Book of Praise


During the Reformation in the 16th century music in the church took a new direction. John Calvin's Genevan Psalter has been sung by the church ever since.


This overview does not pretend to be complete. It gives an impression of the Psalters and Hymnals that have played any (significant) role in Church history in relation to our Book of Praise. In this listing some background information is provided regarding the different versions of Psalters and Hymnals and their relationship via hyperlinks.

This page is organized by country in chronological order. There are many influences that could be marked as cross references on this page from one to another country, especially in the days of the Reformation and the last Century. 

1. France 

1539 – Genevan Psalter – France
The first Genevan Psalter contained only 19 psalms and 3 hymns. Calvin fought for the song of the church: the Roman Catholic Church took it from the people, but it should be given back. In the first version Calvin contributed to the Psalter himself; in the further development of the Psalter Calvin assured himself of professional assistance in music and poetry.

1553 - English Psalter - Geneva 
When Mary became Queen in 1553, many Protestants fled to Geneva where they came into contact with John Calvin and the French tradition Psalms and music. The refugees brought Sternhold's Psalms with them, although it would appear that John Hopkins did not join them there because we do not see any new Psalms by him in any of the Geneva editions. The four Geneva editions all contained Sternhold and Hopkins original 44 Psalms. The first Genevan Psalter in a foreign language, the Anglo Genevan Psalter, was looked at and approved by John Calvin. With the return of the refugees to England, this Psalter was introduced there. The well known Reformer John Knox was one of the English refugees. 

1556 - English Psalter - Geneva 
The first Genevan edition appeared in 1556. It contained a total of 51 Psalms, consisting of Sternhold's original 37, Hopkins original seven and an additional seven by William Whittingham. This edition was the first to be published including musical notation.

1558 - English Psalter - Geneva 
A second Genevan edition was published in 1558, which contained 62 Psalms. Nine of the new Psalms were by Whittingham and the other two were by his friend John Pullain. The 1560 edition contained three additional Psalms.

1561 - English Psalter - Geneva 
The 1561 edition saw an additional 25 Psalms, all by William Kethe. Many of these were dropped in favor of other versions in the later English editions. (There was one further edition published in Geneva in 1561 but it had a much greater influence on the Scottish Psalter than on the English Psalter we are considering here.)

The later history of the churches of the Reformation in France and Switzerland and the Psalters has had minor impact on the development of the Reformed churches in other countries and other hymnals. One development in France after World War II got attention from many denominations in many countries: the ecumenical Taizé community of France.

1950 - Taizé community of  France - France
Developments within Protestant worship in general have brought about a revival of psalm singing in the second part of the 20th Century. The simple psalm settings created by the ecumenical Taizé Community of France for its own daily worship have found use throughout the world. 
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2. England

1548 - Sternhold and Hopkins Psalter - England 
The Sternhold and Hopkins Psalter actually had its beginning about 14 years before it was published in its final form. The exact date is not known for certain, but 1548 is generally accepted as the year when Thomas Sternhold published his first collection of 19 Psalms This collection was dedicated to King Edward VI and was titled "Certayne PSALMES chose out of the PSALTER OF DAVID, and drawe into English metre, by Thomas Sternhold grome of Ye Kynges Maiesties roobes." Sternhold had expressed his intent to versify more of the Psalms, but he died shortly after the first edition was published.

1549 - Sternhold and Hopkins Psalter - England 
In 1549 a posthumus edition of Sternhold's Psalms was published, this time containing 37 Psalms by Sternhold and an additional seven by John Hopkins. This edition was titled "Al suche Psalmes of DAVID as Thomas Sternholde, late grome of ye Kinges Maiesties Robes didde in hys lyfe tyme draw into English metre."

1562 - Daye - London
Daye published the first complete English Psalter in 1562. This Psalter initially still some tunes from the earlier Anglo-Genevan Psalters as well as many tunes from English sources, including a few popular ballads that were adopted for use with the Psalms. Twenty-three of the forty-three Psalms that had been added in Geneva were dropped. It contained eighty-six new Psalms, mostly by John Hopkins, but it also included four new Psalms by Sternhold, which were apparently discovered after his death.
It remained the standard version in England for almost two hundred years. Daye's 1562 edition remained in use in England, with only a few changes, until well into the nineteenth century.

