¶ Psalterium aureum (12th century) [MS]

July 25, 2017

12th cent.

Psalterium aureum (the golden psalter).

Illuminated manuscript. St. Albans, mid-twelfth century. 193 leaves.

Bound into the beginning of the volume is a long note by Sydney Cockerell, of which the following is an excerpt: “After being undisturbed for sixty years it was lot 978 in the Phillipps sale at Sotheby’s June 1896. I urged William Morris to give Quaritch a commission, but the book was then in a very crumpled state, in a russia binding, and he preferred to concentrate on a Hagesippus in a fine Winchester binding of the 12th century, now no. 51 in Mr Yates Thompson’s collection, which he obtained for the absurdly low price of £13. 10. Quaritch bought this Psalter for £34 and I got him to send it to Morris at Folkestone with a Gratiani decretum, the prices for these mss. being £60 and £180 respectively. Morris received them on June 22 1896 and wrote to me on June 24 that he would keep them, but asked me to get a reduction from Q. I saw Q. the next day and he agreed to take £225 for the two MSS., which makes the price of this book, forthwith christened by ‘The Golden Psalter’, £56 5. –

“It was then flattened and rebound by my brother Douglas Cockerell, who was at that time apprentice to Mr T. J. Cobden-Sanderson at the Doves Bindery, 15 Upper Mall, Hammersmith. The oak-boards were from old ship’s timber. The stamps on the white pigskin back were designed by Morris for the special binding of the Kelmscott Press Chaucer. It was finished and brought back to its owner at Kelmscott House . . . on Sept. 11 to his great satisfaction. It was, I believe, the last manuscript that he handled and talked of a day or two before his death, which took place on Oct. 3, 1896. Mr Cobden-Sanderson’s charge was £10. 10. –, bringing the cost to £66. 15. –”

Cockerell adds that he had wanted to buy the Psalter at the 1898 Sotheby sale but could not afford it; hence he advised his friend Lawrence Hodson to purchase it. (Hodson, eleven years later, sold it Cockerell.)

While the book was in his custody, Cockerell arranged for Graily Hewitt to create a replacement for the missing first leaf.

Provenance: Benedictine abbey of St. Albans. — Richard Heber. — Heber sale, Evans, 10 February 1836 (sold to Thomas Thorpe for £5 18s.). — Thomas Thorpe catalogue (Catalogue of Upwards of Fourteen Hundred Manuscripts on Vellum and on Paper), 1836, no. 1084 (£8 8s.). — Sir Thomas Phillipps. — Phillips sale, Sotheby, 10 June 1896, lot 978 (sold to Quaritch for £34). — Quaritch. — Morris (purchased from Quaritch, 22 June 1896). — Bennett. — Sotheby 1898, lot 866 (sold to Quaritch for £97). — Laurence W. Hodson. — Sydney C. Cockerell (purchased privately from Hodson, 27 May 1909, for £150). — Brian S. Cron (gift from Cockerell, 20 December 1956). — British Library (Add MS 81084) [accepted by HM Treasury in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the British Library in 2005].

References: Cron, B. S. “The Recent Owners of the Golden Psalter” Private Library 5 (July 1964): 45–46. (Reprinted from Cron, The Recent Owners of the Golden Psalter (London: Merrythought Press, 1963).) — Schoenberg (SDBM_40020).


Sotheby 1898:

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