Historiated Letter B Psalm 1

To illustrate the uniqueness of the Ramsey psalter, I include this description  for the initial of psalm 1.

The standard subject for the Initial starting Psalm 1, is David playing the harp, but in the Ramsey psalter David is displaced to the upper right margin. Within the initial itself is a crowded scene which can be described as follows: a King holding a fluer-de-lis topped staff sits uneasily on a throne – either about to sit down or about to get up. On the far right a young attendant, armed with a shield with frog insignia, presents the King with a spear. Behind these two figures is a crowd of on-lookers. On the left side of the of the scene the figures in another group raise their hands in salutation of the Lord, who appears above on the central axis, blessing and holding the globe. Finally, in the finials of the initial frame are personifications of the Church and Synagogue.

This composition is a literal illustration of the first and second verses of Psalm 1: ‘Blessed is the man who hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the chair of pestilence. But his will is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he shall meditate day and night.’ The King on the right turns to listen to the counsels of the ungodly, whose sinfulness is symbolised by the frog on the shield, while he hesitatingly sits in the chair of pestilence. At the left, the figures accept the law of the Lord, and there is further allusion to this law, or rather the Old Law and the New Law, in the personification of Church and Synagogue.

Such detailed , literal illustrations of the first psalm are of the greatest rarity in Gothic psalters.