The Luttrell Psalter, one of the most beautiful and precious medieval manuscripts still in existence has been digitized by the British Library. Dating from the 14th century, it is too fragile to be exposed to light or to be handled by the public. Now one of the British Library's greatest treasures is available on line.
The Luttrell Psalter (British Library, Add. MS 42130) is an illuminated manuscript written and illustrated circa 1320–1340 by anonymous scribes and artists. Over the years, many different scholars have dated the manuscript between several different time periods, in relation to the style used and relevant events of the decade.
A psalter is a book of psalms, often accompanied by other material such as church calendars. But the Luttrell Psalter is much more than that. It’s a masterpiece of the illuminators art, containing hundreds of lavishly decorated pages. In addition, it contains many depictions of everyday medieval life, from work in the fields to drinking games to fabulous depictions of plants and animals.
The illuminated manuscript was commissioned by and for Sir Geoffrey Luttrell, Lord of the Manor of Irnham in Lincolnshire a wealthy land owner. The manuscript, initially a private creation, then came into public notice in 1794, when miniatures of Sir Geoffrey Luttrell, his wife, and the daughter-in-law were produced along with a summary of the book.
The Psalter was acquired by the British Museum in 1929 for £31,500 from Mary Angela Noyes, wife of the poet Alfred Noyes.
The manuscript was written in Latin on vellum and flyleaves of paper. It was composed of 309 pages. decorated in red paint with details in gold, silver and blind. The illustrations were stamped and tooled into the paper. The preserved manuscript had eight cords that help to securely attach the pages together. It was sewn together, bound with dark brown Morocco.
The scripts in the manuscript used ruling as a method of scribing. This was an expensive method. The scripts were fairly large. Each frame of the manuscript had about fourteen full lines of text. The strokes of the letters are flat and parallel to the writing line. This technique required a pen where the nib is especially cut at an oblique angle.
Unlike earlier illuminated manuscripts, the first letter of the first word on the line, for every 2 lines then other lines, are capitalized (made larger than the rest). The Luttrell calligrapher's style was has many highlights and shadowing on the human figures. His modelling of the human figure was more pronounced, muscular, and full of flesh. Whoever the anonymous illustrator of the psalter was, he created a masterpiece.
A film has also been made based on the images from the manuscript. Guided by the detailed and often humorous images of everyday life from the Luttrell Psalter, the Luttrell Psalter Film gives a unique glimpse of a year in the life of a medieval village. Filmed over four seasons, it shows the changing landscape with its fields and flowers, and the daily activities which dominated the lives of our forefathers. It is available via DVD and on line.http://wagscreen.wordpress.com/the-luttrell-psalter-film/