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les Enluminures

Psalter (Premonstratensian use)

In Latin, illuminated manuscript on parchment, with (added) musical notation
Northwestern Germany (diocese of Cologne), c. 1270-1280

TM 1020

270 folios on parchment, modern foliation in pencil, 1-270, complete (collation i13 [quire of 12 with a singleton added at the end] ii-xx12 xxi10 [-10, cancelled blank after f. 250] xxii-xxiii8 xxiv4), no catchwords or signatures, ruled in brown ink until f. 250 (justification 74 x 47 mm.), written by three different scribes in brown ink in gothic textualis bookhand on 17 lines, originally the manuscript included quires 1-xxi, ff. 1-250, in the early fourteenth century new texts were added on the space left blank on ff. 248v-250v and on the added leaves (not ruled), prickings visible in the outer margins, 2-line initials in red or blue with contrasting penwork flourishing beginning psalms and other texts, twenty-one 3- to 6-line initials in burnished gold on grounds painted in dark pink and blue decorated with white penwork, ONE ILLUMINATED INITIAL, 7-lines, opening the psalms, chants added in the margins in fourteenth-century textualis hand and hufnagelschrift notation, a small tear in the outer margin of f. 173, occasional flaking of the pigment and gold of initials, thumbing, otherwise in excellent condition. Bound in the sixteenth century in calf over wooden boards blind-tooled with a roll with heads in profile, lacking clasps and catches, worn at joints, otherwise in excellent condition. Dimensions 103 x 75 mm.

Charming example of an illuminated liturgical Psalter, certainly owned by women in the seventeenth century, and perhaps made for Premonstratensian nuns. This small volume, still in a fine early binding, includes an initial of David playing his harp painted in an elegant style close to that of the Cologne illuminator Johannes von Valkenburg, known for two Graduals completed in 1299. It includes musical notation added in the fourteenth century in the characteristically German Hufnagelschrift and bears a distinguished modern provenance.


1. Details of the script and penwork initials allow dating the manuscript to around 1270-1280.  A number of Cologne feasts in the calendar suggest that the Psalter was made for use in Cologne or its diocese: specifically, Pantaleon (28 July), Gereon (10 Oct) and Cunibert (12 Nov), with the feast for the 11,000 Virgins (21 Oct) in red. The litanies include Maternus and Ursula of Cologne. The Office of the Dead is for use of the Premonstratensians, indicating that the manuscript was made for an abbey or priory of that order.  Prayers using both masculine and feminine forms suggest this could have been made for a double monastery of canons and nuns, which in reality were usually predominantly female (or even for Premonstratensians nuns).

In the diocese of Cologne the Premonstratensian monasteries were Steinfeld, Dünnwald, Knechsteden, Reichenstein, Wenau, Hamborn, Bedburg, Langwaden, Scheda, Berentrop, Füssenich, Niederehe, Meer, Flaesheim, Wedinghausen, Oelinghausen, Rumbeck, Ellen, St. Katharina Dortmund, Köln Weiher and Schillingskapellen, all founded in the twelfth century, and Elsey, founded in the thirteenth century. The Premonstratensian monastery of Heinsberg in the diocese of Liège was also closely connected to the houses in the diocese of Cologne. Steinfeld, Knechsteden, Hamborn, Scheda, Berentrop and Wedinghausen housed primarily male religious, while the others were largely women’s monasteries. The Order of the Canons Regular of Prémontré was founded in 1120 by Norbert of Xanten. The Premonstratensians are not monks but canons regular, whose work involves preaching and pastoral ministry, often in parishes close to their abbeys.

2. Margarita Geissin: ownership inscription in a seventeenth-century German hand, noting that the manuscript was given to her by “Jungfer girdffries sinivin” on f. 268.

3. Anna Elisabet von Hahfelt: ownership inscriptions in a seventeenth-century German hand on ff. 250v, 255v, 256v, 261v, 264v and 265v.

