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  • David Sutton

Singing from Psalters in the Colonies

Churches have long-since sung from psalters. To the point, the Geneva Bible (1560) contained the metrical psalms bound with the Bible text. Singing psalms was the norm in the American colonies too. In fact, the first book printed in the new world was the Bay Psalm Book, printed in 1640 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.


Translators of this psalter took great pains to translate the Hebrew Psalm texts accurately, while maintaining natural flow with the music’s meter. The preface of the Bay Psalm Book indicates their desire (the beginning and internal f’s can be read as s):


Neither let any think, that for the meetre fake wee have taken liberty or poeticall licence to depart from the true and proper fence of Davids words in the hebrew verfes, noe; but it hath beene one part of our religious care and faithful indeavor, to keep clofe to the originall text. … Wee have refpected rather a plaine translation, then to fmooth our verfes with the sweetness of any paraphrafe.


Translating the Hebrew text into English meter is called versification. In singing from our psalter, we are singing a translation of the Hebrew text, obeying the teaching in Scripture and following the example of history.

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