Urvija Banerji of Atlas Obscura shared recently the unusual story of how a man’s desire to flaunt his wealth became a book of Psalms.
Many people in the Middle Ages learned to read and worship by studying their psalters, or personal copies of the Book of Psalms, often collected together with other religious texts and a calendar of feast days. The intricately painted Luttrell Psalter, commissioned by an English lord in the 14th century, is one of the most beautiful surviving examples.
Sir Geoffrey Luttrell, a knight who was Lord of the Manor of Irnham in Lincolnshire, lived between the years 1276 and 1345. The title page of the psalter reveals that Luttrell felt his impending death was near, and commissioned the psalter to serve as a record of his life, grand as it was. However, the psalter is also populated by illustrations of laborers, now considered to be some of the most realistic depictions of pastoral life from that time.
The psalter was created over a period of several years, sometime between 1320 and 1345, by one scribe and at least five different artists, who each had slightly different styles. Its 309 vellum leaves are richly illustrated with quotidian scenes from Luttrell’s rural estate.
Luttrell ensured that the psalter was filled with evidence of his wealth. The above image, for example, shows a page illustrated with the lord himself mounted upon a war-horse and displaying his family’s arms. The words ‘Dominus Galfridus Louterell me fieri fecit’ (Lord Geoffrey Luttrell caused me to be made) caption the image as a friendly reminder as to who created the psalter.
What a beautiful book.
Yeah, well, you can say it was inspired by a man’s vanity, but it allows we who cam (so many centuries) after to have a glimpse at our ancestors’ lives. So I suppose it was a service to humanity in the end 😉
Absolutely. Money well spent, if you ask me 🙂
Beautiful, Nicholas. So much time went into making these one-of-a-kind books. We are lucky to still have them and immensely lucky that it’s no longer such a huge endeavor to create just one book!
I second that! I wonder what the old scribes would make of Amazon and KDP 🙂
That’s fascinating, Nick!
Ps… I am currently in Crete! ???
You’re kidding! I hope you’re having a lovely time 🙂
2nd day! Fabulous so far! Hiring a car today so we can explore.
I’m green with envy 😀
How can you be??? You LIVE in Greece, you lucky thing, you!!!
Lol – live and work. Right now, I’m stewing in my office. Enjoy the beach and soak in that sun for me, will you? 😀
Defo doing that! Enjoy your stew. At least your beer glass is chilling in the freezer for when you get home…
Lol – you know me so well. Plus, I work from home, so… 🙂
Ah well, take a break and go and get that cold beer right now! I’m enjoying a mythos, but later I will have a watermelon bacardi breezer… we can’t get them in Ireland.
Ooh, that’s a good one! Lucky you 😀
I knew about the Luttrell Psalter but not about Atlas Obscura, so thanks for introducing me to that fabulous site!
Oh, it’s a treasure trove of fascinating tidbits 🙂
Fascinating background story and artistry. Love this type of printing and page adornment. 🙂
Same here 🙂
This, and others like them, are wonderful things indeed. The true treasures of history.
Best wishes, Pete.
Couldn’t agree more, Pete. Thank you 🙂
I think I’ve heard of this before. What I didn’t know was that it’s from a village very close to where I live, just the other side of Grantham. Small world, innit? 🙂
Really? That’s amazing 😀