The art of printing with movable metal type was invented by Johann Gutenberg of Mainz. Gutenberg, who probably had a background as a worker in precious metals, started to practise his invention around 1450.
To print the large Latin Bible which was completed in 1455, Gutenberg turned to a financial backer, the merchant Johann Fust. They came into conflict, the outcome of which is not clear. Nevertheless, in 1457 a Psalter was published, the colophon of which states that it was completed on 15 August 1457 by Johann Fust and Peter Schoeffer.
This is the first book in the Western world recording the name of the printer and the year of publication. On 29 August 1459 Fust and Schoeffer once again printed a Psalter, this time intended for the monasteries of the Benedictine congregation of Bursfeld. The copy on display here was once used in the monastery of Ettenheimmünster in Baden-Württemberg.
The book has been printed on vellum. The innovations, by comparison with the first printed book, the Gutenberg Bible, are striking. The text has been set in typefaces of two different sizes, the initials and their decorations have been printed and inks of three colours have been used. It is assumed that the three colours were not applied separately, but rather at the same time in one pull of the press. Only the musical notation still remained to be written by hand.
In the 18th century this copy made a long journey through the collections of several famous bibliophiles. In 1806 the work, from which leaves had disappeared, was completed in Paris with leaves from another defective copy. It was rebound by Jean-Claude Bozérian, the most famous bookbinder in Paris at the time. In 1830 Baron van Westreenen bought this Psalter in London for £120.