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Psalm 1 With King David, in the 'Shaftesbury Psalter'

Psalm 1 With King David, in the 'Shaftesbury Psalter'

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1135

Shelfmark: Lansdowne MS 383

Item number: f.15v

Length: 22.1

Width: 12.5

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated Manuscript

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In the middle ages, there was a nunnery at Shaftesbury, and this psalter appears to have been made there or to have been modelled after a manuscript from Shaftesbury. Its calendar (used to coordinate prayers with saints' days and other feasts) and litany (a prayer appealing to saints for their help) mention saints who were especially venerated at Shaftesbury. The figures in its many pictures resemble a carving found at nearby Milborne St Andrew. Although its origins at Shaftesbury can not be shown beyond a doubt, it is certain that it was made for a female reader, probably an abbess. Recently a scholar suggested that it was made for Queen Adeliza, the widow of Henry I.

Psalm 1 ("Beatus vir", "Blessed is the man") is nearly always the most decorated in medieval psalters. In the Shaftesbury Psalter, its first letter fills nearly the entire page. Originally the first words, now barely visible, were written in gold below the 'B'. Within the letter, King David is shown, holding a book and looking up to the bust of Christ and the four creatures (symbols of the four gospels) above. He is composing the psalms, seen here as prophecy of Jesus and the gospels. Behind him, scribes record his words on wax tablets and below three musicians accompany him--one of them resembling a fur-bearing devil.

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