London, British Library, Cotton Vespasian A. i "Vespasian Psalter"

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Phillip Pulsiano


238. London, British Library, Cotton Vespasian A. i

"Vespasian Psalter"

[Ker 203, Gneuss 381]


HISTORY: The Latin text of the Roman psalter dates to the 8c and the continuous OE interlinear gloss to the 9c. Canticles, hymns,.and prayers (some glossed) were added in the 11c. Although Kuhn posits a Mercian origin for the manuscript, scholars generally favor a Canterbury prove­ nance. Nothing in the manuscript, however, supports the localization, which rests primarily upon an identification, supposedly of this manu­ script, made by Thomas of Elmham in his 15c catalogue of books at St. Augustine's:


Est etiam et aliud 'Psalterium' supra tabulam magni altaris positum; quod habet exterius imaginem Christi argenteam planam, cum quatuor Evangelistis. In hujus Psalterii primo folio incipit, 'Omnis scriptura divinitus inspirata.' In tertio folio incipit, 'Epistola Damasi papre ad Ieronymum,' et in fine Versus ejusdem Damasi; ac deinde 'Epistola Ieronymi ad Damasum,' cum Hieronymi versibus. Deinde in quarto folio, 'De Origine Psalmorum,' in cujus fine distinguit Psalterium in quinque libros   In quinto folio ejusdem Psalterii sequitur expositio de Alleluia secundum Hebrreos, Chaldreos, Syros, et Latinos. Item interpre­ tatio 'Glorire' apud Chaldreos. Item interpretatio Psalmi cxviii. per singu­las literas. In sexto folio sequitur quando psalli vel legi debeat, quomodo Hieronymus scribit; item 'Ordo Psalmorum per A, B, C, D.' In septimo folio de literis Hebrreis, qure in Psalterio scribunter. In octavo folio, 'lnterpretatio Psalmorum,' usque ad folium undecirnum, ubi incipit, Textus Psalterii,' cum imagine Samuelis sacerdotis, et in fine ejusdem Psalterii sunt hymni de matutinis, de vesperis, et de Dominico die, sicut in alio Psalterio prrenotatio habentur (Hardwick 1858: 98).


Nothing is known about the ownership of the manuscript with any cer­ tainty until it was acquired by Sir Robert Cotton by 1599 (cf. his nota­ tion on f. 12r: "Ro: Cotton Bruceus 1599") from William Cecil (Lord Burghley), into whose collection the manuscript came by 1566 (see British Library, Lansdowne 8, f. 190r, for Matthew Parker's letter to Cecil thanking him for the use of the psalter).

CODICOLOGICAL DESCRIPTION: After trimming, leaves measure 235 x 180 mm., and are normally ruled for twenty-two lines of Latin text. The writing grid of the main text (including the nine canticles and three hymns) measures 172 x 145 mm., of the prefatory matter 199 x 149 mm., and of the 11c additions 177 x 132 mm. The arrangement of the leaves is generally HFFH or HFHF; vellum is of high quality and moderately suede-like. Pricking in outer margins. Gold is used in all decorated initials, silver for major incipits (except f. 21v). Pigments include green, blue, yellow, red, and violet; lead white is also occasionally used. The first leaf of quire VI (between present ff. 11 and 12) most likely contained a lost Beatus vir page. Stains on f. 142r (after the hymn Pusillus eram) suggest that a single leaf, perhaps a carpet page, prepared separately and with a blank recto, was originally inserted. F. 30v contains a full-page illustration ofDavid. Ornamental lines occur at liturgical di­ visions (Pss. 26, 38, 52, 68, 80, 97, 109, and 118, with an additional dis­ play line at Ps. 17) along with two historiated initials at Pss. 26 and 52; the typical tripartite division found in many psalters does not appear here. Ff. 2-11 and 141v are written in rustic capitals; the psalter proper is written in rounded uncial script, with titles in rustic capitals. Toon (1991: 91) notes a series ofletters added in drypoint that he interprets as intended to help a scribe plan the layout of the codex; the marks are found at ff. 12r (c Ψ), 13r <e>, 14r (f), 14v (g), 15v (h), 16r <i>, 18r (k), 18v (1), 19r <m>, 19v <n>, 20r (o), 20v (p), 22r ®, 24v <s>, 25v <t>, 26r (u). Patches with monograms, probably added before the OE gloss was entered, are found on 18v, 19r, 19v, 22r, 91r, 121r, 121v, 128r, 128v; that on 153v is used to repair a hole. The monograms, some comprising one or two letters (e.g., ff. 18v, 19r, 19v, 91r, 128r, 128v), others having more elaborate combinations (e.g., ff. 121v, 153r, 153v), are difficult to interpret and may contain personal names or initials ofsaints' names. F. 11v contains a prayer added in the late 10c or early 11c. In the first half of the 11c, a gathering containing liturgical material was added (ff. 155- 160). The last two leaves of the gathering were not written and were subsequently cut out; the first two leaves are mounted to paper stubs and bound to f. 154, itselfattached to a stub. Cotton glued to f. 160v a cut­ ting taken from a 15c French breviary. The hand offf. 155r--160r has been identified as that ofEadui Basan (11c; Bishop 1971: 22).

The fullest discussion and description of the psalter is given by Wright (1967). The entire psalter was edited by Kuhn (1965).


COLLATION: The collation added on a paste-in at the front of the manuscript was made in April 1954, before repair of the binding. The text was recollated for the facsimile edition published in 1967.

I(l+l) (ff. 2-3; two single leaves), II8 (ff. 4-11), III6 (wantsl) (ff. 12-15; lost leaf before f. 12, originally forming a bifolium with f. 16 which is now bound with IV), IV6 (ff. 16-22; f. 16 properly belongs to quire III, but is wrongly bound as the first leaf here, the stub showing after f. 22), V6 (ff. 23-28), VI6•1 (ff. 29-35; f. 30 is an inserted leaf, the stub showng after f. 34), VII6 (ff. 42-47), VIII6 (ff. 48-53), IX6 (ff. 54-59), X6 (ff. 60-65), XI8 (ff. 66-73), XII8 (ff. 74-81), XIII8 ff. (82-89), XIV6+1 (ff. 90-96; f. 95 is an inserted leaf, the stub showing after f. 90), XV1l (ff. 97-104), XVI8 (ff. 105-113; f. 109 is inserted leaf at the center of the quire), XVII8 (ff. 114-121), XVIII8 (ff. 122-129), XIX8 (ff. 130-137), XX6+3 (ff. 138-146; ff. 139, 141, and 145 are inserted leaves, with stubs after ff. 144, 143, and 138, respectively; a carpet page comprising a

single leaf was likely lost after f. 141), XXI8 (ff. 147-154; ff. 147 and 154 originally formed a bifolium, but are now non-conjugate), XXII8 (ff. 155-160; wanting two leaves after f. 160, originally conjugate with ff. 155 and 156, respectively). Gathering I is preceded by a blank, unnumbered bifolium; gathering XXII is followed by a bifolium and a single­ ton, both blank and unnumbered.

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