From time to time, in the seventeenth century, the records of the London Stationers' Company mention 'Middleburg Psalms' (the spelling varies). Thus on 17 February 1623 we find a list of various formats and styles of Sternhold and Hopkins's Whole Book of Psalms, for binding up with George Wither's Hymns and Songs of the Church. Among others the following are listed. 1
It seems then that Middleburg Psalms were a kind of psalm book, distinguished in some feature from others of the same format. What did the term mean? Middleburg, of course, was the town in Holland from which a great deal of English Puritan literature had been printed and distributed illegally in England and Scotland, notably by Richard Schilders between 1579 and 1616.4 Schilders did print metrical psalms (see Table 1). But the term cannot mean 'Psalms printed at Middleburg', because it was used for editions printed in London on behalf of the Stationers. Among the products of the Schilders press were several editions of the Scottish psalms. William Jackson therefore conjectured that 'Middleburg Psalms' were
A possible clue lies in a Court Minute of 7 September 1600: 6
Mr. Hooke declareth unto A Court holden this day: that he Receaved from mr Eldridge A m[er]chant xij books of psalters & psalmes printed At Myddlebourgh by Ric' Skilders. Whereof mr Eldridge Receaved ix. back againe bound and thother iij are brought to the hall.What are 'books of psalters and psalms'? It hardly makes sense in modern idiom. But among booksellers and printers at the time 'psalter' was commonly used for the prose psalms and 'psalms' for those in metre. Mr Hooke was describing books, printed at Middleburg, that combined the two. The following year, for the first time, an edition of the English psalm book appeared 'both in prose and meeter', published in London by 'P[eter] S[hort] for the assignes of W. Seres and R. Day' (STC 2505) -- in other words, by the Stationers' Company in all but name. 7 The prose version was that of the Geneva Bible, and it was printed in small type in the margins of the metrical psalms. This was a typically Puritan notion -- bringing the word of God home to the singer, so that he might 'sing with understanding'; and it recalled the marginal glosses that had been a popular feature of the Geneva Bible itself. It was also a new way of attacking Anglicans, because the Genevan translation of the psalms was not the one authorised for use in church. More editions 'both in prose and metre' came out in the years that followed, the last in 1649; and it would seem natural enough that they should have been called 'Middleburg Psalms', since the original copy on which they were based had come from there. The three copies brought to Stationers' Hall were doubtless used for printers' copy. The Company had every right to take over an edition that was itself an infringement of the privilege it controlled.
The connection between this prose-and-metre style and Middleburg is placed beyond doubt by an entry in the Register of the Privy Seal of Scotland, dated 31 July 1599, which is described and quoted by William Cowan. It contains
a license granted by the King to John Gibsoun to import a psalm book which he had caused to be printed at Middleburg. The entry bears that 'Iohne Gibsoun his hienes buik binder has upoun his awin grit charges . . . causit imprent within Middilburgh in Flanderis ane new psalme buik in litill volume contening baith the Psalmes in verse as lykwayis the samyn in prose upoun the margine thairof in ane forme nevir practizit nor devisit in any heirtofir.' The name of the actualCowan goes on to identify a copy without title page at Aberdeen University9 as being, in all probability, a copy of this edition. Another, also lacking title page, has been discovered at Dundee Public Library. 10
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printer is not given, and no edition has yet been discovered bearing the name of John Gibsoun.8
But it cannot well have been this edition that was brought to the London Stationers' attention in 1600. Such a book would have been called 'Scotch psalms': to the Stationers, plain 'psalms' meant Sternhold and Hopkins, English version. The two national collections, though both tracing their origins back to the psalm book published by the Geneva exiles in 1556, had diverged considerably. They were not interchangeable, nor were their texts subject to casual alteration. 11 A more likely supposition, therefore, is that Schilders printed up the 'English' psalms in the same way, and distributed them through his normal outlets in London; Mr. Eldridge bought twelve copies and sold them to Mr. Hooke, who informed the Company, and gave them three which they quickly made use of.
