Leiden Special Collections Blog

A French Psalm-Book Printed at Leiden in 1602

A French Psalm-Book Printed at Leiden in 1602

Recently acquired: unique copy of a psalter.

From the beginning of the Eighty Years’ War, numerous Protestants from the Southern Netherlands took refuge in the Northern Netherlands. Those among them who spoke French, the Walloons, were unable to worship in Dutch. Therefore, they formed their own French-speaking churches. The first Walloon Church in the North was that in Middelburg, founded in 1574. In Leiden, services in French were held from 1578 at the latest. These services comprised psalm-singing by the whole community, unison and a cappella. For this, the Walloons used the Genevan Psalter completed in 1562. It included rhymed versions of all 150 psalms, written by Clément Marot and Théodore de Bèze, and melodies many of which had been composed by Louis Bourgeois.

Until 1590, most of the French psalm-books used by the Walloons were imported from Geneva and La Rochelle. From then on printers in the Northern Netherlands, too, began to produce and sell such psalters. A French psalter was printed in Delft in 1592 and 1600 and in Franeker in 1594, for the Amsterdam bookseller Jean Commelin. It was followed by psalters printed by Antoine Maire at Leiden in 1603 and by Symon Moulart at Middelburg in 1611. Recently, the Walloon Library, housed in the Leiden University Library, has acquired a unique copy of a psalter printed by Jan Paedts at Leiden in 1602: Les C.L. Pseaumes de David, mis en rime Françoyse, par Clément Marot & Théodore de Bèze (BIBWAL M 733: 1). It is a pocket edition of 82 x 55 mm. Along with the rhymed texts of all psalms it includes for each psalm the notation of the melody. It also contains the liturgies for several ecclesiastical ceremonies, Calvin’s Catechism and the Creed of La Rochelle (1571). This copy is bound with a copy of the Dutch-language psalter versified by Petrus Datheen, also printed by Paedts at Leiden in 1602. Of these two editions printed by Paedts no other copies are known to exist. They illustrate the influence of Geneva on Dutch culture.

Blog post by Henk Jan de Jonge, Emeritus Professor of New Testament and Early Christian Literature, Leiden University.

Image licensed Creative Commons License

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