Grail Psalter (Joseph Gelineau)

Joseph Gelineau (1920-2008) was one of the pioneers of the renewal of liturgical music within the Roman Catholic church. Already in the 1950s he started to intonate Psalms - until then sung exclusively in Latin - in the French Language.

Joseph Gelineau was born in 1920 in Champ-sur-Layon (Dept. Maine-et-Loire; western France) to parents who were vinedressers. 1941 he joined the Jesuite order, studied Theology in Lyon and Firenze (Italy), furthermore studied composing and organ in Paris and took a degree in Theology about the "Psalms in the early Syriac churches". In 1951 he was ordained priest. Soon after he started to - inspired by Gregorianic tradition - compose hymns and Psalms. He taught Liturgical scholarship for 25 years and published related works. For 60 years he cooperated with the ecumenical community of Taizé (France) with the aim of singing and composing Psalms. He was the very composer of the Taizé- songs, famous not only within the Catholic and Lutheran communities. Gelineau always mediated the composing of melodies for Psalms as an opportune service to God.

The Grail Psalms are especially designed to be sung to Gelineau's melodies. The French "Psalmist" died on Aug. 8, 2008 in Salanchelles/ Rhône-Alpes (France).
The photo below shows the cover of a single–record (45 rpm), presumably from the mid- 60s, with several Psalmodies recited in French by the “Petits Chanteurs de Provence“ in with texts taken from Gelineau‘s translation for the Bible de Jérusalem.

[Source: Catholic Church magazine of Diocese Freiburg i. B. (Germany) No. 33/2012, amended]

Click here for sample verses from the Grail Psalter.

First Edition - 1963


Title: The Psalms A New Translation. Translated from the Hebrew and Arranged for Singing to the Psalmody of Joseph Gelineau
Date: 1963
Publisher: Westminster Press: Philadelphia
Contents: Psalms
Images: Cover, Title page
Comments: Another edition was published in 1976 by Fountain Books Cover, Title page. Another edition: Cover and Title page.

Gallery of Other Images

The Abbey Psalter 1981


Title: The Abbey Psalter – The Book of Psalms used by the Trappist Monks • of Genesee Abbey •
Date: ⓒ 1981 by the Missionary Society of St. Paul the Apostle in the State of New York. / Psalms ⓒ 1963 by The Grail
Publisher: Ramsey N. J. (U.S.A.): Paulist Press
Contents: The Book of Psalms and Cantica. • Foreword • A Note on Cistercian Art.
Location: Collection Bibelarchiv–Birnbaum. Karlsruhe/ Baden. Germany •
Comments: Hardcover (cloth) quarto, 350 pp unpaginated. Hand–lettered Scripture texts in single column, verse- wise, no verse–numbering, no headings. Psalms initials in red print. –
John Eudes Bamberger, Abbot of the Genesee, wrote a two.–page Foreword; he lets the reader know,
»A number of the guests who came to the liturgy at the Abbey of Genesee have discovered something of the riches of the Psalter through chanting the psalms along with the monastic choir. They were aided in this discovery by The Abbey Psalter provided for their use in the Abbey church. This book was printed from a text that had been artfully copied out by hand at the Abbey, in such a way to suggest something of the personal character that suits the meditative recital of the psalms, and something too of the peace and silence that monks seek to bring to their common prayer. This present edition of the Abbey Psalter is being published with the hope of providing some small help to others who may wish to make use of the psalms in their prayer with others or in private.«
Meredith Parsons Lillich, Department of Fine Arts, Syracuse University, provides a „Note on Cistercian Art“ that accompanies the numerous full–page b&w pictures.

Printed are the chapters 1 to 150, taken from the 1963 «The Grail Psalms« and four canticles: The Song of Zecharia (Luke 1), The Song of Mary (Luke 1), The Song of Simeon (Luke 2) and Revelation 15 (Song of Moses). It is presently not known from which translation the rendering of these Canticles is taken. –
This high quality Psalter comes with a nice bookmark which reveals the price of this bibliophile volume: $ 24.95. • The only remark that the 1963 “Grail“ Translation has been used, is a small note in the Impressum. The Psalter is dedicated to „Mary, Queen of Citeaux, Our Tympanistria“ (Tambourine Dove).


