Thomas Sternhold

Last updated
Psalm 1 in 1628 printing with tune, metrical version by Thomas Sternhold. Psalm 1 metrical 1628.jpg
Psalm 1 in 1628 printing with tune, metrical version by Thomas Sternhold.
The Whole Book of Psalmes 1631 Book of Psalms.jpg
The Whole Book of Psalmes

Thomas Sternhold (1500–1549) was an English courtier and the principal author of the first English metrical version of the Psalms, originally attached to the Prayer-Book as augmented by John Hopkins.



Anthony Wood says that Sternhold entered Christ Church, Oxford, but did not take a degree. The first definite date in his life is 1538, when the name of Thomas Sternhold appears in Thomas Cromwell's accounts. He became one of the grooms of the robes to Henry VIII, and was a favourite, to whom a legacy of a hundred marks was bequeathed him by the king's will. He may have been the Thomas Sternell or Sternoll who was elected for Plymouth to the parliament that met on 30 January 1545, and was dissolved by Henry VIII's death in January 1547.

Anthony Wood (antiquary) English antiquarian

Anthony Wood, who styled himself Anthony à Wood in his later writings, was an English antiquary.

Christ Church, Oxford constituent college of the University of Oxford in England

Christ Church is a constituent college of the University of Oxford in England. Christ Church is a joint foundation of the college and the cathedral of the Oxford diocese, which serves as the college chapel and whose dean is ex officio the college head.

Thomas Cromwell English statesman and chief minister to King Henry VIII of England

Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex, was an English lawyer and statesman who served as chief minister to King Henry VIII of England from 1532 to 1540, when he was decapitated on orders of the king.

Sternhold was born in Blakeney, Gloucestershire and died on 23 August 1549. His will, dated August 1549, was proved on 12 September following. Among the witnesses to his will was Edward Whitchurch, probably his publisher. His property consisted of land in Hampshire and at Bodmin in Cornwall. Part of the Hampshire property might have been inherited. Slackstead, however, had been purchased recently, as it had been granted, as part of the possessions of Hyde Abbey, to Sir Ralph Sadler in 1547. The Bodmin property also he had purchased from the crown in 1543, as part of the possessions of the dissolved priory of St. Petrock there.

Blakeney, Gloucestershire village in United Kingdom

Blakeney is a village in Gloucestershire, England. It is the largest village in the parish of Awre and has views of the Forest of Dean.

Edward Whitchurch English publisher

Edward Whitchurch was a London printer and publisher of Protestant works.

Bodmin town and civil parish in Cornwall, England

Bodmin is a civil parish and historic town in Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. It is situated south-west of Bodmin Moor.

Psalm translations

His earliest metrical versions of the Psalms may have been composed in Henry's reign; Miles Coverdale had published his 'Goostly Psalmes,' a translation of Luther's psalm versions, as early as 1535. In 1540 the earliest Psalms by Marot, valet de chambre to Francis I, were known at the French court, and soon afterwards passed into Protestant worship at Geneva. Sternhold, Marot, and Coverdale all wished to substitute the Psalms of David for the ballads of the court and people.

Francis I of France King of France

Francis I was King of France from 1515 until his death in 1547. He was the son of Charles, Count of Angoulême, and Louise of Savoy. He succeeded his cousin and father-in-law Louis XII, who died without a son. Francis was the ninth king from the House of Valois, the second from the Valois-Orléans branch, and the first from the Valois-Orléans-Angoulême branch.

Sternhold (with the exception of Psalm cxx) used only one metre, and this the simplest of all ballad measures, the metre of Chevy Chace . This choice of metre became the predominant metre (common metre) not only of the old and new versions of England and Scotland, but of other metrical psalters and English hymns in general. Sternhold is said to have sung his psalms to his organ for his own solace. (Strype). The only edition which Sternhold lived to publish he dedicated to the young king Edward VI. In this dedication he expresses a hope of ‘travayling further,’ and ‘performing the residue’ of the Psalter; but his total contribution to the old version consists of only forty psalms.

Common metre or common measure—abbreviated as C. M. or CM—is a poetic metre consisting of four lines which alternate between iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter, with each foot consisting of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. The metre is denoted by the syllable count of each line, i.e., 86.86, or 86 86, depending on style, or by its shorthand abbreviation "CM".

