The Oldest Datings of the Utrecht Psalter

Rudimentary Palaeography in the Early Seventeenth Century

in Quaerendo
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In the 1620s two attempts were made to date the Utrecht Psalter (c.830, in or around Reims): by its owner Robert Cotton and by the theologian James Ussher. Their results offer an insight into how a collector and a scholar practised palaeography before this became a modern study in the decades around 1700. The Utrecht Psalter, as well as the Cotton Genesis and other manuscripts, were dated in relation to their script, decoration and content. This case study underlines that the history of palaeography and codicology before Mabillon and Montfaucon is worth studying, not only in its own right, but also with regard to the development of humanism and its scholarly networks.

The Oldest Datings of the Utrecht Psalter

Rudimentary Palaeography in the Early Seventeenth Century

in Quaerendo




Koert van der Horst‘The Utrecht Psalter: Picturing the Psalms of David’, ibid., pp. 32-4. For an alternative dating, in the 840s or even later, see Celia Chazelle, ‘Archbishops Ebo and Hincmar of Reims and the Utrecht Psalter’Speculum72 (1997) pp. 1055-77; yet the manuscript is dated c.823 in Dominique Alibert ‘Pécheur avare et injuste: remarques sur la figure du mauvais roi à l’époque carolingienne’ in: Le monde carolingien: bilan perspectives champs de recherches ed. W. Falkowski & Y. Sassier (Turnhout 2010) pp. 123-4.


Colin G.C. Tite‘The Early Catalogues of the Cottonian Library’British Library Journal6 (1980) p. 146.


See Traube art. cit. (n. 2) pp. 25-6; Casamassima art. cit. (n. 4) pp. 559-67. Mabillon continued to use this term. Compare for example Hugo Grotius Syntagma Arateorum opus poeticae et astronomiae studiosis utilissimum (Leiden 1600) Notae ad Germanici phaenomena p. 2 where he considers the script of the Leiden Aratea (Leiden University Library ms vlq 79) not to be litera rotunda Monachis of minimal antiquity nor litera Longobardica of medium antiquity but litera Romana quam Capitalem vocant of many centuries past. The manuscript is now dated in the early ninth century.


Ibid. pp. 271-2; see further below.


Tite art. cit. (n. 13) pp. 268-70. For a general introduction to English humanism and antiquarianism in this period see Graham Parry The Trophies of Time. English Antiquarians of the Seventeenth Century (Oxford 1995).


Birkwood art. cit. (n. 18) pp. 37-8.


Birkwood art. cit. (n. 18) p. 38. Ussher’s letter was already longer known see e.g. Van der Horst & Engelbregt op. cit. (n. 8) pp. 56-7 but it is not mentioned in Van der Horst op. cit. (n. 6) p. 35.


Cf. Knox op. cit. (n. 17) pp. 102-3.


Brown art. cit. (n. 10) pp. 142-4.


Ibid. p. xiii. This resulted in the misguided Sixtine edition of the Vulgate of 1590.


Ussher op. cit. (n. 23: 1647) p. 2. J.N.D. Kelly The Athanasian Creed (The Paddock Lectures for 1962-3; London 1964) p. 4 says that Ussher concluded that the evidence required a much earlier date than that of Vossius ‘about the middle of the fifth century’. However this appears to be Kelly’s own conjecture; Ussher’s own brief discussion does not mention a date for the Athanasian Creed only for the Te Deum. On the manuscripts which contain Quicumque vult see Volker Henning Driscoll ‘Das Symbolum Quicumque als Kompilation augustinischer Tradition’ Zeitschrift für antikes Christentum 11 (2007) pp. 30-56.


Compare Tite op. cit. (n. 12) p. 68 no. 113.13-19 with p. 57 no. 76.1-7 (London bl Harley 6018 ff. 178v-179r and 163r) and also with p. 32 no. 2.14-16 and p. 35 no. 2.78-80 (ff. 148r and 149v; borrowed by Arundel when he was imprisoned in the Tower in May 1621); and p. 36 no. 2.113-14 (f. 150r).


Cf. Sharpe op. cit. (n. 15) pp. 239-40.


Ibid. p. 5 n. 36 (London bl Harley 6018 f. 111r no. 267).


James Carley‘Thomas Wakefield, Robert Wakefield and the Cotton Genesis’Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society12 (2002) pp. 263 and 264 (quote) in an appendix by Colin Tite.


Ibid. pp. 246-65.


Hamper op. cit. (n. 46) p. 302; Van Romburgh op. cit. (n. 46) p. 868 (letter 190). This is clearly a rendering of the Romano habitu figuris as it is noted in the Utrecht Psalter itself and based on one of the manuscript catalogues of the Cotton library (see Tite op. cit. (n. 12) pp. 10-12) rather than on the record of loan by Arundel in what is now London bl Harley 6018 cited above.


Van der Horst op. cit. (n. 6) p. 77.


Hardy op. cit. (n. 23) p. 8.


Van der Horst op. cit. (n. 6) p. 23; Epernay Bibliothèque municipale ms 1 made in Hautvillers near Reims.



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