Image shows detail of bookmark

CTS Grail Book of Psalms (1963 / 2009)


Title: The Book of Psalms – Grail Translation. / Introduced by Henry Wansbrough
Date: First published 2009. ⓒ [1963] by The Grail
Publisher: London, England (U.K.): The Incorporated Catholic Truth Society – Publishers to the Holy See / HarperCollins
Contents: The Book of Psalms. • Introduction to the Psalms • CTS ads
Location: Collection Bibelarchiv–Birnbaum. Karlsruhe/ Baden. Germany •
Comments: Leather cover 12°, sewn binding, 282 & (6) pp. Scripture texts in single column, verse–wise set. No headings, no footnotes.
Henry Wansbrough introduced the Psalms on seven pages - not dated– and in four chapters: General, Psalms and the Liturgy, The Psalms as Poetry, Christian Interpretation of te Psalms. He does not mention, as to why the 1963 text of the original version of the Grail Psalter has been reproduced here.
A possibility is it was published alongside the CTS– Bible, which contains the 1966 "Jerusalem Bible" translation and the "Grail Psalter" (no the JB one).


Inclusive Language Version - 1983 / 1986


Title: The Psalms • An inclusive language version based on the Grail translation from the Hebrew
Date: 1983* ⓒ 1963, 1986 The Grail (England)
Publisher: Chicago IL (U.S.A): G.I.A. Publications
Contents: Psalms 1 to 150. Introduction
Images: Cover, Title page
Location: Collection Bibelarchiv- Birnbaum, Karlsruhe, Baden. Germany.
Comments: Paperback, small ocatvo; 216 pp. Scripture texts in single column, versewise. No further additions.
In the brief Introduction it is said,
»This is not a new translation of the Psalms. It is a version based on the Grail translation from the Hebrew which appeared in 1966 and is found today in liturgical books in most parts of the English–speaking world. (…) It is an inclusive language version, meant for those people, certainly those women, who find the language of most of the psalms excessively masculine. (…) This version has followed the same principle as the original translation, namely to pay special attention to the rhythmic structure of the poetry of the psalms. (…) In the original translation the numbering of the psalms was taken from the Greek Septuagint. In this edition, those numbers appear in parentheses followed by the Hebrew number.«

*Question arises as to the publication date given on the title page: ´1983`. As the copyright in the Impressum dates from 1986, it is improbable that this book was published prior to this date; maybe the year ´1983` is a misprint.

Inclusive Language Edition - 1993


Title: The Psalms ✹ The Grail Translation. New Inclusive Language Version, based upon the Grail Translation from the Hebrew.
Date: © 1963, 1986, 1993 The Grail (England). Revised Edition published in Great Britain in 1995
Publisher: London W6 / England (U.K.): HarperCollins Publishers
Contents: Psalms 1- 150, numbered both after the LXX and the Hebrew; Translator's Brief and 2 indexes.
Images: Cover, Title page
Location: Collection Bibelarchiv- Birnbaum, Karlsruhe, Baden. Germany
Comments: Paperback, octavo, 248 pp.
All Psalms have general superscripts but titles are not translated as not singable; verses are numbered. Compared to the 1983 'Grail- Psalms' this text incorporates minor revisions. - Whereas the original edition received an episcopal "Imprimatur", it was denied to the 1983 and this 1993 "gender- neutral" versions. Revision prepared by Dianne Bergent, CSA, Carroll Stuhlmueller, CP and Robert J. Batastini.- This book has the same outward appearance as its sister version »Liturgical Psalter (Inclusive Language Version)« by David L. Frost, except it is blue (rather than red): both versions are being published by HarperCollins.

Revised Grail Psalter - 2010


Title: The Revised Grail Psalms ✹ A Liturgical Psalter
Prepared by the Benedictine Monks of Conception Abbey. With a Foreword by Francis Cardinal George, OMI. With an Introduction by Abbot Gregory J. Polan, OSB
Date: ⓒ 2010 The Grail, GIA Public. / ⓒ 2012 Order of Saint Benedict. – Episcopal Approval: Chicago IL 2010
Publisher: Collegeville MN (U.S.A.): Liturgical Press
Contents: Psalm 1 - 150 with chapter headings translated. Foreword, Introduction
Images: Cover - 2010 singing edition, Cover - 2010 edition, Cover 2012 edition, Title - 2012 edition.
Location: Collection Bbelarchiv- Birnbaum. Karlsruhe/ Baden, Germany
Comments: FlexCover small octavo (Gift Ed.); XXLVIII and 332 pp. The foreword tells the story of the Grail Psalter and sets up it‘s revision. One of the reasons for this revision is the weakness of the 1963 ed. -at times- in preserving the rich imagery and beauty of the Hebrew Scriptures. So it was proposed that the thorough revision would be based on both the Hebrew text and the Nova Vulgata (1979). The lengthy Introduction enwraps the story of this RGP into the development of the Psalms within the Roman- Catholic Church. Emphasis is laid on the Psalter in a liturgical context. –
!Worthy of a note is that no mention is made here of the two interim editions published 1986 and 1993 that did not gain any episcopal approval due to the use of inclusive language.


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