The psalter here printed for the first time provides a good example of historical continuity. It was written in the later tenth century in South-Western England, probably at the fashionable nunnery of Shaftesbury, and continued in use there for more than three hundred years. Long after the Norman Conquest, about the beginning of the twelfth century, it was thought worth while to copy into it an interlinear Old English translation which again goes back to the tenth century, a great formative period in English history.
Because a word-for-word rendering has no literary quality, the gloss is printed as it stands in the manuscript, so that a reader may follow the vagaries of the scribe--his hesitations, errors, inconsistencies, and the adjustments he made to the speech of his own day. The Latin text, which has claims to be the earliest extant example of a Gallican psalter produced in England as a service-book, is dealt with more summarily, but what is recorded in text and footnotes should enable a student of psalter texts to examine the original readings and the changes that were made in later use.
The Introduction is intended to make the texts usable, rather than to be exhaustive. It gives some orientation in subjects that are not much studied, and some facts that are perhaps curious rather than essential. We have tried to indicate the variety of interest to be found in the Salisbury Psalter. When other manuscripts are cited, even if their texts are published, we have almost always gone to them direct. Conjectural dates are assigned to them on a uniform basis; and manuscripts are preferred whose place of origin can be named with fair probability. This procedure makes for precision in the statement of facts. It does not simplify the theory of early English dialects.
Editing has been a partnership, but the work has been exceptionally discontinuous. K. S. began it at Professor Napier's suggestion before the First World War, and abandoned it in 1915. A research fellowship at Lady Margaret Hall enabled C. S. to take it up again in 1953, and we have finished it jointly. We share responsibility for all parts of the book, but C. S. is primarily responsible for the text, footnotes, and §§ 25-80 of the Introduction; K. S. for the rest.
Our thanks are due to the Dean and Chapter of Salisbury Cathedral, who have made it possible for both of us almost to live with their finest manuscript over long periods; and to their librarians, the late . . .