1696 - New Version - England
Nahum Tate and Nicholas Brady published issued their New Version in England. The work of Isaac Watts (1674-1748) is of great importance in the history of English hymnody. (In his "Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament" (1719) he broke with the tradition of "close fitting" translations and produced hymns that were poetic paraphrases of the biblical psalms. The best-known today are probably "Our God, Our Help in Ages Past," - Psalm 90; and "Joy to the World, the Lord Is Come," - Psalm 98. Watts' approach to the psalms was "evangelical," in that he was not hesitant to incorporate elements of the Christian gospel into his psalm paraphrases.)

1698 - New Version - England
Supplement to the New Version was published in 1698, This supplement contained English translations of Te Deum, Veni, Creator Spiritus, Nunc dimittis, Benedictus, Magnificat, paraphrases of catechism, six original hymns of "human composure". 
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3. Scotland

1564 - Scottish Psalter - Scotland
The Scottish Psalter that was published in 1564 included a much more varied selection of metres than the English Psalter. It also included some 21 settings done in Scotland after the return from exile. Opinions about the overall quality of the poetry of this version are varied. Most critics do not give it very high marks.
Many musicologists and hymnologists are enthusiastic about this Psalter. The reason is the richness of the music of this Psalter. Most of the tunes come from the musically rich Anglo-Genevan Psalter, or its French counterpart."

1635 - Scottish Psalter - Scotland
The Scottish Psalter of 1635 uses the Psalm versifications of the 1564 Scottish Psalter, which in turn was the continuation of the work of Sternhold and Hopkins and the Anglo-Genevan Psalters.
(The music of the 1635 Psalter represents a high point in music of its type. For example: "To oversimplify we might say that the modern (post-1700) philosophy is "Make sure the harmony and rhythm are good and we can fit a nice tune on top," while the ancient (pre-1700) philosophy was "Make sure the tune is smooth and easy to sing and we can live with whatever harmonies, scales, and rhythms happen along the way."
It follows that a hymnal from 1635 will have music that seems a bit strange at first, and the uneven rhythmic patterns probably won't lead to an immediate, uncontrollable urge to jump up and dance. But step back a moment and let the words and music speak on their own terms, and it will soon become clear why the ears of the time found the combination to be a perfect fit." (Dr. David E. Hoover, Professor of Music at California State University. (Dr. Hoover is a member of United Church of God)).)

1578 - Dundie Psalmes - Schotland 
Published in 1578: Dundie Psalmes or Gude and Godlie Ballates.

1650 - Scottish Psalter - Scotland
Published: The Psalmes of David in Metre.

1684 - Gaelic Psalter - Scotland
In 1684 the Gaelic Psalms were published. 
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4. The Netherlands

1540 - Souderliedekens - The Netherlands
Already in the 16th Century Psalms were sung, even before there was a regulated church life. (We refer to the (Church) history at the end of the Middle Ages.) Much details about the liturgical use of songs in the worship service and also about the worship services itself in those days are unknown.

1551 - Jan Utenhove - The Netherlands
Jan Utenhove wrote a Psalter for the Dutch congregation in London. Also in the Netherlands this Psalter was used for several years. The old language and the music that was oriented on the German liturgy and songs did not really "fit" in the Dutch churches.

1566 - Petrus Datheen - The Netherlands
Reverend Petrus Datheen was a popular minister, and a good preacher. He wrote a Psalter in which he used the common language of those days, and all the tunes were according the Genevan Psalter. (Since several years the Genevan Psalter -in the French language- had become familiar in the Dutch churches, and therefore the melodies were known as well.) In a short period the Psalms of Datheen were introduced and used in many churches (even before Synod gave approval). General characteristic of this Psalter is, compared to other available Psalters: high quality in language and music.

1580 - Marnix van St. Aldegonde - The Netherlands
Marnix van St. Aldegonde noted that the quality of Datheen's versification was close to the daily language, but it was not close enough to the original Hebrew text. The Psalter of Marnix van St. Aldegonde was closer to the Scriptures, but the used language was older (including "Du" and "Dij", in stead of "Ghij" and "U"; in English would that be "Thy" and Thou" in stead of "You"). This was one of the reasons that this Psalter has never been accepted in the churches.

1612 – Ainsworth Book of Psalms - Amsterdam
Due to the persecution of the Protestants by Queen Mary Tudor (… – 1558) and the lack of power by Queen Elisabeth I (1558 – 1603) to reform the church, a part of the Protestant congregation of London moved to Amsterdam in 1594. A in that group of British people, the scientist, Mr. Henry Ainsworth (1570 – 1622) published in Amsterdam his “Book of Psalms” in the English language in 1612.

