All but one of the printers in Strasbourg converted to the evangelical faith in the 1520s. Until the Interim, they printed many hymn books for the evangelical church in the city and the surrounding countryside, as well as printing on commission for communities throughout the German Empire and Switzerland, thus making Strasbourg into one of the most important early centres for the production of evangelical hymn books. With few exceptions, the Strasbourg hymnbooks were produced at the private initiative of printers, who were motivated by commercial considerations. When preparing these books, the printers exchanged in detail with the target markets, whether the official evangelical church in Strasbourg, communities of French refugees, or smaller groups, including dissidents. This chapter will discuss not simply the repertoire transmitted by these songbooks, but also many further aspects, including the books’ materiality: the prefaces and their authors (ecclesiastical authorities or printers), the presence of illustrations or other decoration, format, printing technique, the formulation and arrangement of the title pages and finally the musical notation.
Strasbourg printers used two different notation systems. The polyphonic repertoire, sacred and secular, was printed with the commonly used white mensural notation. In the case of the monophonic liturgical prints for the local Protestant churches, however, printers used Gothic or Hufnagel notation, which had been used for liturgical music, predominantly in southern Germany, long before the Reformation. This notation was adapted so that simple rhythmic values could be reproduced. Some interesting cases can be observed here. In some hymnbooks mensural and Hufnagel notation coexist, for example, in the four-part hymnbook published by Catharina Zell between 1534 and 1536, which contains a foreign repertoire, that of the Bohemian Brethren. The first French hymnbook with psalm paraphrases, which Calvin published in 1539 for the French refugee community in Strasbourg, is written exclusively in mensural notation, obviously with regard to the specific target group, but also with an eye to further distribution beyond Strasbourg.