SKU: BK2581

The Bay Psalm Book was the first book to be printed in North America, twenty years after the arrival of the Pilgrim Fathers in Massachusetts. Now extremely rare - only eleven copies survive - it is also the most expensive book in the world, fetching over $14.2 million at auction.

Worship in the 'mother tongue' and congregational hymns had become key tenets of Puritanism following the Reformation. New England Puritans were unhappy with contemporary translations of the Psalms and decided that they needed their own version, which would better represent their beliefs. A team of writers in the Massachusetts Bay settlement, including John Cotton and Richard Mather, set about translating the psalms into English from the original Hebrew, and setting the lyrics to a metre so that they could easily be sung in congregation. The resulting translation, 'The Whole Booke of Psalmes Faithfully Translated into English Metre,' was published in 1640 on a printing press brought over from Surrey. It became known as the Bay Psalm Book after the name of the colony that was home to its translators.

Every page of this extraordinarily influential book, including the translators' preface, is faithfully reproduced here, complete with original printer's errors and binding marks. An introduction by Diarmaid MacCulloch sets the book in context and explains how this unassuming Psalter came to have a profound effect on the course of the Protestant faith in America. 

This edition is made from the original held at the Bodleian Library, one of the best preserved of the surviving copies, despite its accidental submersion in the river Thames in 1731, when the barge carrying it to Oxford unexpectedly sank.

  • Hardback
  • 320 pages, 184 x 118 mm
  • ISBN: 9781851244140
  • Publication November 2014

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