1773 - Statenberijming - The Netherlands
After almost 200 years, the Datheen Psalter was not so "modern" anymore. Different people made many other Psalters and this situation was undesirable. The Government decided to make one selection with the best versifications available. The introduction of this Psalter in the same year of publication went smooth. The Psalter contained all 150 psalms, on the original Genevan tunes. In addition 9 hymns were added, most of these hymns could be found also in French in the Genevan Psalter from John Calvin.

1933 - Statenberijming - The Netherlands
Synod of the Gerformeerde Kerken of Middelburg in 1933 decided to add 20 hymns to the existing selection. In the 13 years before that, this matter had been discussed many times. Synod of Leeuwarden (1920) instituted a committee for this matter. (19 added hymns were not directly a translation of a passage of the Scriptures, or directly related to Scripture).

1973 - Liedboek voor de Kerken (LBK) - The Netherlands
An ecumenical committee of several dominations in the Netherlands published the Psalter of the LBK in 1961. The versification of the psalms was totally revised and only one stanza in the entire Psalter was the same as in the Statenberijming. The interpretation of the original Bible text is not always as accurate as it should be. In addition the Psalter, 461 hymns were published. (The publication of the Evangelische Gezangen in 1805, which at that time was controversial in many churches and had impact on the church disputes, resulting in subdivision in the churches (1834), was influential in the publication of these 416 hymns. The 416 hymns are of a very high quality). A committee "Liedboek 2000" is appointed in order to prepare a new Hymnal, which is supposed to be the successor of the LBK.

1985 - Gereformeerd Kerkboek - The Netherlands
Discussions regarding the old language, the translation, and musical notation of the psalms and the character of many hymns, led to the decision of the Synods of Hattem 1972/73 and Kampen 1975, to publish a new Kerkboek "on probation" (1978). (In this new "Church book" also the text of the confessions and forms are revised to modern language, and also the liturgy has been revised.) In the final publication of the Gereformeerd Kerkboek in 1985, the notation of the psalm and hymn melodies was according to the original Genevan Psalter, as published in 1973 in the LBK.

1997 - Hymn addition to the Gereformeerd Kerkboek - The Netherlands
Synod of Berkel has released a selection of hymns in the LBK on "probation" in the churches in 1996. In 1999 the Synod of  Leusden approved 121 hymns that the Gereformeerde Kerken (vrijgemaakt) could use in the worship services. (These hymns caused controversy and divided the churches in the Netherlands.) The next Synod (Zuidhorn) is scheduled April 6, 2002.
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5. North America

1562 - Sternhold and Hopkins - North America
The Sternhold and Hopkins version was brought to the American colonies and saw considerable use there. According to "American Hymns, Old and New" it was used extensively in the American south until the close of the eighteenth century.
Even after the New Version (Brady and Tate) appeared in 1696, Sternhold and Hopkins (or Daye's Psalter) continued to be printed and reprinted through more than six hundred editions. The final edition was printed in 1828, two hundred and sixty-six years after the first edition.
When first published this Psalter was most often referred to as "Daye's Psalter" (after the name of the publisher), or as "Sternhold and Hopkins" (after its two main contributors). When Tate and Brady published their A New Version of the Psalms of David in 1696, this version began to be called "The Old Version." Today it is most often referred to as The Old Version, or as Sternhold and Hopkins.
The Bay Psalm Book, the first book to be printed in English-speaking North America, did not include music. (The 1651 edition of the Bay Psalm Book was called The Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs of the Old and New Testaments.)
Musicologists, however, note deterioration in the quality of psalmody from the days of the Genevan Psalter and Ainsworth. While these earlier Psalters had used a variety of metrical patterns for psalm settings, the Bay Psalm Book represents a general reversion to the three standard forms, which were easier for congregations to learn in the frontier setting where musical training was not readily available.

29 Genevan and 8 German tunes were employed in the Old Version. Seven popular tunes can be pointed to in this category; they are tunes: 
- Psalm 50 (Genevan Psalm 11) 
- Psalm 81 (Genevan Psalm 33)
- Psalm 100 (Genevan Psalm 134) - The Old Hundred
- Psalm 113 (Genevan Psalm 36/68), 
- Psalm 124 (Genevan Psalm 124) - The Old 124th
- Psalm 127 (Genevan Psalm 127) 
- Psalm 134 (Genevan Psalm 101) - St Michael 
The tunes to Ps.124, 134, 100, the Old 124th, St. Michael, and the Old Hundred, are the most popular tunes in this category. In addition to the almost all modern English hymnals, and two Japanese hymnals include these tunes (although almost all other Old Version tunes are rejected in these hymnals).  Only a few older English hymnals contained also the tune to Ps. 50 and some modern American hymnals include the tune to Ps.113.