4. Leander van Ess (1772-1847), theologian, former monk of Marienmünster in Paderborn; his ownership inscription is on f. 1. Leander van Ess was born as Johann Heinrich van Ess, and adopted the name Leander in 1790, when he became a monk at Marienmünster in 1790. He remained at the monastery until 1803, when it was secularized. He served as a Catholic pastor and Professor of Theology at Marburg from 1812-1822, and then retired to Darmstadt, where he died in 1847. A distinguished biblical scholar, known for his translation of the New Testament into German, van Ess was also an important collector of books and manuscripts. His collection was assembled primarily of manuscripts from suppressed religious houses, especially from the Rhineland and Cologne (see Knaus 1959 and Gatch 1996). Sir Thomas Phillipps bought the manuscript with the van Ess library in 1824.

5. Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872); his manuscript number 494. Bought at his sale, Sotheby’s, 23 May 1913, lot 1019 by Sidney Young.

6. Sidney Young, F.S.A. (1843-1914); his sale, Sotheby’s, July 20, 1921, lot 929 (bought by ‘Tyler’).

7. Robert N. Green-Armytage (d. 1966; English lawyer); his book-label inside the front cover.

8. Sotheby’s, July 8, 1957, lot 70, and Sotheby’s, December 1,1998, lot 74.


ff. 1v-13, Calendar, including Aldegonde of Maubeuge (30 Jan), Brigid of Kildare (1 Feb), Castor of Karden, whose relics were translated to what became the Basilica St. Castor at Koblenz (13 Feb), Polychronius, Bishop of Babylon (17 Feb), Susanne, virgin martyr (19 Feb), Gertrude the Great (16 Mar), Ludger, bishop of Münster and founder of Werden Abbey in the diocese of Cologne (26 Mar), Balbina, virgin martyr whose relics were in part in Cologne (31 Mar), Ursmar of Lobbes, missionary bishop in the Meuse and Ardennes and the first abbot of Lobbes Abbey in Hainaut (17 Apr), Torquatus of Acci (15 May), Symeon of Trier (1 Jun), Alban, whose shrine is at Saint Pantaleon’s church in Cologne (20 Jun), Kilian of Würzburg (8 Jul), Pantaleon, to whom is dedicated the former monastery church in Cologne, the oldest of the saint’s cult in the West (28 July), Bernard of Clairvaux, a friend of Norbert of Xanten, the founder of the Premonstratensians (26 Aug), Remaclus, bishop of Maastricht (3 Sept), Two Ewalds, English martyrs enshrined in the church of Saint Cunibert in Cologne (3 Oct), Gereon of Cologne, to whom is dedicated the collegiate church, next in rank to the cathedral, in Cologne, and whose remains were discovered by Norbert of Xanten, the founder of the Premonstratensians, in 1121 (10 Oct), Willibrord, first bishop of Utrecht (7 Nov), Cunibert, bishop of Cologne (12 Nov), and Othmar, first abbot at St. Gall (15 Nov);

Despite the numerous Cologne saints present here, we note that four important Cologne feasts were not included: Maurinus of Cologne, abbot and martyr (10 Jun), Heribert, archbishop of Cologne (16 Mar), the translation of the relics of the Three Kings to Cologne Cathedral (23 July), and Maternus, the first bishop of Cologne  (13 Sept; Maternus is included in the litanies).

f. 13v, [originally let blank, with later medieval additions; an antiphon on the Exaltation of the Cross], incipit, “Salvator mundi salva nos qui per crucem et sanquinem redemisti nos auxiliare nobis te deprecamur deus noster”; [prayer of the virgin martyrs], incipit, “Deus qui inter cetera potencie tuer miracula eciam in sexu fragili ...”;

ff. 14-209v, Psalter, complete with the 150 psalms. Psalms 149 and 150 follow Psalm 148 in continuous verses, without penwork initials marking the beginnings;

ff. 209v-226v, Liturgical canticles for Lauds on weekdays: Confitebor tibi domine (Isaiah 12: 1-6) for Monday; Ego dixi in dimidio (Isaiah 38: 10-21) for Tuesday; Exultavit cor meum (1 Samuel 2: 1-10) for Wednesday; Cantemus domino (Exodus 15: 1-19) for Thursday; Domine audivi (Habakkuk 3: 1-19) for Friday; Audite celi que loquar (Deut. 32: 1-43) for Saturday; Benedicite omnia opera (Daniel 3: 57-88, 56) for Sunday; followed by Magnificat sung at Vespers and Nunc dimittis sung at Compline, and the Athanasian Creed, Quicunque Vult.

