The Reformation in Rhyme: Sternhold, Hopkins and the English Metrical Psalter, 1547–1603, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Reformation in Rhyme

Sternhold, Hopkins and the English Metrical Psalter, 1547–1603, 1st Edition

By Beth Quitslund


216 pages

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The Whole Booke of Psalmes was one of the most published and widely read books of early modern England, running to over 1000 editions between the 1570s and the early eighteenth century. It offered all of the Psalms paraphrased in verse with appropriate tunes, together with an assortment of other scriptural and non-scriptual hymns, and prose prayers for domestic use. Because the Elizabethan Church rapidly and pervasively (if unofficially) adopted this metrical psalter for congregational singing, and because it had in practical terms no rivals for church use until the end of the seventeenth century, essentially the entire conforming population of early modern England after 1570 would have been familiar with its psalms and hymns as elements of both public worship and private devotion. Yet, despite the significant impact of The Whole Booke of Psalmes upon English culture and literature, this is the first book-length study of it, and the first sustained critical examination of the texts of which it comprises. In large part this neglect is due to the reputation it gained after the mid-seventeenth century as a work of poor poetry mainly valued by vulgar and/or sectarian audiences. This later reception, however, was the product of not only changing literary tastes but an ideological desire to reshape the history of the Reformation. This study focuses on the actual aims of its authors and editors over the course of its gradual composition during the tumultuous religious changes of the mid-sixteenth century, and recovers its significant influence on the English church and literary practice. By tracing the ways in which historical contingency, religious fervor and the print marketplace together created and were changed by one of the most successful books of English verse ever printed, this study opens a new window through which to view the intellectual and ecclesiastical culture of Tudor England. It also shows how, in metrical psalmody, Protestant reformers discovered what turned out to be a uniquely flexible and effective instrument for advancing their vision of a godly society.


’Overall, this is a detailed and stylish, scholarly work, and is always a delight to read. Quitslund’s monograph deserves to become the standard work on this ubiquitous cultural phenomenon of early modern England.’ The Library ’Overall, Quitslund’s study is lucidly written and admirably concise… It is likely to remain central to the literature on English psalmody for many years to come.’ Reviews in History ’Overall, The Reformation in Rhyme succeeds in highlighting the incredible interdisciplinarity necessary in any study of the Reformation, be it aimed at historians, scholars of literature or religion, or students of the early printed book.’ SHARP News ’In this splendid new book, the subject of the much-disparaged ’Sternhold and Hopkins’ psalms is tackled with the seriousness and breadth it deserves….Quitslund has given us an important book. It ought by rights to put a welcome end to the hoary tradition whereby literary, religious and social historians simply ignore metrical psalmody, an essential part of life for people of all social classes throughout the anglophone world of the 16th and 17th centuries and long thereafter.’ Journal of the Edinburgh Bibliographical Society ’This is simply an outstanding work of scholarship.’ Religious Studies Review 'Excellent appendices, including detailed authorial information on each metrical psalm, attest to Quitslund’s skills in textual analysis. The Reformation in Rhyme provides new critical assessment of a central body of devotional literature with broad significance for reformation studies.' Church History 'The Reformation in Rhyme should be read by anyone interested in metrical Psalms and liturgical practice, but by all scholars of sixteenth-century English Protestantism as well.' Renaissance Quarterly ’If Quitlund’s attention to detail is impressive, so is the use she makes of her findings.’ Sixteenth Century Journal ’Quitslund has done such careful research and offers su

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Thomas Sternhold's Certayne Psalmes 1547-1549; Al Such Psalmes and the zeal for Biblical verse 1549-1553; Psalmes of Dauid among a scattered flock 1554-1558; The Anglo-Genevan metrical psalter 1556-1560; The Whole Book of Psalmes and the Elizabethan settlement 1559-1562 and after; The Whole Book of Psalmes in the life of the Elizabethan church 1562-1603; Appendices; Bibliography; Indexes.

About the Author

Professor Beth Quitslund is from the Department of English at Ohio University, USA

About the Series

St Andrews Studies in Reformation History

With the publication of its 100th book in 2012, the St Andrews Studies in Reformation Studies series celebrated an impressive publishing achievement. Since its establishment in 1995 the series has consistently offered high-quality, innovative and thought-provoking research in the field of early modern religious history. By encouraging authors to adopt a broad and inclusive interpretation of ’Reformation’, the resultant publications have done much to help shape current interdisciplinary interpretations of early-modern religion, expanding attention far beyond narrow theological concerns. Each title within the series has added to a body of international research showing how the ripples of the Reformation spread to virtually every corner of European society, both Protestant and Catholic, and often beyond. From family life, education, literature, music, art and philosophy, to political theory, international relations, economics, colonial ventures, science and military matters, there were few aspects of life that remained untouched in some way by the spirit of religious reform. As well as widening conceptions of the Reformation, the series has for the last fifteen years provided a publishing outlet for work, much of it by new and up-and-coming scholars who might otherwise have struggled to find an international platform for their work. Alongside these monographs, a complementary selection of edited volumes, critical editions of important primary sources, bibliographical studies and new translations of influential Reformation works previously unavailable to English speaking scholars, adds further depth to the topic. By offering this rich mix of approaches and topics, the St Andrews series continues to offer scholars an unparalleled platform for the publication of international scholarship in a dynamic and often controversial area of historical study.

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