Sternhold is remembered as the originator of the first metrical version of the Psalms which obtained general currency alike in England and Scotland. The Versification of Certain Chapters of the Proverbs of Solomon has been attributed to him in error. Sternhold and Hopkins's version has had a larger circulation than any work in the language, except the authorised version of the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer.[ citation needed ] Sternhold's work forms its base. His first edition undated, but, as being dedicated to Edward VI, not earlier than 1547, contains nineteen psalms (i–v, xx, xxv, xxviii, xxix, xxxii, xxxiv, xli, xlix, lxxiii, lxxviii, ciii, cxx, cxxiii, cxxviii). It was printed by Edward Whitchurch, and is entitled ‘Certayne Psalmes chosē out of the Psalter of Dauid and drawē into Englishē Metre by Thomas Sternhold, grome of ye Kynges Maiesties Roobes’ (Brit. Museum). The second edition, printed after his death—apparently by John Hopkins, who adds seven psalms of his own in order to fill in a blank space—added to those of the former edition eighteen new psalms (vi–xvii, xix, xxi, xliii, xliv, lxiii, lxviii). It is entitled ‘Al such Psalmes of Dauid as Thomas Sternhold, late grome of the Kinges maiesties robes, did in his lyfetime drawe into English Metre,’ and is printed by Edward Whitchurche in 1549 (Cambridge University Library). Three more psalms (xviii, xxii, xxiii) are added to these in a rare edition of the growing Psalter printed by John Daye in 1561, and the complete number (40) appears in the full editions of 1562, 1563, and all subsequent ones. The only one of his psalms which remains current is the simple rendering of Psalm xxiii (‘My Shepherd is the Living Lord’). The text of his psalms, as found in all editions after 1556, follows the Genevan revision of that year.

The Sternhold-Hopkins psalter continued in general use till Nahum Tate and Nicholas Brady's New Version of the Psalms of David of 1696 was substituted in 1717.

See also

Related Research Articles

Psalms Book of the Bible

The Book of Psalms, commonly referred to simply as Psalms or "the Psalms", is the first book of the Ketuvim ("Writings"), the third section of the Hebrew Bible, and thus a book of the Christian Old Testament. The title is derived from the Greek translation, ψαλμοί, psalmoi, meaning "instrumental music" and, by extension, "the words accompanying the music". The book is an anthology of individual psalms, with 150 in the Jewish and Western Christian tradition and more in the Eastern Christian churches. Many are linked to the name of David, but his authorship is not accepted by modern scholars.

Myles Coverdale English bishop and Bible translator

Myles Coverdale, first name also spelt Miles, was an English ecclesiastical reformer chiefly known as a Bible translator, preacher and, briefly, Bishop of Exeter (1551–1553). Regarding his probable birth county, Daniell cites John Bale, author of a sixteenth century scriptorium, giving it as Yorkshire. Having studied philosophy and theology in Cambridge, Coverdale became an Augustinian friar and went to the house of his order, also in Cambridge. In 1514 John Underwood, a suffragan bishop and archdeacon of Norfolk, ordained him priest in Norwich. He was at the house of the Augustinians when in about 1520, Robert Barnes returned from Louvain to become its prior. In 1535 Coverdale produced the first complete printed translation of the Bible into English. His theological development is a paradigm of the progress of the English Reformation from 1530 to 1552. By the time of his death, he had transitioned into an early Puritan, affiliated to Calvin, yet still advocating the teachings of Augustine.

Great Bible English Bible translation, published in 1539; authorized by Henry VIII of England

The Great Bible of 1539 was the first authorized edition of the Bible in English, authorized by King Henry VIII of England to be read aloud in the church services of the Church of England. The Great Bible was prepared by Myles Coverdale, working under commission of Thomas, Lord Cromwell, Secretary to Henry VIII and Vicar General. In 1538, Cromwell directed the clergy to provide "one book of the bible of the largest volume in English, and the same set up in some convenient place within the said church that ye have care of, whereas your parishioners may most commodiously resort to the same and read it."

Bay Psalm Book psalter first printed in 1640 in Cambridge, Massachusetts

The Bay Psalm Book was the first book printed in British North America. The book is a metrical Psalter, first printed in 1640 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Psalms in it are metrical translations into English. The translations are not particularly polished, and not one has remained in use, although some of the tunes to which they were sung have survived. However, its production, just 20 years after the Pilgrims' arrival at Plymouth, Massachusetts, represents a considerable achievement. It went through several editions and remained in use for well over a century. One of eleven known surviving copies of the first edition sold at auction in November 2013 for $14.2 million, a record for a printed book.

