Named for its patron, Sir Geoffrey Luttrell (d. 1345), the Luttrell Psalter is one of the masterpieces of English Gothic art. Made between 1325 and 1340, the manuscript is the work of a provincial scriptorium in Lincolnshire. The completed pages contain a stunning menagerie of hybrid creatures in their margins as well as detailed bas-de-page vignettes.
A full range of colors from bright blue to pale pink creates a soft aesthetic. Gold enhances decorated capitals and illustrative details. It is among the most visually complex and delightful psalters known with each page having its own unique charm.
The Latin text includes a calendar, psalter, and additional devotional texts. Penned by a single scribe but with the hand of at least four artists, the Luttrell Psalter contain images from all aspects of life from the toil of agriculture to fantastic expressions of the medieval imagination making it the most remarkable of manuscripts.
Detailed Depictions of Everyday Life
The Luttrell Psalter is illuminated throughout, although the final eighty folios are sparsely decorated especially in comparison to the rest. The major text divisions are demarcated with ten historiated initials and another thirty-nine smaller versions make further subdivisions. Over 230 additional marginalia occupy the first 180 folios. A range of subjects from biblical to fantastical are represented. The most valuable for the understanding of medieval life are the dozens of scenes of farming, hunting, entertainment and music-making. The illuminations may have been left unfinished due to Geoffrey’s death in 1345.
A Book of Personal Devotion and Eternal Prayer
Psalters were books for personal devotion containing a calendar, the Psalms, and additional prayers, collects, and the Office of the Dead, though the contents could vary depending on what the patron wished to be included. This psalter is the Gallican version written in black ink in a single column over fourteen lines in a skillful Gothic precissa script. Multicolored pen flourishes and line fillers enhance the text throughout. The calendar has additional red and blue inks. It may have been intended as an offering to St. Andrew’s Church, Irnham, the family mausoleum, to ensure the eternal salvation of the Luttrells in the afterlife.
“Galfridus Louterell me Fieri Fecit”
Rare for a medieval manuscript, the Luttrell Psalter includes the name of its patron, Sir Geoffrey Luttrell, in a proclamation above a gilded portrait of him dressed in armor on his war horse and attended by his wife and daughter-in-law (fol. 202v). The book was then owned by a succession of English noble families and finally sold to the British Museum in 1930 with the aid of a loan from J. Pierpont Morgan, which was repaid by public subscription.