ff. 226v-234v, Litanies, followed by prayers with Eucharius, the first bishop of Trier, Maternus, the first bishop of Cologne, and Servatius, the patron saint of Maastricht, among the confessors. Genevieve of Paris and Ursula of Cologne are included among the virgins;

ff. 234v-248v, Office of the Dead, for Premonstratensian use (cf. Ottosen, see Online resources);

ff. 248v-257v, [Passion sequence according to St. Mark (Mark 14:1-15:46; excludes final verse 47), copied by scribe two in the early fourteenth century], incipit, “In illo tempore. Erat pascha et azyma post biduum...”;

ff. 257v-264, [Passion sequence according to St. John (John 18:1-19:42), copied by scribe two in the early fourteenth century], incipit, “In illo tempore. Egressus ihesus cum discipulis suis trans torrentem cedron, ubi erat ortus, in quem introivit ipse, et discipuli eius...”.

ff. 264v-268, [verses for the Resurrection, copied by scribe two in the early fourteenth century], incipit, “Hec est dies quam fecit dominus ...”;

ff. 268v-270v, [copied by scribe 3 in the early fourteenth century; Office for the Resurrection Sunday at matins and lauds], incipit, “In die resurrectionis domini ....”

The original part of the manuscript consisted of quires i-xxi, ff. 1-250, which were ruled in brown ink. The first quire is irregular, with one leaf added at the end of a senion (12 leaves), thus allowing each calendar month to be written on an opening. The last quire of this original part is also irregular, consisting of nine leaves, with the last removed from a quinion (10 leaves); its stub is visible after f. 250. The excised leaf was blank, as the text ended on f. 248v. Later, in the early fourteenth century, new texts were added by two scribes on the space left blank on ff. 248v-250v and on the added leaves (not ruled).


The initials in burnished gold mark major divisions of the psalms according to the common 8-fold division, singling out the first psalm at Matins for each day of the week and the first psalm at Sunday Vespers. These are psalms 1 (f. 14), 26 (f. 45), 38 (f. 63v), 52 (f. 81v), 68 (f. 99v), 80 (f. 122), 97 (f. 144) and 109 (f. 166). In addition, psalm 51 is singled out with a burnished gold initial (f. 81), reflecting an older tradition of dividing the Psalter into three parts, although in our manuscript psalm 101 did not receive an initial in gold. In addition, there are twelve KL-initials in the calendar in burnished gold on grounds painted in red, blue, pink and green, decorated with white penwork. The use of green, alongside red and blue, for line-endings in the litanies is noteworthy.

The fine Beatus initial opening the psalms depicts David playing his harp. The burnished gold initial lies on a dark pink ground highlighted with white penwork. David is dressed in a green tunic, a red shirt, and a dark pink cloak with yellow lining that falls in simple, soft folds, effortlessly painted with thick strokes in black.  This initial anticipates the style of the work of the Franciscan friar and illuminator Johannes von Valkenburg, who was active in Cologne and is known from two Graduals he signed and completed in 1299 (Cologne, Erzbishchöfliche Diözesanbibliothek, HS 1b; Bonn, Universitätsbibliothek, MS S. 384). The colors, as well as the figure style, especially David’s graceful fingers and facial features, are close to this artist’s style.  The white tendrils decorating the dark pink background of our initial have distinct tripartite branches; this detail in the penwork finds a direct parallel in his work.  Some differences in style should, however, be noted (perhaps largely due to the very small scale of our initial). The image of David contains fewer pictorial details and modelling, most notably in the drapery folds that are drawn in stylized parallel lines, without depicting the varied movement or angles of the fabric.

The weekly recitation of the one hundred and fifty psalms was the heart of the Divine Office said by members of religious orders, and this Psalter was used by Premonstratensians (perhaps by nuns, or within a double monastery of both canons and nuns, which in reality were predominantly female) during its early history.  By the seventeenth century it was owned by two German women, who left their names in the book, suggesting the possibility of continued devotional use by women, but in this case by lay women. Psalters were the primary book for private, lay devotion before the thirteenth century. In the thirteenth century and later, their popularity was eclipsed by Books of Hours in many parts of Europe, but in German-speaking countries, however, Psalters continued to be the primary book for the laity.

