Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Liturgical Psalters in Medieval Europe

Elizabeth Solopova is a research fellow at Oxford with interests in Old and Middle English language and literature; metrics; stylistics; theory and history of authorship; runic inscriptions; the fiction of J.R.R. Tolkien; medieval liturgical and biblical manuscripts.

Her online picture is much better than the one I took and her interests wider than the psalter. But medieval Psalters have some lovely images in the first letter of each psalm - very widely varying. As the abstract for this talk indicates, "Psalters were produced in relatively large numbers and attracted the best artistic talent... There is evidence that often it was the only book that a person might own, and which accompanied them throughout their life." Psalms were known in the Latin by their opening words.

Much of the talk was around miniatures taken from the New Testament and inserted into the psalm's first letter.

Entry into Jerusalem
from here
I have 52 circled in my notes but it refers to the English numbering and has a picture of Jesus entering Jerusalem - the image intrigued me and what I saw in that psalm were the words of the 13th verse: But I am like an olive tree, green in the house of God, and I was reminded of the words Jesus spoke to the women: if they do this in a green tree what shall be done in the dry? Unfortunately among the 1000s of images online and the few in our DVD of images, I can't find this particular one. But it is typical of the devotional importation of New and Old stories into the initial letters of the psalms.

You can find images online by googling medieval Psalters, initial letters, and variations. There are lots online at the Bodleian e.g. here. There are many more online that are less fuzzy and without copyright notice.