The psalter has been so significant in the history and form of the Christian liturgy that a great deal of research has already been published on the subject. Yet there are several fundamental aspects relating to the status of the psalter on the modern European book market that have hitherto received insufficient attention. What publishing, material and visual strategies did the printer-publishers use in order to market and sell new editions and reprints? Who bought the psalms, and who read and sang them? Which sections of the psalter were preferred reading and which parts were less popular? How did the ‘common man’ or reader transfer the theology in the psalter to their private devotional practice or to communal Reformed prayers?
Using methodological and epistemological concepts developed in recent decades by paratextual researchers and book historians, the project investigated the semantic and material overlap between a text and its frame, as illustrated by around 700 copies of the many editions and reprints of psalters produced between 1475 and 1700, all of which are today located in the unique rare books collection at the Herzog August Bibliothek. The project assessed various aspects of the works, including variations in size, decoration, composition, supplemental texts and the presentation of the psalms. It also analysed both printed and handwritten paratexts: introductions, prefaces and epilogues contributed by printers, publishers and editors; handwritten marginalia; notes and staves; and underlining and censorship by previous owners. The findings will help to reconstruct who the printer-publishers were and to evaluate their strategies for publication and the historical use of private psalters.
A sub-project of the research project ‘Text und Rahmen: Präsentationsmodi kanonischer Werke’ (Text and Frames: The Presentation of Canonical Works ) conducted by the MWW
Funding: Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (Federal Ministry of Education and Research, BMBF) within the framework of the MWW
Duration: March 2017 – August 2018
Project participants: Dr Valentina Sebastiani (team member), Alexandra Serjogin (team member)