Psalter, Use of Norwich, in Latin, illuminated manuscript on parchment

[England, mid-14th century]


 The Norwich Psalter
Click here to see a flat image of these pages

A psalter contains the 150 psalms of the Old Testament, which permeated all aspects of medieval church services. In a psalter they are usually preceded by a calendar indicating the Church feast-days of the year, and followed by a variety of prayers and appeals to God and the saints. Following this standard set of contents this mid-14th-century Psalter would be in general rather unexceptional if it were not for its previous ownership.

In the upper margin of the first page of Psalm 1 is a medieval shelfmark 'A.x' of Norwich Cathedral Priory, indicating that it used to stand on the same shelf as one of the Bodleian Library's greatest illuminated manuscript treasures, the Ormesby Psalter (which has the equivalent Norwich shelfmark 'A.i'). The calendar contains several unusual feast-days, indicating that it was tailored for Norwich when originally written, including the boy-saint St William of Norwich - supposedly a victim of Jewish ritual murder - (24 March), the Dedication of Norwich Cathedral - (24 September, erased, and 1 October), and St Faith - after whom Horsham St Faith, just outside Norwich, is named - (6 October).

The binding is gilt-stamped with the arms, name, and motto of William Latton (1653?-1732?), who was successively a student, Fellow, Dean, Bursar, sub-Warden, and Librarian of the College in the 1670s and '80s. The flyleaves have a family tree tracing Latton's ancestry back to Nicholas Wadham, founder of the College, and although there is no firm evidence that Nicholas ever owned it, this possible connection is the reason it was donated to the College in 1927.

Text kindly provided, especially for this exhibition, by Peter Kidd