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Psalm 104 (105), in the Wycliffite Bible

Psalm 104 (105), in the Wycliffite Bible

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1210

Shelfmark: Arundel MS 104

Item number: f.364v

Length: 40.5

Width: 24.7

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated Manuscript

This famous copy of an English translation of the Bible was probably made just before or about 1408 when copying, possessing and even reading the Bible in English were banned. John Wycliffe (c. 1330-1384), an Oxford professor who held the Bible as the supreme authority over the clergy or even the pope, inspired his followers to write the first complete English translations of the Bible. This one is decorated with cuttings from earlier Bible manuscripts, possibly to make up for not being able to commission pictures for a text which was already or about to be outlawed. The cuttings appear to come from manuscripts made in the North Midlands.

For some reason, Psalm 104 (105, "Give thanks to the Lord") was selected to place a picture of a man writing at a desk as the dove of the Holy Spirit speaks into his ear. This psalm was hardly ever given a historiated initial in Latin psalters because it was not at the beginning of any of the book's traditional divisions, most of which facilitated the daily recitation of psalms in monasteries. It has been suggested that this initial 'C' was taken from one of the biblical canticles. Possibly it was placed with Psalm 104 because of the translation, "Knowledge ye to the Lord and inwardly declare his name", which could be seen to correspond to the inward inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

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