Luttrell Psalter

Luttrell Psalter

Luttrell Psalter (British Library, Add. MS 42130) is an illuminated manuscript written and illustrated circa 1325 - 1335 by anonymous scribes and artists. It was commissioned by Sir Geoffrey Luttrell (died 1345), a wealthy English landowner who lived at Irnham, Lincolnshire.

Along with the psalms, (beginning on 13 recto), the book contains a calendar (1 r), canticles (259 verso), the Mass 283 v) and an antiphon for the dead (295 r). The pages vary in their degree of illumination but many are richly covered with both decorated text and marginal pictures of saints and bible stories, of rural life; farming, cooking, doctoring, spouses squabbling, musicians playing, etc. It is considered to be one of the richest sources for visual depictions of everyday rural life in England of the Middle Ages.

The illustrations also include very many strange combinations of parts of animal and human figures. Most remain obscure but some can be related to the text beside which they are painted and this helps a little, towards giving an insight into the symbolism of the similarly strange creatures found carved into the stonework of some church buildings of the book's period. The British Library published a facsimile of the Psalter in 2006.

The first owner

In medieval times, the creation of magnificent illuminated manuscripts was both a demonstration of piety and a symbol of the great wealth and power of the kings or lords who commissioned them. Sir Geoffrey Luttrell (1276-1345) was a knight and baron whose wealth, dynastic alliances and military record placed him firmly among the English elite. His family Psalter was begun in the year 1332 and appears to have taken over ten years to complete. Sir Geoffrey Luttrell had much to thank God for. Part of the new nobility, his family had prospered under King John, played their cards cleverly during the troubled reign of Edward II and cemented lands and alliances under Edward III. By the time of his death, Sir Geoffrey owned estates in Yorkshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire, and the emphasis of the manuscript on rural scenes reflects this great land-holding. Indeed, the illustrations may even commemorate actual events, like Sir Geoffrey's building of a watermill at Bridgeford.Many have claimed that the Luttrell Psalter shows how medieval people used to work, what they used to wear and what tools they used to do so, although Michael Camille rejects such ideas, proposing that the manuscript created reality, rather than mirroring it. [Michael Camille. "Mirror in Parchment: The Luttrell Psalter and the Making of Medieval England. " Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1998. 46.]


* "The Luttrell Psalter, a Facsimile". Commentary by Michelle P. Browne. The British Library. (2006) ISBN 978 0 7123 4934 5
* Michael Camille, "Mirror in Parchment". Reaktion Books (1998) ISBN 1 86189 023 0

External links

* [ Luttrell Psalter]
* [ The Luttrell Psalter]
* [ information, zoomable images] British Library website
* [ Luttrell Psalter Film]

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