ISOS logo

MS C.9 (Southampton Psalter)

Catalogue description of the Southampton Psalter, St John's College, Cambridge


MRJ number 59

College classmark C.9

Vellum, 10.375 × 7.25, ff. 1 + 98, 30, 31, and 32 lines to a page. 10th cent. ?

(Zimmer says late 10th cent., Bannister says about A. D. 1000), very finely written in an Irish miniscule.

Donor, T. C. S. Priced xls.

From St Martin’s Priory, Dover. At the bottom of f. 3 is:

A:V: Psalterium vetus glosatum ydiomate incognito . . . apprehendite disciplinam . . . 105. . . 1. . .

A similar inscription and mark on the flyleaf. See Ancient Libraries, p. 523, etc.

At top of f. 1b : R. Benet (16th cent.). He seems to have been a mayor of Romney. His name occurs in several other manuscripts in this library.

Collation: 1 flyleaf, 112 212 310 414 (14 canc.)
512 610 (9 canc.) 712 8 10 98.

The first leaf after the flyleaf is numbered 4 in the hand of the Dover librarian, and the numbering runs to 101 in the same hand. The lost leaves at the beginning most likely contained the Prologues.


Frontispiece . . . . . . . . . f. (4)1b

Psalter. Gallican 1-50 . . . . . . . (5)2

After Ps. 50 (Misserere mei) follows:

Deus altissime rex angelorum. deus laus omnium elimentorum. deus

gloria et exultatio sanctorum. custodi animas seruorum tuorum.

qui regnas in secula seculorum amen1.

Benedicte omnia opera.

Confitebor tibi domine (canticum issaiae).

Ego dixi (cant. ezechiae).

f. 35a blank. Frontispiece, 35b.

Ps. 51-100.

After Ps. 100. Deo gratis ago.

Deus quem exercitus canet angelorum. quemque aeclessiae laudat

sanctorum. quem spiritus ymminizat uniuersorum. Misserere

obsecro omnium nostrorum tuorum qui regnas in saecula

saeculorum. Amen.

Canticum annae matris samuelis.

„ mariae sororis moysi.

„ ambacuc prophetae.

Frontispiece . . . . . . . . . . 68b

Ps. 101-150 . . . . . . . . . 69

At end of Ps. 150. Finit. amen. finit.

Te dominum de caelis laudamus. Teque omnium regem regum

rogamus. Tibi uni et trino in quem speramus. Cum excelsis

angelis imnum cantamus. per dominum nostrum 7rl’.

Audite caeli.

Ending 101 (98)a. Verso blank.

There are copious glosses in the book: I seem to distinguish two hands only. The glosses are interlinear and marginal, and are in Latin and Irish.

At top of f. 2 is an indistinct note.

Argumentum . . . incipit (?) prefatio (?).

Then: Psalmus dauid de increpatione abisolon qui erat impius et achithophel.

There is a similar argumentum to each psalm.

The psalms are divided into numbered sections, and the end of a section is apt to be marked with a cross. Thus Ps. 1 is in two sections, the second beginning at Non sic impii, and the last verse having a Response prefixed to it2.

Ps. 2 is thus divided: (1) Quare fremuerunt.

ii Disrumpanus uincula.

iii Ego autem constitutus.

R. Dominus dixit ad me. ??

iv Et nunc reges.

Ps. 3 (1) Domine quid multiplicati.

ii Ego dormiui.

R. Domini est salus.

The Irish glosses have been printed by Zimmer, Whitley Stokes, (Goidelica), and W. Stokes and Strachan, Thesaurus Palaeohibernicus I 4-6 (and xiv). One at the beginning of Ps. 51 (f. 36a) is rendered "Beltane to-day that is Wednesday." Beltane, 1st May, fell on Wednesday 28 times during the 9th and 10th cents. The last four occasions were 972, 978, 989, 995. Some of the forms in the glosses, say the editors of theThesaurus Palaeohibernicus, seem to point to a high antiquity; side by side with these are others of a later cast.

The decoration of the book consists of: a. Three full-page pictures.

b. Three borders (opposite the pictures). c. Decorative initials.

The three pictures are well-known specimens of Irish art and afford most striking examples at once of skill in decoration and total inability to draw figures.

I.f. 1b . Border: yellow frame enclosing panels of beautiful interlaced work (white on black) and serpent patterns (red and white on black): also four circles left blank in C. of sides, and four square panels of ornament at the angles.

The picture shows- Above: David with one hand touching a beast (lion or bear) which is on its hind legs on R. with back turned to him. The figures are surrounded with red dots. Below: David holding the tail of a horned ram on R.

f. 2a has border, with red frame. Eight disks of plain yellow, four squares of yellow at the angles, and panels of serpentine and interlaced ornament.

2.f. 35b Border: yellow frame with panels of interlaced work, and squares and disks in red and vermilion.

The Crucifixion. On the arms of the Cross are two figures with outspread hands who may be meant for the Virgin and John, or two angels3.

Above Christ's head are the head and ? arms of another figure, probably the Father.

There are red dots in the palms of Christ's hands, and indications of two nails in His ankles: the upright of the Cross is not shown.

On L. the man with the reed and sponge (Stephaton): the reed is represented as passing under the bridge of his nose.

On R. Longinus with the spear. The drapery of Christ is purple, and is made into an interlaced pattern under the arms. The arms and legs are coloured red.

Red dots surround the figures.

f. 36 . Border: yellow frame with squares of red and panels of serpentine and interlaced work. Horned beasts occur.

3.f. 68b . Border: yellow frame, squares and disks of yellow, interlaced work in panels.

On L. David holding staff with beast's head and spiked end4.

On R. Goliath, upside down, holding hand to face. A round shield half way down (or up) his body. The draperies of both are mainly purple in bands separated by white lines, and with disks of red and yellow. Red dots about them.

f. 69a . Border: yellow and red frame of bands which project at the angles and middle of sides: fine panels of interlaced and serpentine ornament.

There is a decorative initial to each psalm. The body of these is usually purple-red, or else black, and they are filled with red, yellow, purple or vermilion. The internal ground is sometimes ornamented with disks of yellow, sometimes with interlaced work. They are uniformly surrounded with red dots, and in one or two cases they have been erased. Many terminate in heads of beasts. Each verse has a plain initial in black filled with purple-red or yellow. These colours usually alternate, but sometimes both are employed.

Coloured facsimilies of the pictures are to be found in Professor Westwood's publications, as follows:

In Palaeographia Sacra Pictoria, no. 18. The Crucifixion, and the beginning of Benedicite.

In Miniatures and Ornaments of A. S. and Irish MSS. Pl. xxx. The two other pictures, the border of Ps. i and the beginning of Ps. i and (text, p. 84).

The colours in all these are lighter and brighter than those of the MS.

Uncoloured reproductions are to be found in many text-books on art.

The book was shown at the Burlington Fine Arts Club in 1908: no. 3 in the Catalogue.

  1. On these prayers and the arrangement of the Canticles see an article by the Rev. H. M. Bannister (Irish Psalters) in the Journal of Theol. Studies XII (1910-11), p. 280. 

  2. In the three last Psalms F is prefixed to nearly every verse. 

  3. A very similar picture from a Penitential at S. Gallen, Westwood Miniatures, pl. xxviii, shows these figures clearly as two angels with books. 

  4. Compare a drawing in MS. Cotton Vitellius F. xi, reproduced by Westwood, pl. 51. of sides, and four square panels of ornament at the angles.