Medieval manuscripts blog

Bringing our medieval manuscripts to life

20 September 2013

The Luscious Luttrell Psalter

At long last, every glorious page of the Luttrell Psalter, bursting with medieval vitality, is available on our Digitised Manuscripts site here: Add MS 42130.

A page from the Luttrell Psalter, showing a historiated initial of King David playing the harp.
Historiated initial 'B'(eatus vir) of King David playing the harp, at the beginning of Psalm 1, from the Luttrell Psalter, England (Lincolnshire), c. 1320-1340, Add MS 42130, f. 13r

The Luttrell Psalter is justifiably considered one of the British Library’s greatest treasures.  It was created c. 1320-1340 in Lincolnshire, England, and takes its name from its first owner and patron, Sir Geoffrey Luttrell (1276-1345).  The Luttrell Psalter is perhaps best known for its wild profusion of marginal and hybrid creatures as well as its hundreds of bas-de-page illuminations (stay tuned for a blog post on these subjects!).  Many of these contain some remarkable and detailed scenes of daily life in the rural medieval England of the 14th century.  

Please have a look through the Luttrell Psalter online; we are always interested to hear about what you find compelling.  Feel free to tag us in some of your finds on Twitter @BLMedieval.  Here are a (very) few of our favourite images from this magnificent manuscript:

A detail from the Luttrell Psalter, showing an illustration of Sir Geoffrey Luttrell mounted on a horse led by his wife and daughter-in-law.
Sir Geoffrey Luttrell, mounted in full regalia, attended by his wife and daughter-in-law.  The elaborate display of family heraldry leaves the observer in no doubt as to the power and importance of this family.  However, the fish-like creature above is unimpressed; note the grimace on his orange face!  From the Luttrell Psalter, England (Lincolnshire), c. 1320-1340, Add MS 42130, f. 202v

A marginal illustration of a hybrid creature from the Luttrell Psalter.
There is always something new to discover in the marginalia.  This artist had real imagination – say no more!  From the Luttrell Psalter, England (Lincolnshire), c. 1320-1340, Add MS 42130, f. 27r

A detail from the Luttrell Psalter, showing a marginal illustration of a lady and her handmaiden.
Scenes from daily life in the 14th  century: a young lady at the ‘hair salon’. The creature on the right doesn’t seem to think much of her new hairstyle!  From the Luttrell Psalter, England (Lincolnshire), c. 1320-1340, Add MS 42130, f. 63r

A decorated page from the Luttrell Psalter.
Every page is a feast for the eyes:  this one containing part of Psalm 6 does not have the largest or most impressive images. But the ensemble: the regular gothic script (most letters requiring at least 4 pen-strokes), the gorgeous pastel colours of the borders and decorations, with splashes of luminous gold, and the matching shapes of the three elongated creatures providing amusement and focus, all combine to create a satisfying and harmonious whole.  From the Luttrell Psalter, England (Lincolnshire), c. 1320-1340, Add MS 42130, f. 18v

And if you want to see the Luttrell Psalter ‘in the flesh’, please visit our Treasures Exhibition in the Sir John Ritblat Gallery at the British Library, where it is on display with many other treasures from our collections.

Chantry Westwell


Try as much as I can, I cannot view the digitised copy. Please can someone advise how to?

Excellent news - the Luttrell is a treasure trove for medievalists. I did find a problem with the linked page though - - somehow it only links to the digitzed cover and bindings of the psalter. The link that did work for me was -


Dear Marcher,

First, go to the link for Add MS 42130 on Digitised Manuscripts:

Then, click on the image icon in the catalogue entry, and that should launch the viewer in a separate window. Or else try this link: and you can then navigate around in the viewer.

Hope this helps! SJB

Marvellous to be able to enjoy every page at leisure! One query - why is Michael Camille's "Mirror in Parchment" not included in the bibliography

Dear JMT,

Thanks for the catch on the bibliography! I passed this along to the cataloguer, and the Camille reference has been added to the record for Luttrell. I've just now republished it to Digitised Manuscripts, and it is included there as well. Many thanks, SJB

I am new to this world of Medieval manuscripts which I find fascinating. They have such a human touch and are so full of spirit.

I love the way the Virgin Mary is breast feeding her son.

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