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[JOHAN SOTER] Psalterium in Quatuor Linguis: Hebraea, Graeca, Chaldaea, Latina

In Latin, Ge’ez, Greek and Hebrew, imprint on paper
Cologne [Johan Soter], 16 June 1518
Bound with
Commentary on the Psalms
In Latin, decorated manuscript on paper and parchment
Germany, Dusseldorf, 1545

TM 441

Part I: ff. ii (modern) + 150, complete, foliated in modern pencil [1]-150 (collation: i-vii6, viii4, ix8, x-xxvi6, quires viii, ix, and xvi are mis-bound: the central bifolium of quire viii, signed “h iii” is bound between “i ii” and “i iii” in quire ix, and in quire xvi the innermost bifolium, signed “q iii”, is bound as the outermost bifolium), the last leaf of quire xxiv is blank, as is the unsigned outermost bifolium of quire xxv, a few worm-holes in the first pages, one extending through most of the text-block, not significantly affecting the text, a few tears and irregular edges of leaves (ff. 1, 88, 124, 150); Part II: ff. 152 + i (modern), complete, modern pencil foliation continued from Part I: 151-302 (collation: i-iii10 the innermost and outermost parchment, iv-ix12, x-xiv10), with traces of plummet leaf signatures, watermarks from f. 276 onwards, prickings occasionally survive, ruled in plummet in two columns each with single vertical bounding lines extending the full height of the page, and 39 horizontals, the top one and bottom one extending the full width of the page, written with 38 lines per column (justification, c. 205 x 130 mm., the inter-columnar space c. 14 mm. wide) in dark brown ink in hybrid gothic script, with rubrics in red, capitals stroked in red, sources indicated in the margins underlined in red, two-line initials in plain red at the start of each psalm, one three-line initials with reserved quatrefoil motif at the beginning of the preface (f. 151), one seven-line initial with two reserved quatrefoil designs and a human face in profile at the beginning of Psalm 1 (f. 153). Bound in Contemporary Cologne/Dusseldorf blind-stamped binding, sewn on four double cords laced into wood boards covered with brown leather blind-stamped over most of each surface with a repeated roll of Renaissance foliate ornament; minor losses to the plain spine sympathetically repaired; modern metal corner-pieces and clasps; the (early 20th-century?) pastedowns and facing pages marbled. Dimensions c. 300 x 220 mm.

This hybrid volume consists of a polyglot printed Psalter and manuscript commentary in an original binding. The rare first Cologne publication by the humanist Johannes Soter (alias Heyl), Part I, is the second book to be printed in the Ge’ez language, and the first polyglot to include Ethiopic, as well as the first example of Hebrew printing in Cologne. Its original owner Wilhelm von Grevenbroich gave it to the friars of the Order of the Holy Cross of Dusseldorf, who added the manuscript Part II in 1545 and had the volume bound. Both the compiler of the (unique?) text and its scribe were themselves Dusseldorf Kreuzherren.


1. Part I was printed in Cologne in 1518 and acquired by Wilhelm von Grevenbroich (died 1556), also known as Gulielmus Insulanus Menapius, Wilhelm Insulanus, and under other names. He was born at Grevenbroich, about 10 miles to the south-west of Dusseldorf, and studied at the University of Cologne before becoming Prior of St Adalbert’s, Aachen, in the 1530s. He was author of several works published in Cologne in the 1530s and 1540s, including a life of Marsilio Ficino printed in 1541.

2. Part I was given by von Grevenbroich, presumably to the friars of the Order of the Holy Cross, and inscribed “Psalterium hoc quadrilingue donavit [several words identifying the recipient are erased] Gulielmus Insulanus Menapius Medicinae Doctor et praepositus ecclesie S. Adalberti Aquen” [i.e. Aachen] (f. 1).

3. Part II was written by Brother Theoderic of Dusseldorf in 1545, a date that appears in red twice: once near the beginning of the text (f. 157), and again in his colophon at the end (f. 302v). The size and page-layout were probably planned to match Part I, with a view to binding them together to produce a volume for study of the Psalms. Theoderic was apparently a friar of the Order of the Holy Cross in their house at Düsseldorf (on which see especially R. Haass, Die Kreuzherren in den Rheinlanden, Rhenisches Archiv, 23 (Bonn, 1932), pp. 116-31). The two parts were presumably bound together shortly after Part II was completed, and inscribed “Liber fratrum [cruciferorum in Duysseldorp erased but legible]” (f. iiv). The name of the owner in this inscription, and in the inscription recording the gift from von Grevenbroich, were both erased presumably when the manuscript was alienated, probably in the 18th century.

4. Karl Otto, Graf of Salm-Neuburg (1709-1766), with his bookplate; his ownership proves that the manuscript must have left the Düsseldorf Kreuzherren before the suppression of their house in 1802, and it is for this reason that it did not stay together with most of the other manuscripts from their library: Sigrid Krämer, Handschriftenerbe des deutschen Mittelalters (Munich, 1989-90) I, pp. 171-73, lists more than ninety manuscripts from the house now in the Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek, Düsseldorf, and three more in Vienna, but none in private hands.

5. The whereabouts of the manuscript since the 18th century are not known, but there is a mid(?) 20th-century description in French from a bookseller’s catalogue stuck to the upper pastedown and another more recent one in English.


