Illuminated Psalms

Originally published July 2, 2010

View a gallery of selected details from an anthology of 36 psalms, “I Will Wake the Dawn: Illuminated Psalms,” by Hebrew manuscript artist Debra Band (Jewish Publication Society, 2007). In her introduction to the illuminations she writes: “Just as psalms occupy a central role in Jewish liturgy and many home and life-cycle rituals, so are they valued in the other Abrahamic religions. Islam holds the Psalms of David, known in that tradition as Zabur, among its sacred texts, although it does not incorporate them into liturgy. Psalms have formed the core of Christian prayer since its inception. Jesus, as a Jewish rabbi, quoted Psalms liberally in his teachings, and the earliest Church Fathers founded Christian prayer on Psalms. Monastic movements recite the full Book of Psalms in regular cycles, and the medieval traditions of psalters, breviaries, and books of hours, and indeed Gregorian chant, are based on readings of the Psalms….the Psalms remained key texts for Luther and Calvin and became the basis of Protestant prayer and source material for hymns. A fervent and well-read Lutheran, Bach’s Passion settings are largely based on texts from Psalms. The very first book published in the American colonies was The Whole Booke of Psalmes Faithfully Translated into English Metre, known commonly as The Bay Psalm Book and produced in Massachusetts in 1640.”