The Psalm poems

Psalm 6, a primordial paraphrase (before 1533) 

A small booklet (a plaquette) with no date or place of impression  contains the first translation of Marot into the vernacular: Le VI. Pseaulme de David, qui est le premier Pseaulme des sept Pseaulmes, translate en francoys par Clement Marot Varlet de chambre du Roy nostre sire au plus pres de la verite Ebraicque.

On the basis of an analysis of the typographical material this edition can be assigned to the printing house of Claude Nourry (Lyon) and the terminus a quo and ad quem can be determined as 1528 and 1533, respectively. Both the way it is printed (beautifully adorned, three engravings, gothic typeface) and the fact that every French verse is preceded by the Latin text (Vulgate), place this booklet in the tradition of devotional literature. The reference to ‘la verite Ebraicque,’ however, links the translation to the humanist approach to the Old Testament.Who commanded the printing of this booklet is not clear. 

The only extant copy was acquired in Lyon in 1535 by the diplomat and bibliophile Fernand Colomb, second son of Christopher (The beginning of the translation with Agument, Latin verse en illustration is reproduced here).

1533: Psalm 6 : Miroir-Instruction

Between October and December 1533 this translation of Psalm 6 was added at the end (fol. 35r°) of the second Augereau edition of Le Miroir de treschrestienne Princesse Marguerite de France… The heading reads: Le VI. Pseaulme de David, translaté en Françoys selon l’Hebrieu, par Clement Marot Valet de chambre du Roy. 

The Miroir (editio princeps, 1531) is a devout meditation by Marguerite de Navarre about her sinfulness and Gods grace. Apart from some textual differences (especially in the second part of the first verse), the text is the same as in the plaquette. The Latin verses have been retained, although the layout has been highly modernised: Roman characters, careful punctuation, and typography, following the Briefve Doctrine pour deuement escripre le Françoys, the orthographic treatise published at the same time, by the same printer (Antoine Augereau), and closely connected with it.

[Saulmes de Clement Marot] ca. 1538 

The existence of this edition is only known from a statement of the Geneva printer Jean Girard, recorded in the ‘Procès criminels’ of the City of Geneva. Girard; being questioned about illegal printing activities, Girard is asked to sum up all the books he has printed since he arrived in Geneva (summer 1536). The interrogation took place on 1 May 1539. One of his publications is recorded by the scribe as Saulmes de Clement Marot. Since no copy of this edition has ever been found nothing else can be said with certainty about it, except that it must have existed because there is no reason why Girard would have lied about it. 

Aulcuns pseaulmes & cantiques.. (Strasbourg, 1539)

This print contains a nineteen Psalm poems ('mys en chant' = for singing),  among which thirteen Psalm paraphrases of Marot. This anonymous edition is the oldest available printed edition of a number of Marot’s Psalm paraphrases. Next to the nineteen Psalms there are the Canticle of Simeon, the Ten Commandments, and the Creed. Only the Creed has not been translated in verse form. All texts are meant for singing, since a melody is printed above the first stanza of every Psalm and above the entire Creed. Thirteen of the nineteen verse translations are by Marot (Psalms 1, 2, 3, 15, 19, 32, 51, 103, 114, 115, 130, 137, 143), but no author is mentioned. The edition is generally attributed to Jean Calvin (Pastor of the French–speaking community of Strasbourg) and the printing to the Strasbourg printer Johann Knobloch jr.

Below the titlepage with the the Canticle of Simeon, in a translation by an anonymous poet.

Psalmes de David, Translatez .. (De Gois, Antwerp, 1541)

Full title: Psalmes de David, Translatez de plusieurs Autheurs, & principallement de Cle. Marot..Veu, recongneu et corrigé par les theologiens, nommeement par M.F. Pierre Alexandre, concionateur ordinaire de la Royne de Hongrie.… (Antwerp, Antoine des Gois, 1541) with 30 Psalm paraphrases by Marot. This collection contains 45 Psalm paraphrases, among which the 30 by Marot already known from manuscripts. The title page suggests a more or less active role of Queen Mary of Hungary’s chaplain, Friar Pierre Alexandre, in the compilation of this edition. The fact that both Des Gois and Alexandre are known for their Evangelical sympathies gives this edition a ‘Reformed’ colour. 

