The Eadwine Psalter: A 12th-Century Illuminated Manuscript from Canterbury

I haven’t posted on one of my favourite art forms—the medieval illuminated manuscript—for quite a while, so here’s one: the Eadwine Psalter, named after the scribe and monk Eadwine of Canterbury Cathedral. This Psalter, which was put together in the middle of the 12th century, contains the Book of Psalms in three languages—Latin, Old English and Anglo-Norman.

It is supposed to be a copy of the ninth-century Utrecht Psalter, which is a masterpiece of Carolingian art (that is, art produced roughly between 780 and 900 AD, during the reign of King Charlemagne and his immediate successors).

The Eadwine Psalter: Text, Image, and Monastic Culture in Twelfth-century edited by Margaret T. Gibson, T. A. Heslop, Richard William Pfaff (1992, Penn State Press)

Eadwine at his desk, Wikipedia [Public Domain]
Much of the Eadwine Psalter is today kept at Trinity College, Cambridge. Other pages from the manuscript—containing scenes from Old and New Testaments—could be found in the British Library and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and the Morgan Library in New York.

In the 1992 book The Eadwine Psalter: Text, Image, and Monastic Culture in Twelfth-century, the British medievalist Margaret Gibson wrote:

In its individual parts and characteristics Eadwine lies within a well-defined tradition. What sets its apart is the correlation of elements that nowhere else coexist in the same book: the prefatory cycle of pictures, the Utrecht-based drawings, the initials (which are decorated in quite another mode), the three versions of the Psalter text, the vernacular translations, and the Latin apparatus. It was perhaps in recognition that this was ‘the Psalter of Psalters’ that the picture of Eadwine, the ‘prince of scribes’, was inserted at the end. The Eadwine Psalter is a manuscript at once splendid, academic, and written for a public who could read languages other than Latin.

 A few images:


Psalm 136-7: “By the rivers of Babylon…”, Eadwine Psalter, Wikipedia [Public Domain]

Scenes from the Life of Christ, Eadwine Psalter, Wikipedia [Public Domain]

Parables, Eadwine Psalter, Wikipedia [Public Domain]

The Nativity, Eadwine Psalter, Wikipedia [Public Domain]

The Passion and Death of Christ, Wikipedia [Public Domain]


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