Our manuscript, a classic example of a small liturgical Psalter used by nuns, is also of interest to students of music in the Premonstratensian rite, since its text was adapted for use in chanting the Divine Office.  Annotations in the margins, adjacent to the beginnings of most of the psalms, indicate the music for the antiphons that precede these psalms. For instance, in the margin next to Psalm 26, “Dominus illuminatio mea,” the first psalm sung at Matins on Monday, is written the invitatory “Jubilemus deo salutari nostro,” followed by the antiphon “Dominus defensor vite mea,” including the music written in hufnagelschrift notation (f. 45). The hufnagel neumes were developed by German scribes and employed in Germany in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The name derives from the German word for horseshoe nails, which the notes resemble.


Avril, F. and C. Rabel. Manuscrits enluminés d’origine germanique, Paris, 1995.

Backmund, N. Monasticon Praemonstratense, 3 vols, Straubing, 1949-1956.

Backmund, N. Geschichte des Prämonstratenserordens, Grafenau, 1986.

Büttner, F., ed. The Illuminated Psalter, Studies in the Content, Purpose and Placement of its Images, Turnhout, 2005.

Corley, B. Painting and Patronage in Cologne 1300-1500, Turnhout, 2000.

Dyer, J. “The Bible in the medieval liturgy, c. 600-1300,” The New Cambridge History of the Bible, vol. 2, ed. R. Marsden and E. Matter, Cambridge, 2012, pp. 659-679. 

Gatch, M. ed. ‘So Precious a Foundation’: The Library of Leander van Ess at the Burke Library of Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, New York, 1996.

Geh, H.-P. and G. Römer, Mittelalterliche Andachtsbücher: Psalterien, Stundenbücher, Gebetbücher: Zeugnisse europäischer Frömmigkeit, Karlsruhe, 1992.

Gehle, B. Die Praemonstratenser in Köln und Dünnwald: Eine Würdigung ihres Wirkens im Rahmen der Rechtsentwicklung vom hohen Mittelalter bis in die Neuzeit, Amsterdam, 1978.

Kirschbaum, J. “Ein Kölner Chorbuch des frühen 14. Jahrhunderts,” Vor Stefan Lochner: Die Kölner Maler von 1300-1430, Cologne, 1974, pp. 76-80.

Knaus, H. “Die Handschriften des Leander van Ess,” Archiv für Geschichte des Buchwesens 1 (1959), pp. 331-336.

Leroquais, V. Les psautiers manuscrits latins des bibliothèques publiques de France, Maçon, 1940-1941.

Neel, C. “Women Religious and the Extraregulars: Premonstratensian Nuns and the Beguines,” Les religieuses dans le cloître et dans le monde, Saint-Étienne, 1994, pp. 549-558.

Oliver, J. “A Primer of Thirteenth-Century German Convent Life: The Psalter as Office and Mass Book,” The Illuminated Psalter Studies in the Content, Purpose and Placement of its Images, ed. F. Büttner, 2004, Turnhout, pp. 259-270.

Petit, F. L’ordre de Prémontré, Paris, 1927.

Petit, F. La spiritualité des Prémontrés aux xii et xiii siècles, Paris, 1947.

Plotzek, J. Andachtsbücher des Mittelalters aus Privatbesitz, Cologne, 1987

Plotzek-Wederhake, G. “Zur Stellung der Bibel aus Gross St. Martin innerhalb der Kölner Buchmalerei um 1300,” Vor Stefan Lochner: Die Kölner Maler von 1300-1430, Cologne, 1974, pp. 62-75.

Van Deusen, N., ed. The Place of the Psalms in the Intellectual Culture of the Middle Ages, Albany, 1999.

Wolbrink, S. “Women in the Premonstratensian order of Northwestern Germany, 1120-1250,” The Catholic Historical Review 89 (2003), pp. 387-408.

Online Resources

Online version of K. Ottosen. The Responsories and Versicles of the Latin Office of the Dead

Calendoscope, IRHT-CNRS, Paris http://calendoscope.irht.cnrs.fr/

Gatch, M. “The book collections of Leander van Ess”

Consuelo Dutschke and Susan Boynton, (Introduction to liturgical manuscripts), “Celebrating the Liturgy’s Books”

International website of the Order of Prémontré (includes both primary and secondary sources relevant to the history and liturgy of the Order)

Premonstratensian Houses in Germany

TM 1020