Saturday, 3 March 2012

Psalms and Psalters

This is how I've just spent a happy afternoon, and I recommend it as a strategy for cheerfulness: pick a psalm, and then go to the British Library website and look at the illustration of it in the Harley Psalter. This manuscript, produced at Canterbury at the beginning of the eleventh century, has lots and lots of superb line-drawings which illustrate scenes from the psalms, and they're just delightful. The pictures are full of detail and so at first glance look disorganised, but once you have the text of the psalm to compare them to, they make perfect sense.

So for instance: spot the 'pelican in the wilderness' and the 'sparrow on the housetop' in this illustration of Psalm 102, and the angels building up Jerusalem (they look very serious about it).

These were some I particularly enjoyed:

'The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats, and so are the stony rocks for the conies' (Psalm 104). Who knew Anglo-Saxons were so good at drawing goats and lions?

Standard-bearing angels in a dramatic illustration of Psalm 103

In this illustration of Psalm 105, spot Joseph with his feet in the stocks, looking just as if the iron entered into his soul!

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills...

People sowing in tears and reaping in joy

A dynamic battle scene

Gorgeous angel-wings

And so on, and so on. Have fun!


Priscilla said...

I love this! In one my of classes we spent a bit of a day just leafing through some reproductions of psalters. So rich!

Clerk of Oxford said...

That sounds like a fun class! I don't know why it hadn't occurred to me to do this before when there are so many good reproductions online.