Medieval Writing
Paleography Exercises
Luttrell Psalter (British Library, add. ms. 42130, f.149r), c.1340. By permission of the British Library. Images are made available by the British Library under a Creative Commons licence.

The Luttrell Psalter represents something truly awesome in the development of posh manuscripts produced by private commission, having been produced for Sir Geoffrey Luttrell around 1340. Every page is lavishly decorated and the Gothic textura prescissa script, while bold and legible, is nevertheless painstakingly produced. It is regarded as one of England's national treasures, which may have either delighted, amused or irritated Sir Geoffrey. This page shows the end of Psalm 79 and the beginning of Psalm 80 in the Vulgate version, corresponding to the end of Psalm 80 and the beginning of Psalm 81 in a modern Bible.

The work is famed for its illustrations, which include marvellous historiated initials and marginalia scenes, some of which are Biblical or ecclesiastical scenes, some of which reflect 14th century life on a well managed English estate, and some of which contain the weirdest creatures to be found in a medieval manuscript anywhere.

The dedication page (f.202v) showing Sir Geoffrey Luttrell in full heraldic splendour on his caparisoned horse while his womenfolk gaze worshipfully up at him is the ultimate in impertinence in a liturgical manuscript.
Easter sepulchre Sir Geoffrey's patronage of the arts extended into the built environment as well. His tomb in the parish church of Irnham in Lincolnshire also served as an Easter sepulchre for the church. It exudes the extravagant decoration of the early 14th century in similar fashion to the psalter. If medieval concepts of redemption were right, his immortal soul should have been in good shape.
Tomb and Easter sepulchre made for Sir Geoffrey Luttrell at Irnham, Lincolnshire. Photograph by Margaret Wigley.
Enough of Sir Geoffrey! On with the investigation of the psalter.

| overview | decoration | text | alphabet | abbreviations | exercises |

| transcript | translation |

Click on each of the above to walk your way through a segment of the text. The transcript will appear in a separate window so that you can use it for reference at any time. These exercises are designed to guide you through the text, not test you, so you can cheat as much as you like.
Script sample for this example
Index of Exercises
Index of Scripts

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This site is created and maintained by Dr Dianne Tillotson, freelance researcher and compulsive multimedia and web author. Comments are welcome. Material on this web site is copyright, but some parts more so than others. Please check here for copyright status and usage before you start making free with it. This page last modified 5/7/2014.