its invention by Johannes Gutenberg. Working in Bamberg, Germany, he is believed to have been responsible for two innovations in the use of the new technology: printing books in the German language, and adding woodcuts to printed books. The typefaces of Pfister, although similar to Gutenberg's, have their own peculiarities.

History of printing History of printing on paper

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Schweipolt Fiol printer

Schweipolt Fiol was a German-born 15th century pioneer of Cyrillic printing.

Heinrich Eggestein is considered, along with Johannes Mentelin, to be the earliest book printer in Strasbourg and therefore one of the earliest anywhere in Europe outside Mainz.

Hans Peter Kraus, also known as H. P. Kraus or HPK, was an Austrian-born book dealer described as "without doubt the most successful and dominant rare book dealer in the world in the second half of the 20th century" and in a league with other rare book dealers such as Bernard Quaritch, Guillaume de Bure and A.S.W. Rosenbach. Kraus specialized in medieval illuminated manuscripts, incunables, and rare books of the 16th and 17th centuries, but would purchase and sell almost any book that came his way that was rare, valuable and important. He prided himself in being "the only bookseller in have owned a Gutenberg Bible and the Psalters of 1457 and 1459 simultaneously," stressing that "'own' here is the correct word, as they were bought not for a client's account but for stock."

36-line Bible

The 36-line Bible, also known as the "Bamberg Bible", was the second moveable-type-printed edition of the Bible. It is believed to have been printed in Bamberg, Germany, circa 1458–1460. No printer's name appears in the book, but it is possible that Johannes Gutenberg was the printer.

<i>Sibyllenbuch</i> fragment

The Sibyllenbuchfragment is a partial book leaf which may be the earliest surviving remnant of any European book that was printed using movable type. The Sibyllenbuch, or Book of the Sibyls, was a medieval poem which held prophecies concerning the fate of the Holy Roman Empire.

Allan Henry Stevenson was an American bibliographer specializing in the study of handmade paper and watermarks who "single-handedly created a new field: the bibliographical analysis of paper." Through his pioneering studies of watermarks, Stevenson solved "the most fascinating, and perhaps the most notorious, bibliographical problem of our time," the dating of the Missale Speciale or Constance Missal, an undated incunable believed by many to pre-date the Gutenberg Bible, and possibly to have been the first printed European book. Stevenson proved that the book in fact had been printed nearly twenty years later, in 1473. Through similar analysis of watermarks, he also established that most block books, small religious books in which the text and images were printed from a single woodcut block and which many believed dated from the early 15th century, had in fact been printed after 1460.

Printers mark symbol used as a trademark by printers

A printer's mark, device, emblem or insignia was a symbol used as a trademark by early printers starting in the 15th century.

31-line Indulgence

The 31-line Indulgence is a plenary indulgence granted by Pope Nicholas V and issued in Erfurt on 22 October 1454. It is the earliest known document with a fixed date printed by movable type, which had recently been invented by Johannes Gutenberg. One of 46 surviving copies is preserved in the Scheide Library at Princeton.