Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The World of the Luttrell Psalter

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The World of the Luttrell Psalter

Article excerpt

The World of the Luttrell Psalter. By Michelle P. Brown. (London: British Library, distributed by the University of Chicago Press. 2006. Pp. 96. $ 9-95 paperback.)

In 2006 the British Library published a complete facsimile of the Luttrell Psalter, arguably the most famous fourteenth-century English illuminated manuscript, with an extensive commentary by Michelle P Brown. In The World of the Luttrell Psalter, published at the same time as the facsimile (and distributed in the United States by the University of Chicago Press in 2007), the digital photos and Brown's introductory text have been redeployed, but her page-bypage descriptive commentary has been omitted. The result is a low-cost introduction to the manuscript, intended to be readily available to a wide public.

The focus of Brown's text is on the Luttrell Psalter as a speculum, a mirror of "real life" in fourteenth-century England, as it was experienced by the Luttrells, a wealthy land-owning knightly family. "Real life" encompasses not only the marginal genre scenes of peasants and their Luttrell lords that are the most well-known illustrations in the psalter, but other marginal images rich in contemporary political, moral, and religious meanings, some with recognizable human protagonists and some whose actors are "disguised" in the form of fantastic grotesque creatures threatening the stability of the Luttrell world. …

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