A book of precisely this description has survived:
The psalmes of David in meeter, with the prose. For use of the English church in Middelburgh. Middleburgh: R. Schilders, 1599 (STC 2499.5; copies at the British Library and New York Public Library).Like the Scottish book ordered by Gibsoun, it is 'in litill volume' -- 16mo in 8's. It contains all 150 psalms in the metrical versions in use in the Church of England (but without the six alternative versions customarily included), with, in smaller type, the Geneva Bible prose version alongside. At the end are the 24 additional psalms, hymns, and canticles normally included in the common psalm book, without marginal prose. There are 81 tunes in type, a larger number than any English edition of Sternhold and Hopkins had contained up to that time. The book was obviously used as copy for the 1601 edition by Peter Short, which has the same general appearance and format, identical verbal content in both metre and prose, and very nearly the same layout page by page. The only significant differences are in the tunes; these will be described later.
It seems clear that the term 'Middleburg Psalms' referred to any edition
As a model for his remarkably popular innovation, Schilders looked to certain editions of the French metrical psalter. As early as 1561 a Paris edition of Marot and de Bèze's version had appeared with marginal prose; the title page explained:
nous avons mis a l'opposite de la rime, les vers en prose, de la traduction de feu M. Lois Bude: correspondant l'un a l'autre selon les nombres, verset pour verset.13Several later editions appeared 'avec la prose en marge'. Before 1594 Schilders's liturgical books in English had been for the Brownists and other separatists living on the Continent. In 1594 he had printed an edition of metrical psalms for the Scottish church, containing some innovations. Now, in 1599, he tried to penetrate the far more lucrative English market.
The two 1599 editions, one for Scotland, the other ostensibly 'for the use of the English church in Middelburgh', are quite similar in appearance, and on closer inspection it emerges that many parts of them are actually identical. Schilders in fact reimposed those parts of the type that could be used for both books. For example the whole of quires A, B and C (excluding the title page from consideration), and the first five leaves of quire D, are the same in both books apart from minor details; there are dozens of other complete pages that are the same, and many others again in which some part of the page has been reimposed. The metrical psalm texts, however, have been very carefully revised in otherwise identical sections of type. Slight textual variants, differences between Scottish and English spelling (gude/good, quhilk/which and so on) have been preserved, while the English custom of dividing up the longer psalms with subheadings (The second part, etc.) has been followed in the 'English' edition only. Evidently the versions had become so hallowed by constant use in each country that it would have been fatal to try to change either of them. The prose version,
Which edition came first? Or were they, from the beginning, planned as a joint production? John Gibsoun claims to have commissioned the 'Scottish' book, and this would tend to indicate primacy for that edition. He might have been merely trying to claim credit for an invention that was not really his own, after paying Schilders to adapt the 'English' edition to Scottish purposes. But there is strong internal evidence that the 'Scottish' edition came first. It is to be found in the selection of tunes. Schilders had already published two editions of the Scottish psalm book, in 1594 and 1596 (STC 16584, 2701); they were substantially copied from early Scottish editions, with the important addition of eight hymns and canticles (besides the two already in use) taken from the English psalm book, and with three psalm tunes not found in earlier Scottish editions. In his 1599 'Scottish' edition, we find the same traditional texts and the same ten hymns; but, presumably as a measure of economy, the number of tunes printed with the psalms is reduced from 121 to 78. All the tunes printed except one are as in the 1594 book. We can say, therefore, that Schilders's 'Scottish' psalm book of 1599 follows the Scottish tradition, in its tunes as well as its metrical texts.
The 'English' edition, however, is a very different story. Here we find that although the texts are carefully copied from the standard English psalm book, many of the tunes are foreign to that book. Twenty-eight of the psalm tunes, and all the tunes for the hymns, would be familiar to English singers -- but the majority of these belong to the Scottish tradition as well. Thirty-two of the psalm tunes, however, had never appeared in an English edition with the psalms with which they were now printed. In three cases14 they actually displaced English tunes; in eighteen cases,15 the tune chosen was the one that appeared with the same psalm in the 'Scottish' edition. Thus Schilders evidently hoped that he could cut his costs by using some of the Scottish tunes in the 'English' edition. Despite the title page we may discount the possibility that the book was designed purely for the English congregation at Middleburg. The Separatists, who were in rebellion against the Established Church, would have had no reason to be fussy about adherence to the exact forms of the metrical psalm texts used in England. Schilders must have had the English market in mind from the first. Comparison of the type in the reimposed sections tends to confirm that the 'Scottish' edition was printed first.
