Utrecht University Library's unique medieval manuscript
Utrecht Psalter nominated for UNESCO list
The Utrecht Psalter, which is currently owned by the Utrecht University Library, has been nominated for UNESCO's Memory of the World Register. Early October 2015, UNESCO will decide whether the medieval manuscript will be given a place in this documentary heritage register. Dating back to the ninth century, the Utrecht Psalter is one of the most valuable manuscripts held in a Dutch collection. A digitised version of the manuscript is published online for public viewing via www.utrechtpsalter.nl.
The Utrecht Psalter contains 150 psalms and 16 biblical hymns, which are illustrated in a style revolutionary for its time. The book was written somewhere in or around Reims, France, at the start of the ninth century and was then held in England for a time before ending up in Utrecht. In 1716, it was donated to the Utrecht University Library, which has housed the book ever since.
UNESCO's prestigious Memory of the World Register is the only list of documentary heritage in existence. The list includes a total of nine documents from Dutch libraries, including the Diary of Anne Frank and Marx's manuscripts Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital.
166 pen drawings
The eloquence of the Utrecht Psalter shines through in 166 pen drawings accompanying each of the psalms and biblical hymns, with a content and style which have been described as nervous, dynamic, surreal and baroque. At times, the images have been compared to the work of Jeroen Bosch. The manuscript was truly cutting edge, and was still a source of inspiration for the illustration of psalters centuries later.
No other medieval manuscript in a Dutch collection is so much written about or has had so many reproductions published.
Book of Kells
According to Utrecht University Library keeper of manuscripts Bart Jaski, “The scholarly significance of the Utrecht Psalter is comparable to that of the Book of Kells housed by Trinity College in Dublin and the Très Belles Heures de Duc de Berry by the Limbourg brothers, two of the most beautiful manuscripts from the Middle Ages”. “No other medieval manuscript in a Dutch collection is so much written about or has had so many reproductions published, both in print and digitally on the Internet.”