Metrical psalter

A metrical psalter is a kind of Bible translation: a book containing a metrical translation of all or part of the Book of Psalms in vernacular poetry, meant to be sung as hymns in a church. Some metrical psalters include melodies or even harmonizations. The composition of metrical psalters was a large enterprise of the Protestant Reformation, especially in its Calvinist manifestation.

Psalm 23 Book of Psalms, chapter 23

Psalm 23 is the 23rd psalm of the Book of Psalms, generally known in English by its first verse, in the King James Version, "The Lord is my Shepherd". The Book of Psalms is the third section of the Hebrew Bible, and a book of the Christian Old Testament. In the Greek Septuagint version of the Bible, and in its Latin translation in the Vulgate, this psalm is Psalm 22 in a slightly different numbering system. In Latin, it is known as "Dominus reget me et nihil mihi deerit".

Decisions concerning the conduct of public worship in the Church of Scotland are entirely at the discretion of the parish minister. As a result, a wide variety of musical resources are used. However, at various times in its history, the General Assembly has commissioned volumes of psalms and hymns for use by congregations.

Exclusive psalmody

Exclusive psalmody is the practice of singing only the biblical Psalms in congregational singing as worship. Today it is practised by several Protestant, especially Reformed denominations. Hymns besides the Psalms have been composed by Christians since the earliest days of the church, but psalms were preferred by the early church and used almost exclusively until the end of the fourth century. During the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther and many other reformers, including those associated with the Reformed tradition, used hymns as well as psalms, but John Calvin preferred the Psalms and they were the only music allowed for worship in Geneva. This became the norm for the next 200 years of Reformed worship. Hymnody became acceptable again for the Reformed in the middle of the nineteenth century, though several denominations, notably the Reformed Presbyterians, continue the practice of exclusive psalmody.

<i>Genevan Psalter</i> metrical psalter

The Genevan Psalter, also known as The Huguenot Psalter, is a metrical psalter in French created under the supervision of John Calvin for liturgical use by the Reformed churches of the city of Geneva in the sixteenth century.

Becker Psalter

The Becker Psalter is a German metrical psalter authored by the Leipzig theologian Cornelius Becker and first published by Jakob Apel in Leipzig in 1602 under the title Der Psalter Davids Gesangweis. Several composers set the psalms contained in the volume, notably Heinrich Schütz, whose four-part chorales were published in 1628 and revised and expanded in 1661.

Hymn tune the melody of a musical composition to which a hymn text is sung

A hymn tune is the melody of a musical composition to which a hymn text is sung. Musically speaking, a hymn is generally understood to have four-part harmony, a fast harmonic rhythm, and no refrain or chorus.

Events from the 1540s in England.

Tate and Brady refers to the collaboration of the poets Nahum Tate and Nicholas Brady, which produced one famous work, New Version of the Psalms of David (1696). This work was a metrical version of the Psalms, and largely ousted the old version of T. Sternhold and J. Hopkins' Psalter. Still regularly sung today is their version of Psalm 34, "Through all the changing scenes of life". As well as the 150 Psalms they also wrote metrical versions of the Lord's Prayer and the Apostles' Creed.

Rhymed psalters are translations of the Psalms from Hebrew or Latin into poetry in some other language. Rhymed psalters include metrical psalters designed for singing, but are not limited to that use.

George Joye was a 16th-century Bible translator who produced the first printed translation of several books of the Old Testament into English (1530–1534), as well as the first English Primer (1529).

John Pullain (1517–1565) was an English churchman, a reformer and poet, Marian exile and Geneva Bible translator.

William Baldwin was an English author.

The First tome or volume of the Paraphrase of Erasmus upon the new testament edited by Nicholas Udall, first published in January 1548 by Edward Whitchurch, is the first volume of a book combining an English translation of the New Testament interleaved with an English translation of Desiderius Erasmus's Latin paraphrase of the New Testament. The second volume was published in 1549. Translations were by Nicolas Udall, Catherine Parr, Thomas Key, Miles Coverdale, John Olde, Leonard Coxe, and Mary I of England.

Religio Laici, Or A Layman's Faith (1682) is a poem by John Dryden, published as a premise to his subsequent The Hind and the Panther (1687), a final outcome of his conversion to Roman Catholicism.

John Halle English surgeon, medical writer and poet

John Halle, or John Hall of Maidstone was an English surgeon, known as a medical writer and poet.



Free scores by Thomas Sternhold in the Choral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki)