20 September 2013
The Luscious Luttrell Psalter
At long last, every glorious page of the Luttrell Psalter, bursting with medieval vitality, is available on our Digitised Manuscripts site here: Add MS 42130.
Historiated initial 'B'(eatus vir) of King David playing the harp, at the beginning of Psalm 1, from the Luttrell Psalter, England (Lincolnshire), c. 1320-1340, Add MS 42130, f. 13r
The Luttrell Psalter is justifiably considered one of the British Library’s greatest treasures. It was created c. 1320-1340 in Lincolnshire, England, and takes its name from its first owner and patron, Sir Geoffrey Luttrell (1276-1345). The Luttrell Psalter is perhaps best known for its wild profusion of marginal and hybrid creatures as well as its hundreds of bas-de-page illuminations (stay tuned for a blog post on these subjects!). Many of these contain some remarkable and detailed scenes of daily life in the rural medieval England of the 14th century.
Please have a look through the Luttrell Psalter online; we are always interested to hear about what you find compelling. Feel free to tag us in some of your finds on Twitter @BLMedieval. Here are a (very) few of our favourite images from this magnificent manuscript:
Sir Geoffrey Luttrell, mounted in full regalia, attended by his wife and daughter-in-law. The elaborate display of family heraldry leaves the observer in no doubt as to the power and importance of this family. However, the fish-like creature above is unimpressed; note the grimace on his orange face! From the Luttrell Psalter, England (Lincolnshire), c. 1320-1340, Add MS 42130, f. 202v
There is always something new to discover in the marginalia. This artist had real imagination – say no more! From the Luttrell Psalter, England (Lincolnshire), c. 1320-1340, Add MS 42130, f. 27r
Scenes from daily life in the 14th century: a young lady at the ‘hair salon’. The creature on the right doesn’t seem to think much of her new hairstyle! From the Luttrell Psalter, England (Lincolnshire), c. 1320-1340, Add MS 42130, f. 63r
Every page is a feast for the eyes: this one containing part of Psalm 6 does not have the largest or most impressive images. But the ensemble: the regular gothic script (most letters requiring at least 4 pen-strokes), the gorgeous pastel colours of the borders and decorations, with splashes of luminous gold, and the matching shapes of the three elongated creatures providing amusement and focus, all combine to create a satisfying and harmonious whole. From the Luttrell Psalter, England (Lincolnshire), c. 1320-1340, Add MS 42130, f. 18v
And if you want to see the Luttrell Psalter ‘in the flesh’, please visit our Treasures Exhibition in the Sir John Ritblat Gallery at the British Library, where it is on display with many other treasures from our collections.