The first psalter printed in Italy was produced by Giovanni Crastone in Milan in 1481. The second was printed in Venice by the Cretans Laonico and Alessandro in 1486 (see Inc. Chig. IV 1923). Venice, the meeting place of the first printers from across the Alps, saw the creation of the oldest sacred and liturgical books engraved in Latin and Greek characters. This Greek psalter was intended for the general public of Venice’s Greek community, and potentially also for the Greeks of the diaspora. Its wide dissemination was promoted by the workshop of the printer Aldo Manuzio, a crucial and highly-regarded figure in the early book trade.
This volume, printed in 1498, is in fact one of the most elegant examples of the cursive Greek characters typical of Manuzio’s workshop. The treatment of the volume was entrusted to Giustino Decadio, Aldo’s collaborator. The title is given on the flyleaf, and the typographic information is indicated in the colophon. The book was printed in black and red ink, with 20 lines of text per page. The incipit is framed in a woodcut of floral, geometric, and anthropomorphic motifs, which is repeated at the beginning of the second part of the work. The 150 psalms are divided into 20 sections, with woodcut initials and elegant woodcut decorations at the conclusion of each section. These early printed decorations provided a model for the work of printers of the next century.