The Map Psalter takes its name from its full-page illustration of a map of the world (on f. 9r), whose design shares close parallels with the famous mappa mundi, now housed at Hereford Cathedral. The image shows Christ holding the orb of the world, flanked by two angels. The map itself is highly detailed. Jerusalem is marked in the centre, with Rome appearing slightly below it. Major rivers, such as the Ganges and the Danube, are drawn in blue, and the Red Sea is also included. Representations of the so-called ‘Marvels of the East’ line the right-hand side of the painting. The British Isles are found to the lower left. On the reverse of this page, a framed tinted drawing depicts God standing and holding a globe divided into three parts, representing the continents of Asia, Europe, and Africa.
The manuscript was made in London during the latter half of the 13th century but after 1262, as the Psalter’s calendar commemorates on 3rd April the feast day of St Richard of Chichester (d. 1253) who was canonised in 1262. Most of the Psalter’s decoration was completed at this stage, including historiated initials (enlarged letters containing images) that mark the major divisions of the text and a unique illustration of the Virgin and Child enthroned (on f. 190v), with Mary’s feet resting on a lion.
Late in the 13th century, a different artist added a series of six full-page illustrations depicting scenes from the Life of Christ to the beginning of the manuscript. These images were bound in the wrong order, with Christ’s Resurrection (on f. 5v) notably appearing before his Crucifixion (on f. 6r).
- Full title:
- Psalter, with additional hymns and prayers and a medieval world map ('The Map Psalter')
- 1262–1300, London
- Latin / Anglo-Norman
- © British Library
- Usage terms
Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.
- Held by
- British Library
- Add MS 28681
- Article by:
- Josephine Livingstone
- Myths, monsters and the imagination
Medieval Europeans were fascinated by the lands that lay beyond their own continent. Josephine Livingstone looks at the real and imaginary travels of explorers and tradesman through works including The Book of John Mandeville, The Travels of Marco Polo and medieval maps.
- Article by:
- The British Library
Delve into the mysterious world of maps and views and reflect on the founders’ curiosity about the universe.
- Article by:
- Alixe Bovey
Men with dogs’ heads, creatures with giant feet, griffins, sirens and hellish demons can all be found in the illustrated pages of medieval manuscripts. Dr Alixe Bovey delves into the symbolic meaning of a variety of monsters to understand what they can teach us about life and belief in the Middle Ages.