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THE LUTTRELL PSALTER
Click here to go to the website of the makers of a documentary film about The Luttrell Psalter debuting May 16, 2008

What is a "psalter"? 

"A psalter is a book of psalms, generally written in Latin.   Those produced in the Middle Ages were often great examples of calligraphic art, with remarkable and wide-ranging illustrations.  The Luttrell Psalter, made before the invention of paper, is on vellum:  parchment made from stretched sheepskin.  It was probably created over a period of several years, by a scribe (possibly several ) and a team of illustrators.  The scribe would have used a quill and black ink.  " 
  "History in Action - The Luttrell Psalter"  channel4.com

What is the significance of the "Luttrell Psalter"? 

"The Luttrell Psalter, written and illuminated (illustrated) in England early in the 14th century for Sir Geoffrey Luttrell of Irnham in Lincolnshire, is one of the most famous manuscripts in the world on account of the numerous scenes of everyday life that mingle with the religious images on its pages.   The chief glory of the manuscript lies in the marginal decoration which occurs on well over 200 of its 309 leaves.  Elements of pure fantasy mingle with biblical scenes, figures of saints and vignettes of everyday life.

An illuminated manuscript such as the Luttrell Psalter would have been regarded from its inception as a status symbol, necessitating a considerable investment of funds.  We do not know precisely how such a manuscript would have been used, but the scale of both script and decoration in the Luttrell Psalter suggests that it was intended to be seen by more than its owner alone.  Apart from itsliturgical function, the book may have been employed for teaching, such as instruction in reading. 

If Sir Geoffrey Luttrell's purpose in commissioning his grand Psalter was to provide a permanent memorial to the status enjoyed by his family in his lifetime, he succeded beyond his wildest dreams.  The manuscript has outlived his own branch of the family by more than five centuries and become familiar to thousands as a popular embodiment of the everyday life of his times."

  "The Luttrell Psalter" by Janet Backhouse copr. 1989 The British Library Board.

Who was Sir Geoffrey Luttrell?

He was the great-great-grandson of another Geoffrey Luttrell who was a staunch and valued supporter of King John in the early 13th century.   He was the lord of considerable estates, including substantial estates in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Somerset among others.   Sir Geoffrey Luttrell's wife was Agnes, daughter of Sir Richard Sutton of Sutton-on-Trent and Warsop in Nottinghamshire.  There were several  recorded children of the marriage.  Of those who survived, Andrew was ultimately Sir Geoffrey's heir and ancestor of the Luttrells of Dunster and East Quantockshead.   There was also a son Robert who is named in Sir Geoffrey's will as a Knight of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem in England.  There was a daughter, Elizabeth, who became the bride of the second Sir Walter de Gloucester.  Another daughter, Isabella, became a nun at Sempringham.

"The Luttrell Psalter" by Janet Backhouse copr. 1989 The British Library Board


The dedication plate of the Luttrell Psalter shows Sir Geoffrey Luttrell, mounted and in full armor, being attended by his wife, Agnes de Sutton and his daughter-in-law, Beatrice le Scrope.
"Harrowing".  Note the Luttrell arms displayed in the right hand margin.
"Luttrell family at table".  Sir Geoffrey, accompanied by his wife, two sons and his daughter-in-law, entertains two Dominican friars.

All images on this page are
Copyright 1989 The British Library Board
Click  to see enlarged image
Click on one of the links below for a very impressive "turn the page" examination of The Luttrell Psalter - provided by the British Library
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