Part I

ff. 1v-143, Psalms 1-150, in four parallel columns across each double-page opening, in (from left to right) Latin, Chaldean, Greek, and Hebrew; title-page, “PSALTERIUM / IN QUATUOR / LINGUIS / HEBREA / GRECA / CHALDEA / LATINA. / IMPRESSUM / COLONIAE / MDXVIII.” Although the title identifies the language as Chaldean, in fact it is Ge’ez, the ancient language of Ethiopia (VD16 B 3101 (=P 4506); Adams B 1371; Darlow & Moule 1413);

f. 143v, with heading, “Io. Potken Praepositus Ecclesiae Sancti Georgii Coloniensis. Peregrinarum literarum studiosis. S.,” text, “Dudum Romae in animo reuoluens cognitionem peregrinarum …,” followed by the colophon: “ABSOLUTUM COLONIAE AGRIPI-/NAE ANNO DOMINI. / MDXVIII. / IIII. IDUS / IUN.”;

ff. 144r-145v, blank;

ff. 146-149v, a short introduction in Latin to the other three languages and their alphabets, numbers, etc., with title-page: “INTRODVCTIVNCVLAE / IN TRES LINGVAS / EXTERNAS. / HEBRAEAM / GRAECAM / CHALDAEAM.,” including parallel versions of familiar texts such as the Lord’s Prayer, and biblical personal- and place-names such as Adam, Abraham, Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

f. 150r-v, blank;

Part II

ff. 151-152v, rubric, “Prologus. Incipit prefacio in psalterium.,” text incipit, “Cum omnes prophetas spiritus sancti revelacione constet esse locutus David … tuba spiritus sancti …,” identified in the margin as coming from the “Glo[ssa] ord[inaria]” but apparently not the same, and ending “… non sic deus qui scit antequam petatur [sic?] quod nobis necesse sit,” with a rubric Item brevis expositio super psalmos co[m]pilata per Henricum Gerischem;

ff. 153-302v, Commentary on the Psalms, first lemma: “Beatus vir qui non abiit in consilio impiorum [Psalm 1:1],” first gloss incipit, “Iste psalmus titulum non habet sed ab Esdra qui biblia restaurat …,” last gloss explicit, “… ad laudem et gloriam tuam qui es benedictus in secula seculorum Amen.,” followed by “Finis Anno domini 1536 / Margarete virginis,” underneath which is added in large script in red ink “Anno etc. 1545 T. M. / frater Theodricus Duysseldorpensis.”

The commentary consists of excerpts from the Psalms, followed by paragraphs of commentary, with at least twenty-one different sources identified in the margins. The sources are the Glossa Ordinaria and glossa interlinearis (e.g. ff. 247v, 250v), the Church Fathers Ambrose (f. 286, 287), Augustine (passim), Cassiodorus (passim), Jerome (passim), and Gregory (passim, occasionally specifying his Moralia in Job: ff. 183v, 185v); Remigius (f. 244), Haimo (only from f. 252 onwards), Bernard (e.g. ff. 210, 229v) Nicholas of Lyra (passim), Ludolph of Saxony (d.1378) (passim), Hugh of St.-Cher (passim), Peter Cantor (d.1197) (ff. 226v, 228v, 295), Boethius (f. 288, referring to the Consolation of Philosophy, Bk. 5), Pope Pius (f. 164), and there are also occasional identifications of biblical quotations (ff. 183v, 237, 238, 251). Thus far unidentified are the sources “Coll’” (f. 171), “Actor” (ff. 155, 253v, 268v), and “Damasc’” (f. 301). The latest identified source is Paul of Burgos (Burgensis; e.g. ff. 171v, 176v, 209r-v), a Spanish Jew who converted to Christianity, whose most important work was the Additiones to the Nicholas of Lyra’s Postilla, who died in 1435.

From the inscriptions at the end it appears that the compilation of the text of the manuscript was finished on St. Margaret’s day (Thursday, 20 July) 1536, and this copy of it was written in 1545. The compiler Henricus “Gerischem” (i.e. Gerresheim, which is now a suburb of Düsseldorf), named at the end of the preface is perhaps the same man as the scribe whose name has been read variously as Henricus de Gerisheim/Geinssen/Grischen/Gorrichem, who signed theological miscellanies dated 1502, 1511, and 1519, which were all written for the Düsseldorf Kreuzherren (they are now Düsseldorf, Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek, MSS B 23, B 91, and B 138; see Günter Gattermann et al., Handschriftencensus Rheinland: Erfassung mittelalterlicher Handschriften im rheinischen Landesteil von Nordrhein-Westfalen mit einem Inventar (Wiesbaden, 1993), nos. 483, 548, and 594). It thus seems that in the early decades of the sixteenth century Henricus specialised in the composing of compilations of extracts drawn from theological sources, as in the present manuscript.

The “Theodricus Duysseldorp” who was apparently the scribe of the present volume is perhaps the man of this name who was the scribe of a hymn to St Barbara on four undated sixteenth-century manuscript leaves added to a printed Sammelband (Düsseldorf, Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek, MS C 107 and M.Th.U.Sch. 312 (Ink.), see ibid., no. 750).


Adams, H. M. Catalogue of Books Printed on the Continent of Europe, 1501-1600 in Cambridge Libraries, Cambridge, 1967.

Darlowe, T. H. and H. F. Moule. Historical Catalogue of the Printed Editions of Holy Scripture in the Library of the British and Foreign Bible Society, 2 vols., London, 1903-11 (repr. New York, 1963).

Schmitz, Wolfgang, “Das humanistische Verlagsprogramm Johannes Soters,” in James Mehl (ed.), Humanimus in Köln / Humanism in Cologne (Studien zur Geschichte der Universität zu Köln, 10), Cologne, 1991, pp. 77-111.

Verzeichnissen der im deutschen Sprachraum erschienenen Drucke des 16. Jahrhunderts (VD 16), now available online, see below.

Online resources

Biography of Wilhelm von Grevenbroich, from an out-of-copyright edition of the Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie:

Bibliography of Books Published in German-speaking Countries in 16th Century (Verzeichnissen, cited above, VD 16), with links to two digitised copies of Part I: