Vespasian Psalter


The Vespasian Psalter is an early copy of a Latin revision of the Psalms (the Romanum or Roman version) associated with St Jerome (d. 420). The manuscript was made in southern England in the second quarter of the 8th century. During the mid-9th century, an Old English translation was added between the lines of the Latin text of the Psalms. It is the earliest surviving biblical text in the English language. By the 11th century, the manuscript was in the archiepiscopal city of Canterbury, where a scribe known as Eadwig Basan added elements to the book.

The Psalter is highly decorated. It includes several historiated initials (letters with images painted inside them), depicting David and his friend Jonathon, and David as a shepherd, rescuing a lamb from a lion. The manuscript also contains a highly coloured full-page illustration of King David composing the Psalms, accompanied by a group of musicians, dancers and scribes.

View images of the entire manuscript via our Digitised Manuscripts website.

Full title:
Psalter ('The Vespasian Psalter')
2nd quarter of the 8th century–mid-9th century
Latin / Old English
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK. Please consider cultural, religious & ethical sensitivities when re-using this material.

Held by
British Library
Cotton MS Vespasian A I

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