Les Eluminares


JPEG derived from master file, which was scanned from the original manuscript in 24-bit colour at 600 dpi in TIFF format using an Epson Expression 10000XL scanner




MMS 789


Dimensions: 19.6 x 14.5 cm
117 folios


1. Evidence of the script and decoration suggests a date c. 1240-1260, certainly in Southern Germany, and probably in the diocese of Constance or possibly Augsburg, based on the style of the illumination (discussed below). Liturgical evidence for closer localization is now lacking, since it now ends imperfectly, with most of the litany missing, and there is no calendar. All three of the historiated initials depict saints: St. Michael and the dragon, St. Dominic (1170-1221), and St. Francis (c. 1182-1226). St. Michael is found frequently in German Psalters before Psalm 51, but the presence of both Francis and Dominic is unusual, and is strong evidence that this was made for a lay owner (Klemm, 2004). Francis was canonized almost immediately after his death in 1226; Dominic was canonized in 1234, providing a terminus post quem. It was likely copied not long after this date, however, and the depictions of the two most important saints of the thirteenth century, dating only a few decades, at the most, after their deaths, is significant.

2. The manuscript was carefully corrected by a contemporary; on f. 6, Psalm 7, verses 2 and 8, “meam” was omitted, and supplied in margin; corrections in the same hand, ff. 6v, 46, and 49v, where Psalm 69:4, omitted by the scribe, was also supplied in the upper margin. On f. 65rv, Psalm 88:29, “… In aeternum servabo illi miseridordiam meam” is followed by Ps. 88:35, “et que procedunt de labiis.” The omitted verses were copied in the margin, but with errors, and then more legibly on an inserted quarter sheet, now foliated as f. 66 (on the verso, blank on the recto), to correct the mistake. Eye-skip led the scribe to copy mistakenly Psalm 133:2-3 again after Psalm 134:2; the extra verses were cancelled in red on f. 99.

3. Psalters were traditionally used to teach children to read, and there are signs in this volume that it may have been used in this way. The lower margin of f. 14 was used to practice the alphabet, copied in decorative majuscules, and then erased. On f. 83v, in the lower margin in space left blank at the end of Psalm 108, someone added the beginning of a well-known hymn in a rather unpracticed hand and with a number of mistakes, suggesting that this might have been the work of someone still learning Latin (incipit, “Criste qui lux es et dies nodis tenebras et degis lucis … Precamur sancte domine”); another hand then continued the hymn, breaking off when he (or she) ran out of space, “Defende nos in hac nocte nos tibi reos sta//.”

4. We know that the volume remained in Germany into the fifteenth century (top margin, f. 116, note in German dated 1467, “in dem jar da man zale m ccc vnd jiii lxvii jar do hub ich den halgen ….”). Both the images of St. Francis and St. Dominic are damaged in a way that perhaps suggests deliberate defacement rather than ordinary wear. This is particularly true of St. Francis; the saint’s face, hand, and the book he is holding have been completely obliterated. The image of St. Dominic is less-damaged, but one hand and parts of the robe have been removed. Anti-mendicant feeling was strong in parts of Germany in the fifteenth century. It is even possible that this is evidence of use by a Protestant owner – someone who may also have removed the calendar and most of the Litany of saints.

5. Sold at Sotheby’s, July 10, 1972, lot 81, when it was bought by Sion Segre Amar (Turin, 1910-2003) for the Comites Latentes Collection, Geneva, MS 99; deaccessioned and sold at Sotheby’s, June 20, 1989, lot 40, and December 1, 1998, lot. 69.


37v_St Michael.jpg
1r (tp).jpg
17r (saint).jpg
et misere.jpg


“Psalter,” Digital Exhibits, accessed May 28, 2024,

Item Relations

This item has no relations.

The library is committed to ensuring that members of our user community with disabilities have equal access to our services and resources and that their dignity and independence is always respected. If you encounter a barrier and/or need an alternate format, please fill out our Library Print and Multimedia Alternate-Format Request Form. Contact us if you’d like to provide feedback: