Psalter of the Benedictine Congregation at Bursfelde


The first printing workshop in Mainz was a joint venture undertaken by Johann Gutenberg, the financier Johann Fust, and Peter Schöffer (circa 1425–circa 1502). Schöffer, the youngest of the three, had studied at the University of Erfurt between 1444 and 1448 and worked as a calligrapher in Paris in 1449. He thus combined necessary theoretical knowledge with practical experience in the area of book production. His contributions to the further development of printing seem to have focused mainly on imitating as many characteristics of manuscripts as possible without having recourse to manual intervention. After the acrimonious end of the partnership with Gutenberg in 1455, Schöffer continued to work together with Johann Fust and was able to bring his ideas to fruition. Unlike Gutenberg, who quickly gave up the idea of printing the chapter headings of his Bible in red ink and instead returned to the practice of manual rubrication, Schöffer aimed at printing all colored elements in a book, an innovation that he mentioned with pride in the colophons of his Psalters of 1457 and 1459, the first such concluding statements to be printed. Both editions are decorated with two-color initials, such as were common in manuscripts, employing a contrasting color to accentuate the calligraphic decorations known as filigree. The individual elements of each initial were produced with metal cuts, allowing them to be taken apart and separately colored, so that the pages could be printed in a single operation. Presented here is Schöffer’s Psalter of 1459, which was modified to fit the requirements of the Benedictine congregation of Bursfelde and printed under a commission from the Benedictine abbey of Saint Jacob in Mainz. It is also known as the Psalterium Benedictinum cum canticis et hymnis (Benedictine Psalter with canticles and hymns). Three years after Fust’s death in 1466, Schöffer married his late partner’s daughter, Christina, and continued to run the workshop, teaching his sons the printing trade. Schöffer’s grandson Ivo (1500‒1555) was still active as a printer in Mainz until his death, 100 years after Gutenberg’s invention.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

Johann Fust und Peter Schöffer, Mainz


Title in Original Language

Psalterium Benedictinum congregationis Bursfeldensis

Type of Item

Physical Description

254 pages ; 35 x 49 centimeters


  • BSB shelfmark: 2 L.impr.membr. 2
  • This description of the work was written by Bettina Wagner of the Bavarian State Library.

Last updated: March 16, 2017