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The Illuminated Psalter
Studies in the Content, Purpose and Placement of its Images

F.O. Büttner (ed.)
XII+615 p., 472 b/w ill., 210 x 280 mm, 2004
ISBN: 978-2-503-51465-9
Languages: English, German, French
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The 150 Psalms of the Old Testament were the most important work of devotional literature in the Middle Ages. The Book of Psalms came to be transmitted not only as part of the Bible, but also, in the form of the psalter, as a text in its own right. The psalter came to be illustrated - often profusely - as an aid to devotion at an early stage in its history, and it was a book which was frequently found in the possession of lay people. This volume brings together 28 contributions dealing with the 800 years between the mid-eighth and mid-sixteenth centuries, a period in which the psalter was increasingly owned and used by the laity in the form of richly illuminated manuscripts.
The psalter has a central place in the history of medieval book illustration: no other text was so regularly provided with illuminations over such a long period, and no other text came to have such a complex and wide-ranging iconography. The techniques of psalter illumination involved, for example, historiated initials, full page miniatures as preliminary series as well as on the points of text division, and marginal illustrations, all this in cyclical or serial fashion.
As early as the Carolingan period, the illumination of psalters went beyond a mere textual illustration, and developed a narrative iconography with biblical or hagiographical content, and it was largely this autonomous iconography which connected the Old Testament texts with the tenets of the Christian faith. Also the frequent scenes or cycles of King David do not present illustrations of the psalms, but rather of events told elsewhere in the Old Testament. Renderings of individual Christian believers can also be found from the Carolingian period onwards, and represent some of the most original achievements of fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century psalter illumination.
The essays in this volume originated at a colloquium held in Bamberg in 1999, and comprise surveys and case studies on the following themes: I. Form and History: F. O. BÜTTNER, Der illuminierte Psalter im Westen. Ulrich KUDER, Illuminierte Psalterhandschriften von den Anfängen bis um 800. Rainer KAHSNITZ, Frühe Initialpsalter. Suzy DUFRENNE, L'image dans les psautiers byzantins à illustrations intégrales. Wolfgang AUGUSTYN, Zur Illustration von Psalterien und Psalterkommentaren in Italien vom frühen 11. bis zum ausgehenden 13. Jahrhundert. Karl-Georg PFÄNDTNER, Zwischen Frankreich und Byzanz. Zwei Bologneser Psalter des 13. Jahrhunderts und ihr Illustrationssystem. Andreas BRÄM, Neapolitanische Trecento-Psalterien. Adelaide BENNETT, The Transformation of the Gothic Psalter in 13th-Century France. Judith RAEBER, Illuminierte Psalterien aus den Innerschweizer Doppelklöstern Muri und Engelberg vom 12. bis 14. Jahrhundert. - II. Function and Use: Ursula NILGEN, Psalter für Gelehrte und Ungelehrte im hohen Mittelalter. Gude SUCKALE-REDLEFSEN, Zwei Bilderpsalter für Frauen aus dem frühen 13. Jahrhundert. Judith H. OLIVER, A Primer of Thirteenth-Century German Convent Life: The Psalter as Office and Mass Book. Alison STONES, The Full-Page Miniatures of the Psalter-Hours New York, Morgan Library, M. 729: Programme and Patron. Nigel MORGAN, Patrons and their Devotions in the Historiated Initials and Full-Page Miniatures of Thirteenth-Century English Psalters. Patricia STIRNEMANN, The Copenhagen Psalter. Janet BACKHOUSE, The Psalter of Henry VI. - III. Iconographic Programmes: Celia CHAZELLE: Violence and the Virtuous Ruler in the Utrecht Psalter. Susanne WITTEKIND, Verum etiam sub alia forma depingere. Illuminierte Psalmenkommentare und ihr Gebrauch. Elizabeth A. PETERSON, Scholastic Hermeneutics in Historiated Initials of 13th century French Psalters. Elisabeth KLEMM, Die Darstellung von Heiligen als Thema der Psalterillustration. Michael CAMILLE, Bodies, Names and Gender in a Gothic Psalter. Lucy FREEMAN SANDLER, Word Imagery in English Gothic Psalters: The Case of the Vienna Bohun Manuscript. Myra D. ORTH, The Primacy of the Word in French Renaissance Psalm Manuscripts. - IV. Pictorial Subjects: Anton VON EUW, Die Darstellungen zum 90. (91.) Psalm in der frühmittelalterlichen Psalter- und Evangelienillustration. Harald WOLTER-VON DEM KNESEBECK, Die Beatus-Seiten der sog. thüringisch-sächsischen Malerschule. Harvey STAHL, Bathsheba and the Kings: The Beatus Initial in the Psalter of Saint Louis. - V. Psalters with pictorial bindings: Frauke STEENBOCK, Psalterien mit kostbaren Einbänden. Helmut ENGELHART, Der Hornplatteneinband: Eine charakteristische Form der Einbandgestaltung illuminierter Psalterhandschriften des 13. Jahrhunderts.
This book includes an index of psalter references, a topographical list ca 460 illustrations, and a register of some 800 manuscripts.

Review
"The scholarship involved in the production of the book will remain a fitting monument to the state of research on psalter illumination around the second millennium." (M.A. Michael in The Burlington Magazine, CL, January 2008, p. 37)
Interest Classification:
Book History, Manuscript Studies & Palaeography
Codicology
Illumination & illustration of books
Fine Arts & Performing Arts
Painting
Medieval painting

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