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Deshman, Robert


Deshman, Robert, “The Galba Psalter: pictures, texts and context in an early medieval prayerbook”, Anglo-Saxon England 26 (1997): 109–138.

  • journal article
Citation details
“The Galba Psalter: pictures, texts and context in an early medieval prayerbook”
Abstract (cited)
The ‘Galba Psalter’ (London, British Library, Cotton Galba A. xviii) is a pocket-sized (128 × 88 mm.), early-ninth-century Carolingian book, perhaps made in the region of Liège, that was originally decorated with only ornamental initials. By the early tenth century the manuscript had reached England, where an Anglo-Saxon scriptorium added two prefatory quires (1r–19v) containing a metrical calendar illuminated with zodiac signs, KL monograms and single figures (pls. IX–X), and five full-page pictures. Two miniatures of Christ and the saints on 2v and 21r (pls. X–XI) preface the calendar and a series of prayers respectively, and three New Testament pictures marked the customary threefold division of the Psalms. Facing Ps. I was a miniature of the Nativity (pl. XII), now detached from the manuscript and inserted into an unrelated book (Oxford, Bodleian Library, Rawlinson B. 484, 85r). The Ascension on 120v (pl. XIII) prefaces Ps. CI. A third picture before Ps. LI has been lost, but almost certainly it represented the Crucifixion. The placement of an image of this theme between the Nativity and the Ascension would have been appropriate from a narrative standpoint, and some later Anglo-Saxon and Irish psalters preface this psalm with a full-page picture of the Crucifixion. Obits for King Alfred (d. 899) and his consort Ealhswith (d. 902) provide a terminus post quem for the calendar and the coeval illumination. The Insular minuscule script of the calendar indicates a West Saxon origin during the first decade of the tenth century. On the grounds of the Psalter's style and later provenance, the additions were very likely made at Winchester.
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