Collation of the Printed Mainz Psalter of 1457

Scope and Content

Collation by Russell Martineau of printed copies of the Mainz Psalter of 1457 held at the British Museum and Windsor Castle (Royal Library), and in the Bibliotheca Spenceriana of the Earls Spencer at Althorp (accession no. 9784), the latter now the John Rylands Library copy.

Administrative / Biographical History

Russell Martineau (1831-1898) was a Hebraist and librarian. He was educated at University College, London, where he gained an MA in classics in 1854, and also studied at the Universities of Berlin and Göttingen. By the time that he was appointed to the staff of the British Museum Library and to a lectureship in Hebrew at Manchester New College, London, in 1857, his linguistic accomplishments included Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian, in addition to the classical languages and German. Martineau made a significant contribution to the work of the British Museum Library, and in 1884 reached the rank of assistant keeper. He retired from this post in 1896 in accordance with civil-service superannuation rules. At the library he specialized in early printed books: he collected first editions of Luther's works for the Museum and contributed significantly to the scheme for cataloguing the library.

Source: J.W. Rogerson, 'Martineau, Russell (1831-1898)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press -

The Mainz Psalter was printed in 1457 by Fust and Schöffer on Gutenberg's press. It is a remarkable book: the first to be printed in colour, the first to bear a printer's mark and the first to carry the date of its printing. Johann Fust was Gutenberg's financer and provided substantial loans to the printer. In 1455 he foreclosed on the loans and took possession of the press in settlement of the debts. He then entered into a printing partnership with Peter Schöffer.

Access Information

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Purchased by Mrs Enriqueta Augustina Rylands, on behalf of the John Rylands Library, from John Poyntz Spencer, 5th Earl Spencer (1835-1910), in July 1892.


Description compiled by Henry Sullivan, project archivist, and Elizabeth Gow, with reference to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article on Russell Martineau.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Hand-List of the Collection of English Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1928 (English MS 70).

Custodial History

The manuscript was formerly part of the Spencer Library at Althorp, Northamptonshire, which was largely assembled by George John Spencer, 2nd Earl Spencer (1758-1834); then by descent to John Poyntz Spencer, 5th Earl Spencer (1835-1910).