Original manuscript leaf from a 15th century Italian Choir Psalter, written in dark brown ink animal parchment; rubrics in red. Beneath the text can be seen red four-line staves which were originally prepared for music. ( Size 480 x 355mm – 19 x 14’’)
Italy, c. 1440.
One large (6mm – 2 3/8’’ square) illuminated initial “D” in red and white set on a background of a floral design in blue and white, with the text in rounded gothic lettering.
The text concludes Psalm 19 (King James 20):7-9: “[cae]lo…” ([He will hear him from] his holy heaven: the salvation of his right hand is in powers. Some trust in chariots, & some in horses; but we will call upon the name of the Lord our God. They are bound, and have fallen; but we are risen, and are set upright. O Lord, save the king: and hear us in the day that we shall call upon thee).
The illuminated initial “D” begins Psalm 20 (KJ 21) 1-8: “Domine in…” (In thy strength O Lord, the King shall joy; & in thy salvation he shall rejoice exceedingly. Thou hast given him his heart’s desire: and hast not withholden from him the will of his lips. For thou hast prevented him with blessings of sweetness: thou hast set on his head a crown of precious stones. He asked life of thee: and thou hast given him length of days forever and ever. His glory is great in thy salvation: glory and great beauty shalt thou lay upon him…)
The psalms were central to medieval liturgy, and constituted the core of the Divine Office. In addition to the psalms, a ferial psalter, also known as a choir psalter, contained items of the Divine Office that did not change from day to day, often including the invitatories, antiphons, canticles, short responsories, hymns, and litanies.
As is usual with Medieval and Renaissance parchment, the hair side of the leaf is darker than the flesh side, but may take ink somewhat better. The differences in tone caused scribes to arrange their quires so that the hair side of one sheet faced the hair side of the next, and the flesh side faced the flesh side. There are about 6 letters of text on this leaf with some loss due to the corrosive nature of the ink used.