The Macclesfield Psalter


Texts and Images

Various subjects were used to illustrate the opening initials of the Psalms marking these main divisions, although many illuminators throughout Western Europe adopted the standard imagery conceived c. 1200 in Paris, the leading centre of manuscript production. The vast majority of 14th-century English Psalters show the images familiar from the Parisian programme. By contrast, with one exception (the initial for Psalm 52, fol. 77r), the Macclesfield Psalter follows an English programme of Psalm illustration that is first found in early 13th-century Psalters associated with Winchester and Oxford. The pictorial cycle includes events from the life of King David (the purported author of the Psalms), Jonah’s encounter with a great fish, images relating to Christ’s Incarnation, and other aspects of biblical history and doctrine. Only three other extant 14th-century Psalters follow the English pictorial programme as consistently: the Gorleston Psalter (London, BL, Add MS 49622), the Ormsby Psalter (Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Douce 366), and the Douai Psalter (Douai, Bibliothèque municipale, MS 313). All three manuscripts are closely related to the Macclesfield Psalter. Lesser text divisions are signalled by smaller ornamental initials with foliate motifs, ‘portrait’ busts, and, occasionally, geometric patterns, and small initials in burnished gold on coloured grounds.

A musician with pipe and drum mounted on a hybrid is depicted in the bas-de-page.

Related content: The Macclesfield Psalter