The Whole
Book of Psalms
Collected into
English Metre

Thomas Sternhold, John Hopkins,
and Others

Conferred with the Hebrew:

Set forth and allowed to be Sung in all Churches, of all the People together, before and after Morning and Evening Prayer; and also before and after Sermons; and moreover in private Houses, for their godly Solace and comfort: laying apart all ungodly Songs and Ballads, which tend only to the nourishing of Vice, and corrupting of youth.

Stereotype edition


Printed at the Clarendon press,
By Bensley, Cooke, and Collingwood,

Printers to the University:

And sold by E. Gardner, at the Oxford Bible Warehouse, Paternoster Row, London


The Old Version psalms on this web site are transcribed from a book whose title page reads as above. The first edition of this Psalter was published in 1562, some 250 years before our copy!

Originally published by John Day of London in 1562. Sternhold and Hopkins was the first complete English language version of the Psalms. It remained the standard version in England for almost two hundred years.

English Beginnings

The Sternhold and Hopkins Psalter actually had its beginning about 14 years before it was published in its final form. The exact date is not known for certain, but 1548 is generally accepted as the year when Thomas Sternhold published his first collection of 19 Psalms (Ps 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 20, 25, 27, 29, 32, 33, 41, 49, 73,  78, 103,  120, 122, and 138)1   This collection was dedicated to King Edward VI and was titled "Certayne PSALMES chose out of the PSALTER OF DAVID, and drawe into English metre, by Thomas Sternhold grome of Ye Kynges Maiesties roobes." Sternhold had expressed his intent to versify more of the Psalms, but he died shortly after the first edition was published.
     In 1549 a posthumus edition of Sternhold's Psalms was published, this time containing 37 Psalms by Sternhold and an additional seven by John Hopkins. This edition was titled "Al suche Psalmes of DAVID as Thomas Sternholde, late grome of ye Kinges Maiesties Robes didde in hys lyfe tyme draw into English metre."

The Genevan Editions

When Mary became Queen in 1553, many Protestants fled to Geneva where they came into contact with John Calvin and the French tradition Psalms and music. The refugees brought Sternhold's Psalms with them, although it would appear that John Hopkins did not join them there because we do not see any new Psalms by him in any of the Geneva editions. The four Geneva editions all contained Sternhold and Hopkins original 44 Psalms.
        The first Genevan edition appeared in 1556. It contained a total of 51 Psalms, consisting of Sternhold's original 37, Hopkins original seven and an additional seven by William Whittingham. (Ps. 23, 51, 114, 115, 130, 133, 137)1 This edition was the first to be published with music.
        A second Genevan edition was published in 1558 which contained 62 Psalms. Nine of the new Psalms were by Whittingham and the other two were by his friend John Pullain. The 1560 edition contained three additional Psalms.
        There was one further edition published in Geneva in 1561 but it had a much greater influence on the Scottish Psalter than on the English one we are considering here. The 1561 edition saw an additional 25 Psalms, all by William Kethe. Many of these were dropped in favor of other versions in the later English editions. We will rejoin the Geneva Psalters in the story of the Scottish Psalter of 1635.

Back in England, a Complete Psalter

Millar Patrick reports that John Daye printed an English Psalter as early as 1559, but that it was never released. Daye did publish a Psalter based on the Genevan work in 1560 that was very similar to the 1560 Genevan Psalter, then he published a second edition in 1561 which contained a total of 87 Psalms. This version had begun to drop some of the Genevan additions to Sternhold and Hopkins original work.
        Daye published the first complete English Psalter in 1562. This version dropped twenty-three of the fourty-three Psalms that had been added in Geneva. It contained eighty-six new Psalms, mostly by John Hopkins, but it also included four new Psalms by Sternhold, which were apparently discovered after his death.
       Daye's 1562 edition remained in use in England, with only a few changes, until well into the nineteenth century. The Sternhold and Hopkins version was brought to the American colonies and saw considerable use there. According to "American Hymns, Old and New" it was used extensively in the American south until the close of the eighteenth century. Even after the New Version (Brady and Tate) appeared in 1696, Sternhold and Hopkins continued to be printed and reprinted through more than six-hundred editions. The final edition was printed in 1828, two hundred and sixty-six years after the first edition. 

The Music

This Psalter initially used many tunes from the earlier Anglo-Genevan Psalters as well as many tunes from English sources, including a few popular ballads that were adopted for use with the Psalms. The idea, as is implied in the wording of the title page, was to encourage people to sing Godly songs instead of the worldly lyrics of popular ballads.
     We have a growing collection of samples of the music to which this Psalter was originally sung included with our selections from The Scottish Psalter of 1635. For an explanation of the music itself, see "About the Music" in our history of the 1635 Psalter.

Publishing History

When first published this Psalter was most often referred to as "Day's Psalter" (after the name of the publisher), or as "Sternhold and Hopkins" (after its two main contributors). When Tate and Brady published their A New Version of the Psalms of David in 1696, this version began to be called "The Old Version." Today it is most often referred to as The Old Version, or as Sternhold and Hopkins.

Additionally, here are:
     Biographies of the Authors
     A table showing authorship of each Psalm and year first published


  1. Albert Christ-Janer, Charles W. Hughes and Carleton Sprague Smith; "American Hymns, Old and New"; New York, Columbia University Press, 1980
  2. Rev. J. W. MacMeeken; "Scottish Metrical Psalms";  Lesmahagow; Glasgow: McCulloch & Co., Printers, 1872
  3. Millar Patrick, DD; "Four Centuries of Scottish Psalmody"; Oxford University Press, 1949
  4. J. C. A. Rathmell; "The Psalms of Sir Philip Sidney and The Countess of Pembroke"; New York University Press, 1963

We have the entire contents of the Sternhold and Hopkins Psalter online on this web site. You can access the Psalter through: 
     Sternhold and Hopkins Psalter an index of just this psalter
     The Workshop - all Psalm versions on this website


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Page last modified on: 07/29/2004