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Psalm 1, in a Burnt Psalter

Psalm 1, in a Burnt Psalter

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1050

Shelfmark: Cotton MS Vitellius E XVIII

Item number: f.18r

Length: 29.8

Width: 19.5

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Manuscript

In the 16th and early 17th centuries, Sir Robert Cotton collected one of the greatest libraries of ancient and medieval manuscripts. After his death it was given to the nation, but in 1731 the building in which it was kept burned. Some manuscripts were destroyed in the tragic event, while others, such as this psalter, survived with heavy damage.

Besides containing the Book of Psalms, the psalter, used as a prayerbook, also has a calendar of feast days to help the user organise daily prayer, as well as material on calculating the date of Easter, information on the good and bad days for things like giving birth and letting blood and a useful component of charms. The psalter has Old English above the Latin (an interlinear gloss). On this page, the decorated first letters of Psalm 1 ('Beatus vir', 'Blessed the man') give a hint at the manuscript's original beauty. The Old English gloss can be seen between the lines of the Latin verses.

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