Mainz Psalter

From the 1459 second edition : with an illuminated letter
The Mainz Psalter (1457) of George III, rebound in 1800
Printer's mark of Johann Fust and Peter Schoeffer

The Mainz Psalter was the second major book printed with movable type in the West;[1] the first was the Gutenberg Bible. It is a psalter commissioned by the Mainz archbishop in 1457. The Psalter introduced several innovations: it was the first book to feature a printed date of publication, a printed colophon, two sizes of type, printed decorative initials, and the first to be printed in three colours.[1] The colophon also contains the first example of a printer's mark.[2] It was the first important publication issued by Johann Fust and Peter Schoeffer following their split from Johannes Gutenberg.


The Psalter combines printed text with two-colour woodcuts: since both woodcuts and movable print are relief processes, they could be printed together on the same press. The Psalter is printed using black and red inks, with two-colour initials, and large coloured capitals printed in blue and red inks.[3] These capitals were partly the work of the artisan known as the Fust master, who later also worked for Fust and Schöffer on the 1462 Bible.[1] The musical score accompanying the psalms was provided in manuscript, and may have been the model for the type style.[3] Printing in two colors, although feasible on the moveable press of Gutenberg's time (as illustrated by the Mainz Psalter), was apparently abandoned soon afterward as being too time-consuming, as few other examples of such a process are extant.[4]

Two versions were printed, the short issue and long issue. The short has 143 leaves, and the long has 175 and was intended for use in the diocese of Mainz. All surviving copies and fragments are on vellum, and it is not known if any paper copies were printed.[5] At least one copy was still being used in services in a monastery in the mid-eighteenth century.[6]