Trente Pseaulmes ... Paris, E. Roffet, [1541])

Trente Pseaulmes de David, mis en françoys par Clement Marot, valet de chambre du Roy. The title explicitly mentions that this is an official edition, authorised not only by the author but also by the civil and religious authorities: Avec privilege. The numbering of the Psalms in this edition conforms to the Hebrew Psalter, but the Latin incipits follow the Vulgate. The edition is undated, but the privilege is dated on 30 November 1541. The 'offering of a manuscript copy of these psalms to the emperor (Charles V) in 1540, as related by 'Villemadon' in 1565 is in my opinion part of huguenot propaganda, a legend). The Psalms are preceded by Arguments (Summaries). Every Argument concludes with a phrase such as ‘Pseaulme propre pour…,’ which has occasionally been incorporated into the Argument. Below the Argument there is another paratext mentiong the number of  biblical 'verses' that are translated in one stanza, e.g. à deux versets pour couplet à chanter. In the past this information was not properly understood and interpreted as indications for singing on specific unmentioned tunes. 'Chanter' in 16th century French also means recite.

Liturgical publications 1542 (Strasbourg, Geneva)

As a second and enlarged edition of the Strasbourg hymnbook appear both in Strasbourg and Geneva (Calvin had returned). Both build on the 1539 edition and both contain Marot's 30 Psalms with variations in melodies used.

  • La manyere de faire prieres aux eglises Francoyses… ensemble pseaulmes et cantiques…. ([Strasbourg, Johann Knobloch], 1542).

  • La Forme des prieres et chantz ecclesiastiques…([Geneva, Jean Girard], 1542).

Below the titlepage with the the Canticle of Simeon, this time in the translation by Marot.

Marot’s 50 Psalms

After the publication of the Trente Pseaulmes, Marot must have continued his Psalm project because in 1543 several editions appeared in which twenty new paraphrases were added to the original 30, raising the number of Psalm paraphrases by Marot to 50 (or, to be precise, 49 Psalms and the Canticle of Simeon). The two main editions, however, differ considerably, not so much with respect to the new poems but in the redaction of the Trente Pseaulmes.

Trente deux Pseaulmes… Plus vingt autres (Paris, E. Roffet, [1543?])1543 (Paris) – PA43.

Contrary to what the title suggests this edition does not contain 52 (32+20) Psalms, but a reprint (with corrections and a new layout) of the first thirty Psalms, to which a volume has been added containing twenty newly translated Psalms (nineteen Psalms and the Canticle of Simeon).
The previous edition of the Trente Pseaulmes figured on the first official list of censured books 1542/43. The fact that a printing privilege was nevertheless obtained can be explained by referring to the personal support of the King (it is a royal privilege now), and the only minor impact of the Index which had not been published yet or ratified by the Parlement.
The Latin incipits from the Vulgate and the Arguments are present, but the metrical indications (‘verset/couplet’) and the application hints (‘Pseaulme propre pour….’) are omitted with the twenty new Psalm paraphrases. To the already available 30 Psalm paraphrases ((Pss. 1–15, 19, 22, 24, 32, 37, 38, 51, 103, 104, 113, 114, 115, 130, 137, 143) nineteen are added: Psalms 18, 23, 25, 33, 36, 43, 45, 46, 50, 72, 79, 86, 91, 101, 107, 110, 118, 128, 138. The edition is undated, but the royal privilege is dated 31 October 1543. 

Cinquante Pseaumes en francois ([Geneva, Jean Girard], 1543)

Next to the announcement of the 50 Psalms translated by Marot the title page also mentions Item une Epistre par luy nagueres envoyée aux Dames de France.Typographical research has identified the printing material used for this anonymous edition as being used in the same period by Jean Girard, thus placing this edition in Geneva in the same period that Marot was living there. Though it remains an unofficial edition, this factual information lends it a certain credibility and authority. The title of GE43 differs from PA43 in that it simply announces Cinquante Pseaumes, but if one opens the booklet one discovers that in GE43, too, the two collections Trente Pseaulmes and Vingt Pseaumes are distinguished. They are printed separately with their own title pages. The verso of the title page is very instructive. With respect to the ‘trente premiers pseaumes’ a revision is announced: ‘reveuz et corrigez par l’autheur ceste presente annee.’ And indeed – unlike the similar phrase in PA43 – a more than superficial revision of the text of the 30 Psalms has taken place. The twenty new Psalms are introduced with a huitain and the title is analogous to the title in the edition Roffet: Vingt autres pseaumes par luy nouvellement traduitz et envoyes au roy. The text is almost identical with PA43, be it that Roffet’s edition contains more errors, from transcription errors and misprints to two serious mistakes that affect meaning in Psalm 18

Pseaulmes Cinquante ... 

Pseaulmes cinquante de David mis en vers francois par Clement Marot (Lyon, Freres Beringen, 1548). 

Below the title page of this very nice and important edition of the 50 Psalms, with music. This edition is very similar to the next one, a year later, except that in 1549 the extras also contain the 'Salutation angelique'. Unfortunately  that edition is not digitized yet. The 1548 edition is. By clicking on the image that section is reproduced in an photo album