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Psalm 38 With The Nativity and Job, In The Egerton Psalter

Psalm 38 With The Nativity and Job, In The Egerton Psalter

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1280

Shelfmark: Egerton MS 1066

Item number: f.34v

Length: 30.2

Width: 18.4

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

A psalter's origins can often be 'tracked' by the saints' names given 'red-letter' treatment in its calendar, because regions and towns commemorated their local saints. Other features of a psalter, such as types of prayers and styles or types of pictures, can connect it with a location. The Egerton Psalter, however, tells us little. Some link with Norwich is indicated by the calendar's special treatment of Felix of Dunwich, and more clues are given by another kind of evidence, later ownership. Its calendar notes deaths of members of the Holbrook and King families in the 15th and 16th centuries, as well as of William Pepyr, Vicar of Metyngham in the 14th century, supporting its early connections with East Anglia. The Egerton Psalter has pairs of pictures in the first letters of several psalms. Having pictures in these particular letters is not at all unusual, but the pairings of subjects are unusual in the Egerton Psalter. Here, the first letter of Psalm 38 shows the Nativity, showing the Virgin Mary nursing Jesus--a reminder of their humanity and therefore of their mercy toward the reader who addresses prayers for help to them--while Joseph and the midwife look on, along with Job on the dungheap, from the Old Testament. Medieval psalters often depict New Testament scenes, presenting the psalms as prophecies of Christ and the church, but it is difficult to see the reasons for this choice and pairing of scenes.

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