The Benedictine Abbey of Ramsey founded in 969 by Ailwyn was one of the great centres of scholarship in the English speaking countries for many centuries. In this abbey an elaborate codex known as the Ramsey Psalter was produced for the monastic community’s own use at the end of the 13th century. In the course of its turbulent history, the Ramsey Psalter experienced the same destiny as many other medieval manuscripts: five folios – nearly a complete illustrated cycle preceding the psalms – was at some stage separated from the contents binding and finally found its way to the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York. The larger portion remained in the library of the Benedictine Abbey of Sankt Paul im Lavanttal (Carinthia, Austria).
The pinnacle of book illumination
12 deluxe figural initials complete with perfectly inserted individual scenes; stylised floral marginal illustrations populated with tiny creatures; countless line endings, enlivened predominantly with grotesques, are all elements bearing testimony to the sheer inexhaustible imagination of master who unfortunately remains anonymous. More than any other section, the illustrated cycle preceding the psalms deserves special mention. Its 12 miniature pages are filled with 40 episodes taken from the Old and the New Testaments to form a homogenous illustrated ensemble. From an artistic view, both these miniatures and the decorative apparatus of the Ramsey Psalter as a whole, are of outstanding quality. The zestful movements of figures, their evocative gestures and facial expressions as well as the strong interaction between the individual protagonists lend the narrative a liveliness that is unparalleled in book production.
A golden manuscript
In addition, the book is lavishly decorated with exuberant gold: the gold leaf grounds which are frequently further enlivened with linear chasing and scattered elements are not limited to the miniatures alone, as is the case in other manuscripts, but are also found in the initials, in marginal decorations and even in the shortest line endings. This exquisite decoration makes the Ramsey Psalter one of the finest surviving examples of Gothic book illumination.
We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "Ramsey Psalter": Der Ramsey-Psalter facsimile edition, published by Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA), 1996