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The Goldener psalter.

A psalter is a volume containing the Book of Psalms and which often contains other devotional material. Various schemes for the arrangement of the Psalms are described in Latin Psalters.

In the early Middle Ages psalters were amongst the most popular types of illuminated manuscripts, rivaled only by the Gospel Books, from which they gradually took over as the type of manuscript chosen for lavish illumination. Medieval psalters often included a calendar, a litany of saints, canticles from the Old and New Testaments, as well as other devotional texts. Many psalters were lavishly illuminated with full-page miniatures as well as decorated initials.

In British North America, the first book printed was the Bay Psalm Book in 1640 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Psalms in it are metrical translations into English.

The psalter is also a part of either the Horologion or the breviary, used to say the Liturgy of the Hours in the Eastern and Western Christian worlds respectively.

Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic

In Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic usage the psalter is divided into 20 kathismata, for reading at Vespers and Matins. Kathisma means sitting, since the people normally sit during the reading of the psalms. Each kathisma is divided into three stases, from stasis, to stand, because each stasis ends with Glory to the Father…, at which everyone stands. The reading of the kathismata are so arranged that the entire psalter is read through in the course of a week (during Great Lent it is read through twice in a week). During Bright Week (Easter Week) there is no reading from the psalter. Orthodox psalters usually also contain the Biblical canticles, which are read at the canon of Matins during Great Lent. Some Orthodox psalters also contain special prayers for the departed, which are used during the wake, when the psalms are read over the deceased (see Christian burial).

Significant psalters

The Sofia Psalter (1337).
Illuminated manuscripts

Printed psalters

See also


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