Bristol Psalter


This pocket-sized (105 x 85 mm) 11th-century manuscript contains the Greek text of the Psalms followed by the biblical Odes. It is an example of a group of manuscripts known as ‘marginal psalters’, so called because the margins are lavishly decorated with images related to the text of the Psalms. Many of these images depict scenes from the life of Christ, and in so doing link the words of the Old Testament to the Christian message of the Gospels.

The manuscript is bound in a 16th-century Byzantine-style cover with thick wooden boards. Unfortunately, when the manuscript was bound in this volume, the pages were trimmed to fit it, and several illuminations, located close to the edges, are no longer complete.

The volume was discovered in the possession of Western College in Bristol in 1921. The British Museum purchased it in 1923.

Full title:
Bristol Psalter
11th century
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Held by
British Library
Add MS 40731

Full catalogue details

Related articles

The Old Testament in Greek

Article by:
Peter Toth
Art, Religion

Translated into Greek in Hellenistic Egypt, the Greek Old Testament was copied widely in Byzantium. Peter Toth surveys the history of this important text.

Illuminating the Psalms in Byzantium

Article by:
Kalliroe Linardou
Art, Religion, The makers of Greek manuscripts

Byzantine book illumination was at its most ambitious and innovative in the decorated psalters produced between the 9th and 11th centuries. Here, Kalliroe Linardou explains the two main types of illuminated psalters and describes some of their key features.