Description

Made in London in around 1260, this manuscript is best known as the earliest surviving example of an English Psalter with extensive marginal imagery. Most of these illustrations are unconnected with the text of the Psalms themselves. They depict a variety of scenes with men, grotesques and demons, animals, birds and dragons, some of which are inspired by stories from the medieval bestiary (or ‘Book of Beasts’) and the Marvels of the East (image no. 1). 

The Psalter also contains a calendar decorated with the signs of the Zodiac and Labours of the Month, and numerous decorated initials and illustrations that mark the major divisions of the text. The images include representations of Christ in Majesty surrounded by the four symbols of the Evangelists (image no. 4) and King David playing the organ, accompanied by musicians holding bellows and a stringed instrument known as a hurdy gurdy (image no. 2).

The Psalter was originally in the possession of the family of Edmund de Lacy, second Earl of Lincoln (d. 1258). It then passed through the hands of various owners during the medieval period, including William Vaux (d. 1460), Sheriff of Northamptonshire, John Hawghe (d. 1488/9) Justice of the Common Pleas, and John Clifton, Prior of Reading Abbey between 1486 and 1490. Their obits (a record of a person’s death) were added to the manuscript’s calendar. By the 19th century, the Psalter was part of the collection of John Henry Manners (d. 1857), fifth Duke of Rutland, from where the manuscript takes its name. It is recorded in the 1825 catalogue of his library at Belvoir Castle.

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