1629 - Ainsworth Book of Psalms - Plymouth
Due to the persecution of the Protestants by Queen Mary Tudor (… - 1558) and the lack of power by Queen Elisabeth I (1558 - 1603) to reform the church, a part of the Protestant congregation of London moved to Amsterdam in 1594. A in that group of British people, the scientist, Mr. Henry Ainsworth (1570 - 1622) published in Amsterdam his "Book of Psalms" in the English language in 1612. The group refugees split into another group in Leiden. From this group in Leiden a number of people immigrated to the US in 1620/1629 and they are also known as "the Pilgrims Fathers". The people took up residence south of Boston (Plymouth) and used the Psalm book of Ainsworth.

1640 - Bay Psalter - Massachusetts
Because the "Sternhold psalm book" that was used in the Massachusetts-Bay area did not follow Scripture close enough, a new psalm book was made: known as the "Bay Psalter". The Bay Psalter included psalms only, no music, and the variety of melodies was 13 in total. Later on the Pilgrim Fathers in Plymouth were also using the Bay Psalter.

1650 - General - North America
Around 1650 in England the climate for Protestant churches became better. Therefore, number of new religious immigrants to New England became less. This caused a lack of good skills, knowledge, education, and musical background to lead the congregation and maintain high quality singing. Congregational singing in New England, especially in isolated communities, continued to deteriorate through the seventeenth century and into the eighteenth.

1720 - New Version - New England
The New Version replaced the Bay Psalter in most churches. The new Psalter incorporated the paraphrases and hymns of Isaac Watts and others, sometimes printing music in several parts. Younger people, especially, eagerly received musical training and took their places in the singers' gallery to lead the congregation. Watts eventually became a standard in New England, displacing the Bay Psalm Book, and his work served as the basis for a number of Psalters by other editors.

1800-1850 - General - North America
In many churches in North America the distinction between psalms and hymns was retained in public worship, and congregations were divided over the use of other than "close fitting" metrical psalms. The "great psalmody controversy" echoed for more than a century, with the Presbyterians of the middle colonies retaining the exclusive use of metrical psalms well into the nineteenth century.

1850-1900 - General - North America
In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries popular taste encouraged the introduction of the devotional lyric and the gospel song into public worship. Often set to folk melodies, these compositions featured emotional and subjective expression of the faith. At the same time, in those communions where a higher educational level prevailed, there was a great flowering of newly composed church hymnody, which led eventually to the recovery in English-speaking worship of some of the great hymns of the German Reformation and the Latin tradition. The influence of the biblical psalms is evident in the fact that some of the best work of the nineteenth-century hymnists consisted of paraphrases of the psalms. (Dr. Richard Leonard in "Singing the Psalms - A Brief History of Psalmody")

1900 - General - North America
The liturgical renewal after World War II saw the beginning of a return to congregational participation in using the psalms. For example, The Methodist Hymnal of 1964 specifically called for the "Psalter or other act of praise" at one point in the service; however, it was to be spoken responsively rather than sung. Within the Anglican community, some prominent church musicians were leading in a recovery of plainchant.

1912/1948 - Psalter - North America
The United Presbyterian Church of North America launched an initiative in 1893 to provide a uniform metrical version of the Psalms for North America's churches. Nine denominations in the United States and Canada worked together to produce a new metrical version published in 1912. Many churches with a Reformed background accepted this Psalter. For one psalm are multiple melodies and the versification of the psalms is often not accurate, selective and incomplete, related to the original Bible text. The "Genevan melodies" are altered and not accurate either.

1978 - Lutheran Church - North America
The Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) introduced "pointed psalms," or psalm texts with symbolism allowing them to be sung to a set of psalm tones in the manner of Anglican chant.

1984 - Canadian Reformed Churches - Canada
The Book of Praise of the Canadian Reformed Churches is based on the original Genevan Psalter, including versification of entire psalms close to the original Bible text. This book, the today's version of the Anglo-Genevan Psalter, includes also 65 hymns.

1934/1987 - Christian Reformed Church - North America
The Christian Reformed Church published the Psalter Hymnal for the first time in 1934. The current edition (1987) includes metrical settings of all 150 psalms, forty melodies from the Genevan Psalter are included, "almost all restored to their original rhythms". In the Introduction is also mentioned the fact that since the introduction of the hymns in 1934, psalm singing has steadily declined. This Psalter Hymnal is a contribution to "revitalize psalm singing". The versifications are not always close to the Bible text.
Other hymnals in use in the churches with Reformed background in North America are the Hymnbook (1955); and Trinity Hymnal (1961, 1990).
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