With a little help from our Friends: the Audley Psalter

Psalterium, first half of 15th century, Lambeth Palace Library MS 3285, The Audley Psalter

This year is the fiftieth anniversary of the foundation of the Friends of Lambeth Palace Library. During the past half-century the Friends have been very generous in helping the Library acquire books, manuscripts and prints of the highest quality for its collections. Of all the wonderful items which the Friends have helped us to acquire one of our particular favourites is the Audley Psalter. Acquired in 1982 it represented the first addition to the Library’s collection of illuminated medieval manuscripts since the 18th century. It was written and illuminated in England in the first half of the 15th century but has 16th century additions and its illuminated title-page dates from the 19th century.

King David with Harp

The end of the Calendar and the start of the Psalms with King David playing his Harp. LPL MS 3285 ff. 6v.-7r.

It once belonged to Edmund Audley (d.1524) who, when Bishop of Salisbury (1502-24), gave it to his niece Anne Audley, then a nun at Shaftesbury Abbey. There is an ex dono inscription on f.191 which reads:

Liber iste pertinet domine Anne Awdeley, moniali monasterii shaston’, ex dono reverendi domini domini (sic) Edmundi Awdeley, Sarum episcopi as avvnculi predicte domine.

Ex dono inscription from Bishop to Audley to his niece. LPL MS 3285 f.191

Ex dono inscription from Bishop to Audley to his niece. LPL MS 3285 f.191

The name Anne Awdeley also appears on f.2. In her turn, Anne gave it  to the convent and it is one of only a handful of manuscripts that survive from the Abbey library.

It is very attractively decorated and, as well as a number of accomplished borders, it also contains eight historiated 5 to 6-line initials, most of which depict King David, the traditional author of the Psalms. These are: David playing the harp ; David slaying the Lion ; David and Goliath ; the Annointing of David ; David in the waters ; David before the Ark and David with a group of clerics before a lectern. The final initial is a representation of the Trinity. They may not be of the highest artistic quality but they are lovely just the same.

David and Goliath. Note the sling in David's hand. f.61v.

David and Goliath. Note the sling in David’s hand. LPL MS 3285, f.61v.

We are grateful for the support of the Friends of Lambeth Palace Library and over in the coming year we will be presenting more treasures from our collections which they have helped us acquire.

Further reading

David N. Bell, What nuns read: books and libraries in medieval English nunneries (Cistercian Publications,1995)

J. Luxford, The Art and Architecture of English Benedictine Monasteries, 1300-1540: A Patronage History (Boydell, 2005)

Richard W. Pfaff, The liturgy in medieval England: a history (CUP, 2009)

Kathleen L. Scott, Later Gothic Manuscripts, 1390-1490 (Survey of manuscripts illuminated in the British Isles, Vol. 6) (Brepols,1996)

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