Bay Psalm Book

From Academic Kids

The Bay Psalm Book was the first book printed in British North America.

The book is a Psalter, first printed in 1640, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Psalms in it are metrical translations into English. The translations are not particularly polished or poetic, and none have remained in use, although some of the tunes to which they were sung have survived (for instance the "Old 100th.") However its production, a mere 20 years after the Pilgrim Fathers arrived at Plymouth, Massachusetts, represents a considerable achievement. It went through several editions and remained in use for well over a century.

The early residents of the Massachusetts Bay Colony brought with them several books of psalms: the Ainsworth Psalter (1612), compiled by Henry Ainsworth for use by Puritan "separatists" in Holland; the Ravenscroft Psalter (1621); and the Sternhold and Hopkins Psalter (1562, of which there were several editions). Evidently they were dissatisfied with the translations from Hebrew in these several psalters, and wished for some that were closer to the original. They hired "thirty pious and learned Ministers" to undertake a new translation, which they presented here. The tunes to be sung to the new translations were the familiar ones from their existing psalters.

The first edition of the Bay Psalm Book to include music was the ninth edition, of 1698.

The title page of the first edition of 1640 reads:

The Whole Booke of Psalmes

Faithfully
TRANSLATED into ENGLISH
Metre.
Whereunto is prefixed a discourse
declaring not only the lawfullnes, but also
the necessity of the heavenly Ordinance
of singing Scripture Psalmes in
the Churches of God.

Cambridge, Mass. Stephen Day

Imprinted, 1640

Ten copies of the first edition of the Bay Psalm Book are known still to exist, one of them in the Library of Congress.

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