MS 27: Psalter



MS 27 is a psalter of 70 leaves (including 4 flyleaves) and bound by Joseph Zaehsdorf (1816-1886) of London. It has been assigned a date of post-1320 and it is of English origin, possibly from East Anglia.

The main text has a layout of 1 column of 34 lines of text per page, except in the litany which has two-columns. The text itself is in Latin, is written in Gothic bookhand, and consists of a calendar, the psalms, prayers, and an incomplete litany.

The characteristic features of the major illuminations, which are primarily historiated initials but for one, include the use of gold, blue and red-orange colors; the five-lobed leaves in the vines and daisy designwork; a checkered/diaper pattern background, and border designs inhabited by realistic and fantastic animals, drolleries, fruit, and/or flora. Additional initials in read and blue with fine designs are found throughout the MS. King David is the main figure in most of the historiated initials as he was believed to have composed the psalms himself. The page with the first historiated initial includes the only narrative scene (bottom margin), depicting David's defeat over Goliath.

Index of Selected Images from MS 11

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f.1, David & Goliath; Initial: David playing instrument

f.8, Initial: David pointing to eyes

f.13, Initial: David pointing to mouth

f.17, David slaying Goliath

f.18, Initial: David reproving the Fool

f.22v, Initial: Jonah, & Christ as Salvator Mundi

f.28v, Initial: David hammering/ringing bells

f.34, Initial: Singing Monks

f.40, Initial: Christ as Salvator Mundi

Detailed Multilevel Description

Index of Medieval Manuscripts
Image Links and descriptions
Shelfmark MS 27, Syracuse University Library, Department of Special Collections.
Composite MS? No.
Total Folios ff. ii + 66 + ii
Outer Dimensions 11.5 x 8 cm (4 _" x 3 1/8")
Physical Issues/Binding Bound in black leather embossed with gold design by Joseph Zaehnsdorf (1816-1886), a binder in London. Binding now damaged and not completely intact.
Provenance Virtue and Cahill Library, Portsmouth.
Bibliography Everson Museum of Art of Syracuse and Onondaga County. Medieval Art in Upstate New York. Syracuse, NY: Everson Museum of Art of Syracuse and Onondaga County, 1974.[pp. 95-96] --Watson, Bruce. "The Illumination of an English Psalter: A Preliminary Assessment". The Courier 14, no. 4 (fall 1977): 3-21.
Notes (Manuscript Level) Formerly known as Uncataloged Manuscript 1 or Uncat. MS 1.Leaves are gilded-edged.Bookplate on the inside cover and facing page displays a coat of arms "IN DOMINO CONFIDO" and is imprinted with the following: "VIRTUE / AND / CAHILL / Library / THE FOUNDERS / OF THIS LIBRARY / EARNESTLY REQUEST THEIR SUCCESSORS / IN THE SEE OF PORTSMOUTH / TO KEEP THIS LIBRARY INTACT / AND NEVER SELL OR DISPOSE / OF ANY BOOK FOR ANY REASONS / WHATSOEVER / NO / 8433". Stamped over the plate in ink on the right-hand side page is the following: "FOLLOWING ENEMY / ACTION IN 1941 / AND DISPERSAL OF / THE LIBRARY, THE / BISHOP AND / CATHEDRAL CHAPTER / AGREED TO THE / DISPOSAL OF THE / BOOKS FOR BETTER / CARE & TO THE / ADVANTAGE OF SCHOLARS / 1967". The MS was up for sale at Christies, London on July 5, 1967.
Source(s) Everson Museum of Art of Syracuse and Onondaga County. Medieval Art in Upstate New York. Syracuse, NY: Everson Museum of Art of Syracuse and Onondaga County, 1974. [pp. 95-96] -- Watson, Bruce. "The Illumination of an English Psalter: A Preliminary Assessment". The Courier 14, no. 4 (fall 1977): 3-21. ? Catalog description. -- Additional observations and descriptions by Jennifer Casten.
Inputter/Reviser Jennifer Casten.
Part Number Pt. I, Calendar, prayers, incomplete Litany, and Psalter, front and back flyleaves.
Support Parchment.
Span of Folios for Part Pt. I, [2 front flyleaves unfoliated]; Calendar (ff. i-iv); Psalter (1r-52r); Prayers & incomplete Litany (ff. 52r-60v); [2 back flyleaves].
Country England.
