Digital Splitleaf Psalter

A Modern Metrical Psalter

A split-leaf psalter is a printed volume in which the pages are cut in half in the middle so that the upper half forms a booklet of tunes, and the lower a booklet of texts. This layout would allow readers to match the texts with the tunes that they know best.

Just like a traditional printed split-leaf, the Digital Splitleaf uses the latest in digital technology to bridge the split, so to speak. It empowers you to select the metrical Psalm texts and tunes that you would like to sing. However, once a tune and psalm text have been selected, the Digital Splitleaf Psalter underlays your selected text beneath the music as you would expect from a more traditional psalter or hymnal. This makes reading the music and psalm text much simpler.


The Digital Splitleaf Psalter was created thanks to recent technological developments that allow for dynamic music content to be displayed on webpages. This technology is incredibly lightweight, so it does not require large amounts of data or a high-speed internet connection like many image-based music apps. It also offers greater flexibility to pair different texts and tunes, which image-based solutions do not allow. The software packages used here are open-source and have significant communities of scholars and developers maintaining them.

Technical Infrastructure

All Psalm texts are stored in Extensible Markup Language (XML) following the standards established by the Text Encoding Initiative. This is a method of annotating texts that allows for signficiant flexibility in the ways the text is presented. As XML, the psalm versifications are not tied to any proprietary software and therefore can be easily preserved and adapted for a variety of uses.

The tunes have similarly been stored in XML, this time using the standards established by the Music Encoding Initiative. As with TEI-based text documents, MEI offers significant flexibility in the ways notated music is captured in a text-based format, including the ability to comment on various musical aspects and the ability to include variants from different sources. Using the Verovio application, MEI files can be viewed in websites such as this, and the files can be exported to other formats that allow for editing and analysis.

The XML text and music files are managed by an eXist database that automatically populates the database with the structured information in each XML file. This allows for great flexibility in working with XML files.

Edition Creator

The Digital Splitleaf Psalter was created by and is maintained by Timothy Duguid. Duguid has published on Reformation metrical psalmody in England and Scotland with Ashgate/Routledge and was a researcher for the Wode Psalter project, an exhibition focused on the impact of metrical psalms on British society following the Reformation. He is now working on digital research methodologies in musicology.


This resource provides editions of various psalters throughout history. Every effort has been made to modernize the texts for today's singers. However, there may be instances in which archaic words have remained due to the rhyme or the metre. The Dictionary of the Scots Language is a helpful resource for defining archaic Scottish words.

1564 Forme of prayers and ministration of the sacraments

This edition was the first complete metrical psalter printed in Scotland. It was based on the psalters produced by the exile church of English and Scottish nationals in the city of Geneva during the late 1550s. In Scotland, it became the edition of the Reformed Kirk for almost 90 years. It was therefore the psalter of many influential reformers including John Knox and Andrew Melville.

It is important to note that the 1564 Psalter was not a split-leaf psalter. Like many editions of today, it printed or suggested one tune for each psalm text. Those relationships have been preserved in this edition, as the printed tune or suggestion will initially appear in the tune box of the app. It is also worthy to note that the psalter only provided the melody and no harmonies. Unlike in Calvin's Geneva, this was not due to any theological objections to the use of harmonized settings in worship. Most of the melodies were printed for the tenor voice, and they have been reproduced here for that voice, but many have been augmented with the harmonizations that appeared in the Wode Partbooks, or St Andrews Psalter. The psalm settings in the Wode Partbooks set the melodies from the Psalter in four parts, and they were completed in 1566. Thomas Wode was the compiler of the collection, which was dedicated to Lord James Stewart, half-brother of Mary Queen of Scots and was intended for devotional use. However, it is known that many of the settings also became popular in churches across Scotland.

1635 The Psalmes of David in Prose and Meeter (The Great Psalter)

This was the first metrical psalter printed in Scotland to include all of the psalm tunes in four parts. It was an effort by its editor, Edward Millar, to consolidate singing practice throughout the country. Milar claims that in churches across the country "...sundrie Tribles, Basses and Counters set by diverse Authors, being sung upon one, and the same Tenor, do discordingly rub each upon another, offending both Musicall and rude ears..." The edition's lasting mark on Scottish psalm singing, however, lies chiefly in the 30 harmonizeed Common Tune settings that it contained.

This digital edition has taken the 30 Common Tunes from the 1635 edition. They are also printed by the Rev Neil Livingston in his excellent edition of the 1635 Psalter. In addition to the harmonized psalm settings, Livingston's edition also includes the so-called "Psalms in Reports", which were polyphonic settings of the psalms. While those are too complicated to be set in this digital edition, they may be of interest to some.

1650 The Psalter in Metre

Commonly known as the 1650 Scottish Metrical Psalter, this edition was the culmination of years of labor amongst the Westminster Divines and the Scottish General Assembly. The texts are still frequently sung today, which speaks to the quality of the translation and versification work that was accomplished in this edition. It was originally printed without music, so people would have paired the tunes they knew with its texts. Since the majority of its texts were written in Common Metre, the Common Tunes were generally the most commonly used melodies.

Support & contact

The Digital Splitleaf has just completed its initial development period. There are plans to continue to add more tunes and texts along with a variety of other features. To support the work, see the Digital Splitleaf on Ko-Fi.

If you have ideas about tunes to be added or other features to be added, please email me at digital-splitleaf[at]protonmail[dot]com. Or, follow us on Twitter.