Portable Psalter, in Latin, illuminated manuscript on vellum

[Germany (northern Saxony, perhaps Hildesheim) or the adjacent Rhineland, late thirteenth century]


109 x 83 mm. 240 leaves (plus 2 paper endleaves at front and back), wanting a few single leaves, collation: i6, ii11 (i a singleton with large illuminated initial), iii-xi10, xii-xiv8, xv10, xvi-xxi8, xxii9 (last probably a singleton), xxiii7 (i and vii wanting), xxiv8, xxv7, xxvi8, xxvii12, modern pencil foliation, single column of 16 lines in 2 sizes of an angular gothic bookhand, capitals in barbed penstrokes and touched in red, red rubrics, simple initials in red or blue with ornate contrasting penwork, crucial Psalms marked with chunky gold or silver initials with coloured penwork (the silver now oxidised, and one gold with perhaps later blue grounds added as well as clumsy red penwork in margins), frontispiece with single full-page initial ‘B’ in beige acanthus leaves ending in orange and red leaves, all on burnished gold grounds and within frame of blue and red penwork, facing initial page with 4 lines of text in painted white capitals (“[B]eatus / vir qu/i non / abiit”) on blue and red panels these separated by silver panels, the paper endleaves at front with seventeenth or eighteenth-century devotional additions and an eighteenth- or early nineteenth-century short description of volume, silver panels causing shine-through to reverse of fol. 8, some small signs of wear and a few small holes (some with traces of contemporary repairs), trimmed by a few mm. at head, overall in good and solid condition, later leather over pasteboards (probably over earlier binding structures, including 3 large double thongs at spine and reused manuscript fragments: see above), cracking and wear at spine, thongs split between some gatherings (exposing some small strips of late medieval manuscript reused on spine during binding) and becoming loose, remnants of two clasps.

Text and illumination:

This fine and early liturgical volume contains a Calendar, followed by a Psalter (fol. 8r), ending with a Litany (fol. 225v), Canticles, prayers and other devotional readings. The text ends with a Latin prayer for the souls of the faithful departed: “Fidelium anim[a]e per misericordiam dei requiescant in pace amen”.


1. The original owner of the volume was most probably a member of a female monastic community in northern Saxony (perhaps in Hildesheim) or the adjacent Rhineland: appeals for the benefactors of a community in the Calendar might suggest their religious status, and St. Lambert of Maastricht-Liège (17 September) and SS. Ludger, apostle of Frisia and Saxony (26 March) as well as St. Godehard of Hildesheim (4 May) (the last also appearing in the Litany) strongly indicates that region. In the fifteenth century the volume was owned by a female supplicant named in the ex libris: “Iste liber pertinet Mechhildis […]” at the foot of the first leaf of the Calendar. Another near-contemporary inscription under the initial on fol. 7v names a “Maria Zara filia Joril[?]”, most probably a subsequent owner.

2. A. O. Tilly, his ex libris in an early nineteenth-century shaky hand on front pastedown.

3. Ernest E. Baker (1854-1931), FSA, of Aldwick Court, Somerset, local antiquary of Weston-Super-Mare: his late nineteenth- or early twentieth-century armorial bookplate pasted to back pastedown. Baker was the nephew of J.O. Halliwell-Phillipps (the latter the important Shakespeare scholar and notoriously most-loathed son-in-law of Sir Thomas Phillipps, suspected as a youth of stealing books from the library of Trinity College, Cambridge, and numerous cuttings from elsewhere, and subsequently banned from Sir Thomas’ library; he and Sir Thomas’ daughter, Henrietta, eloped in 1842, leading Sir Thomas to refuse to see either Halliwell or his own daughter for the remaining thirty years of his life; Halliwell only taking Sir Thomas’ last name after the latter’s death in 1872). Baker was Halliwell’s executor and inherited a third of the Halliwell-Phillipps library in 1889. The majority of this was sold by auction on 1 July 1889 and 30 November 1891, with further items in Sotheby’s 1 July 1895, lots 666-679 (the collection detailed by a pamphlet issued by Baker himself, Halliwell-Phillipps library, notes on a portion which will be sold by auction, Weston-Super-Mare, 1889), but the charming manuscript volume here was retained by Baker, and it passed by descent to his grand-daughter, who dispersed the estate library. 


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