Region East Anglia? Larkin & Pennington based this upon the use of Sarum in the Litany & Calendar, and specific artistic features which are characteristic of the East Anglian School of book production. Watson argued against this localization on the basis that Sarum calendars were used elsewhere and certain of the artistic characteristics, which might suggest its relation to East Anglia in terms of origin or ownership, can be found in other works (e.g., Longleat Psalter) that were neither produced nor destined for East Anglia.
Document? No.
Dated? Yes.
Date Post- 1320. Based upon inclusion of St. Thomas of Cantelupe who was canonized in 1320.
Layout Ink ruling. Main text: 34 lines per column, single column except in litany which has two-columns. Catchwords can also be found throughout the text to indicate the division of the MS before bound. Quires contain 12 folios except for last (50r-60v) which may be missing a folio.
Script Gothic Bookhand.
Representational Decoration The colors primarily used for ornamentation throughout the MS are gold, blue, and red-orange. One of the characteristic features of the illuminations are the five-lobed leaves in the vinework and the daisy-bud. The 9 miniatures in this MS are actually historiated initials depicting a person or scene, characterized by a checkered or diaper background, foliage design-work extending from the initial to created a border-like designs in the margin, which are often inhabited by realistic and fantastic animals, drolleries, and/or flowers and fruits (strawberries). Creatures both realistic and fantastic include deer; rabbit & fox; a greyhound in pursuit of a stag; a variety of birds; a four-legged creature with striped tail and striped/raised back-ridge; two-headed creature with the body of a bird, one head of a bird, and the other head of a human; a hybrid creature with the head of a dog; a human-headed, winged, two-legged, tailed creature; another hybrid creature with the face of a dog, 2 legs, 2 wings, and a serpent-like tail.The first historiated initial (1r) depicts King David playing his lyre. At the bottom of the same page is a narrative scene showing David as a boy swinging his slingshot toward a man dressed as a knight, then a Knight holding a severed head; and David cutting off the head of Goliath with a sword. This introduces the Psalm 1, "Beatus vir". The second historiated initial (8r) depicts King David kneeling down, looking upward, and pointing to his eye, and image introducing Psalm 26, "Dominus illuminatio mea". The next initial (13r) which introduces "Dixi custodiam", Psalm 38, shows the kneeling King David pointing to his mouth instead. David cutting of the head of Goliath who is depicted a a knight, is the scene of the historiated initial (17r) introducing Psalm 51, "Quid glorialis". Introducing Psalm 52, "Dixit insipiens", is the initial portraying David as a king seated on his throne, reproving the fool (18r). The next initial (f.22v) which introduces Psalm 68, "Salvum me fac", shows an image of Christ holding orb and raising his two fingers (Salvator Mundi), and Jonah emerging from the whale. David is shown ringing or hammering bells in the historiated initial (28v) for "Exultate deo", Psalm 80. A historiated initial illustrating monks in prayer or song (34r) introduce the text of Psalm 97, "Cantate domino". The last historiated initial (40r) is that of Christ enthroned, holding the orb of the world, and raising two figures in benediction (Salvator Mundi) for Psalm 109, "Dixit Dominus."
Other Decoration Additional initials in red and blue with fine line designs can be found through the MS.
Notes (Part Level) Watson suggests that this MS may represent a transitional period in MS making between the late thirteenth-century Court Style associated with London and the Queen Mary’s Psalter Group.
Span of Folios for Text Calendar: ff. i-iv; Psalter: 1r-52r; Prayers & incomplete Litany: ff. 52r-60v.
Supplied Title Psalter.
Status of Text The last quire (ff.50r-60v) may be missing a folio. Litany is incomplete.
Incipit [First Psalm:] "Beatus vir".
Language(s) Latin.
Notes (Text Level) Calendar was foliated separately from the main text and is marked with Roman numerals.


Everson Museum of Art of Syracuse and Onondaga County. Medieval Art in Upstate New York. Syracuse, NY: Everson Museum of Art of Syracuse and Onondaga County, 1974. [pp. 95-96]

Watson, Bruce. “The Illumination of an English Psalter: A Preliminary Assessment”. The Courier 14, no. 4 (fall 1977): 3-21.