The Ormesby Psalter is perhaps the most magnificent yet enigmatic of the great Gothic psalters produced in East Anglia in the first half of the fourteenth century. Its pages boast a wealth of decoration picked out in rich colours and burnished gold, and its margins are inhabited by a vibrant crew of beasts, birds and insects. Fantastic imagery proliferates: musicians, mermaids, lovers and warriors are juxtaposed with scenes from everyday life, from chivalric legend, and from folk-tales, fables and riddles.
The psalter takes its name from Robert of Ormesby, subprior at Norwich Cathedral Priory in the 1330s. He was not the first owner, however, and it has long been acknowledged that the writing, decoration and binding of the book took place in a series of distinct phases from the late thirteenth to the mid-fourteenth century. The final result was the work of four or five scribes and up to seven illuminators and its pages show a panorama of stylistic development. Unravelling its complexities has sometimes been thought to hold the key to understanding the `East Anglian School', a group of large, luxury manuscripts connected with Norwich Cathedral and Norfolk churches and patrons.
This book casts an entirely new light on its history, not only clarifying and dating the successive phases of production, but associating the main work on the manuscript with the patronage of John de Warenne, Earl of Surrey, one of the greatest magnates of the time.
It is extensively illustrated with full-page colour reproductions of the manuscript's main decorated folios, as well as many smaller initials and numerous comparative illustrations.
Frederica C.E. Law-Turner is a specialist in illuminated manuscripts and J. Clawson Mills Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Table of Contents Introduction Modern History Medieval Owners The Book as a Book The Puzzle Making the Ormesby Psalter The First Campaign The Second Campaign: Bardolfs, Foliots and the Earl of Surrey The Jesse Master The Ormesby Master The Third Campaign: Robert of Ormesby and Norwich Cathedral Priory The Earl of Ufford and the Final Campaign The Ormesby Psalter: main liturgical divisions Further Reading List of illustrations Picture credits Appendix Description of the manuscript Provenance Index