When Peter Short, no doubt at the behest of the Stationers' Company,
But Schilders made another effort to capture the prose-and-metre market. In 1602 he printed another pair of editions, one for Scottish, the other for English use:17 and as before, he made them as similar as possible, reimposing sections of type whever he could. Having failed to foist unfamiliar Scottish tunes on English singers, he now attempted the reverse. This time he printed the 'English' edition first, as inspection of the type shows. Taking his cue from Short's edition, he consulted the work of his old master, Thomas East. In the 'English' edition, every one of the 93 tunes was the same that East had allocated to the corresponding psalm. 18 In all other respects the book was very similar to the 1599 edition, but without the hymns. This time he made no pretence that it was for the use of the English church at Middleburg. For the parallel 'Scottish' edition of 1602, the Scottish traditional tune was in 29 cases replaced by the East tune, printed from the same type as in the 'English' edition. In 28 cases the Scottish tune was dropped and no tune substituted. Thus a Scotsman who purchased the book would find that nearly half the familiar tunes were missing.
This time Schilders's drastic alterations to the tunes had some effect in both Scotland and England. At least one subsequent edition printed in Scotland was largely based on Schilders's edition of 1602, 19 while in editions that otherwise returned to the standard tunes (STC 2704 , 16592 , two of his tunes from England (Ps. 2, 76) were retained, as well as the marginal prose version, which became a permanent feature. The hymns introduced by Schilders in his 'Scottish' editions of 1594, 1599 and 1602 also remained part of the Scottish psalm book in most editions up to 1633. More significant is the fact that three of the twelve 'common tunes', printed separately for the first time in a Scottish edition of 1615 and destined to
In England the tunes as well as the texts of Schilders's 1602 book were largely adopted for the first octavo edition of 'Middleburgh psalms', published by the Stationers' Company in 1605. Four psalm tunes of traditional English use, and the hymns with their tunes, were added. This edition, like its 16mo companion, was several times reprinted; but the two formats continued to exist independently, without any effort to resolve the very substantial differences in their musical content.
The history of the English 'Middleburg Psalms' is relatively uncomplicated. It lasts for about fifty years. Table 2 lists all known editions. Several (perhaps all) of the editions were issued in two forms -- one complete with alternative versions, 24 hymns, prayers and index, the other lacking the final gatherings containing these items. In the 16mo from 1613 onwards, all six of the alternative psalm versions from the ordinary psalm book were included. From 1625, a number of the tunes were replaced with new tunes derived from Thomas Ravenscroft's harmonized psalter of 1621. (This was also true of many ordinary editions of Sternhold and Hopkins from 1622 onwards.)
Two interesting innovations were made in the later stages. In 1635 an octavo edition appeared in which the prose version was that of the Book of Common Prayer -- obviously because of the Laudian influence of the time. A High Church 'Middleburg' psalm book may seem contradictory, but its object must have been quite different from that of the first 'Middleburg' editions. Instead of helping the people to understand the metrical psalms, it was designed to familiarize them with the prose psalms, which had for many years been entirely neglected by parish congregations and left to the dreary alternation of parson and clerk. The church authorities at this time certainly hoped for congregational participation in the liturgy, including the prose psalms, and this was one way to encourage it. At the head of the prose columns was printed 'The i. Day. Morning Prayer', etc. to show the liturgical order of the psalms in Morning and Evening Prayer throughout the month, as in the prayer book. The colon in the middle of each verse was also retained, as an aid to chanting. At the same time the tunes for the metrical psalms were altogether omitted. The 16mo edition of the same
In 1644 the Book of Common Prayer was outlawed by parliamentary ordinance. The last edition of 'Middleburg' Psalms, published in 1649, effected a compromise by substituting the Authorized Version of 1611 (then known as the 'New Translation'), while the metrical texts remained unchanged. Curiously, the liturgical column headings were retained, but not the colons for chanting.
At the Stationers' Company, the English Stock inventory of 1 March 1663 shows 25 octavo 'Middleburg' Psalms in stock and 94 16mo. The latter entry remained unaltered at each stocktaking until 1666, after which it disappeared. Presumably therefore no copies were sold, perhaps because the 16mo edition available still had the now obsolete Geneva Bible translation. The octavo edition, however, was still in demand. Fifty-one copies were sold between March 1663 and March 1666. To keep enough copies in stock, fifty more were brought in by the Treasurer on 11 August 1663 and another fifty on 12 March 1666. Very probably these were reprints of the 1649 edition. After the Fire, however, it was evidently not thought worth while to put an edition together again. The demand was relatively very small: ordinary 12mo psalters were selling at ten or twenty thousand copies a year at this time.21 The Puritan wing of the clergy had been driven out of the Church by the Act of Uniformity (1662). For the post-Restoration Church, the association of the metrical psalms with the inspired word of God was perhaps less important than the association of Sternhold and Hopkins's translation with the establishment of Church and State. Hence the Middleburg format was no longer apt. As for the dissenters, they had little use for Sternhold and Hopkins; several other translations were available to them. Psalm singing had become a tedious duty, lacking in vitality, no longer embodying the fervent spirit of the early reformers. So it would remain until the rise of the voluntary parish choir at the end of the century. 22
E. Arber (ed.), A Transcript of the Registers of the Company of Stationers of London, 1554-1640 A.D. (1875-77), IV, 13-14.
William A. Jackson (ed.), Records of the Court of the Stationers' Company, 1602 to 1640 (1957), p. 271.
Stationers' Company Records, English Stock Book. I am grateful to the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers for allowing me access to their records.
J. Dover Wilson, 'Richard Schilders and the English Puritans', Trans. Bibliogr. Soc., 9 (1909-11), 65-134.
Jackson, p. 271 n.2.
W. W. Greg and E. Boswell (eds.), Records of the Court of the Stationers' Company, 1576-1602 (1930), p. 79.
See Cyprian Blagden, 'The English Stock of the Stationers' Company', The Library, 5th ser., 10 (1955), 163-185: especially p. 174.
William Cowan, 'A Bibliography of the Book of Common Order and Psalm Book of the Church of Scotland: 1556-1644', Edin. Bibliogr. Soc. Pub., x (1913), 83.
Cowan 24; STC 16587.
I am grateful to Katharine Pantzer for kindly placing at my disposal her draft of the forthcoming revised Short Title Catalogue. In addition, Miss Pantzer has been good enough to verify my conclusions below concerning Schilders's reimposition of standing type. I also wish to thank Donald Krummel, Hugh Macdonald, Frederick Nash, and Oliver Neighbour for help in the preparation of this article.
See John Julian, A Dictionary of Hymnology (2nd ed., 1907, repr. 1957), 856-866, 1021-22; Maurice Frost, English and Scottish Psalm and Hymn Tunes c. 1543-1677 (1953), 3-50.
STC 16599. See Neil Livingston, The Scottish Psalter of 1635 (1864).
O. Douen, Clément Marot et le Psautier Hugenot (Paris, 1879, repr. 1967), ii, 521, no. 87.
Ps. 1, 21, 141.
Ps. 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 19, 20, 21, 23, 28, 33, 34, 66, 87.
The whole booke of psalmes: with their wonted tunes, STC 2482.
STC 16589 (Cowan 27; Frost, p. 31; copies, British Library and elsewhere); STC 2507.5 (copy, British Library).
Schilders followed the 1592 edition of East, not that of 1594.
STC 16591 (Edinurgh: A. Hart, 1611).
The three tunes are Frost 19 ('Low Dutch' in England, 'English' in Scotland); Frost 42 ('Cambridge' in England, 'London' in Scotland); and Frost 121 ('Oxford' in England, 'Old Common' in Scotland). The last had appeared in Scottish psalm books since 1564, but only as a 'proper' tune to Psalm 108; its position as a 'common' tune seems to have been established in England and recognized by East, who also originated the custom of allocating place names to common tunes.
Statistics compiled from the English Stock Book, Stationers' Company records.
See my article 'John Playford and the Metrical Psalms', Journal of the American Musicological Society, 25 (1972), 331-378.