Medieval manuscripts in Dutch Collections
Medieval manuscripts in Dutch Collections

The Utrecht Psalter

Psalter. Latin. Parchment, 91 ff., 330x255 mm. Benedictine monastery of St. Peter, Hautvillers near Reims, c. 820-835. Utrecht, UB : Cat. 32 / 1

A fine question for Trivial Pursuit: What is the most important and most valuable medieval manuscript to be found in the Netherlands? Experts would probably know the answer: the Utrecht Psalter. An absolute masterpiece of medieval art, in which old and new, as well as text and illustration, meet in an extraordinary combination of different styles and influences.

The manuscript was produced between c. 820 and 835 in the Benedictine monastery Hautvillers (near Reims) for archbishop Ebbo. The 166 sketchy illustrations accompanying the psalms and cantica form both in concept and realization a highlight of Carolingian book production. Together with the script they point back to examples from late Antiquity and strike the eye in the innovative way in which they bring the lyrics to life.

This impressive composition was imitated in other manuscripts in both England and France, where the Psalter then resided. Much later, it came into the possession of the well known collector Robert Cotton, who lent it to his friend Thomas Howard, count of Arundel. The latter probably brought the manuscript in 1642 to the Netherlands. After changing hands several times, the Psalter was finally in 1716 bequeathed to the Library of the University of Utrecht, where it is now the crowning glory of the collection.

See also

  • A psalter from Royal libraries

    Psalter. Latin, Parchment, 185 ff., 245x177 mm. Northern England, 1190-1200. Leiden, UB : ms. BPL 76 A

  • Flemish surgical instruments

    Small manual for a surgeon, based on the Cyrurgie by Meester Jan Yperman (incomplete). Flemish. Paper, 130x95 mm. Flanders, last quarter of the 15th century. Leiden, UB : ms. BPL 3094

  • The Zwolle bible

    Bible. Latin. Parchment, 6 volumes, c. 530x390 mm. Brethren of the Common Life, Zwolle, 1464-1476. Utrecht, UB : Cat 31 and 15.C.11

  • A child’s alphabet

    Alphabet and prayers. Latin. Parchment, 4 ff., 208x151 mm. South Holland, c. 1480. The Hague, MM : ms. 10 D 34

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