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Psalm 1, in a Psalter With Old English Translation

Psalm 1, in a Psalter With Old English Translation

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1050

Shelfmark: Stowe MS 2

Item number: f. 1r

Length: 28

Width: 17.5

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated Manuscript

This psalter is believed to have been made in south-western England, probably, New Minster, Winchester, because of the style of its handwriting and decoration along with the prayers added to the end of each psalm. Moreover, at the same time it was made in the mid-11th century or soon after, a scribe, perhaps the same who wrote the Latin verses, added between the lines a translation (continuous gloss) in Old English. Psalter translations have a long history in England, the earliest being one in a Mercian dialect of the 9th century in the Vespasian Psalter, which is also in the British Library. The translations reflect the use of psalters as prayerbooks by laity as well as priests, monks and nuns. Many people in Anglo-Saxon England would have had a daily familiarity with the psalms--from hearing them recited if not from reading them.

The first words of Psalm 1 ("Beatus vir", "Blessed the man") nearly always are the most heavily decorated in medieval psalters. The psalm's first letter is decorated with vines sprouting leaves and fruit and its sections held together by the gripping jaws of regretful-looking animals in a rather heavy version of the mid-11th century Anglo-Saxon style. The layered painting technique is visible, with defined opaque strokes of lighter and darker colours used to shade and highlight. In the 16th century, a scholarly owner or librarian erased and corrected most of the Old English gloss, the darker ink contrasting with the earlier, paler ink. One of its 16th-century owners, Sir Henry Spelman, inscribed his name in the upper margin.

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