The layout in Utrecht Psalters, Harley and other psalters.
Manuscripts of the Middle Ages

Study of François Murez - www.francois-murez.com
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This study follows the one written on the composition of the Bayeux Tapestry (see :  Musicality in the Bayeux Tapestry). Indeed, work on this composition led to an interest in what was done at the same time in the same workshops. This embroidery brings us to look more closely at the Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, starting with the Harley Psalter.



Harley Psalter - British Library.

Folios 7v and 8r




Harley Psalter (ca 1020):

Take a few folios removed from the site of the British Library.

Folio 8r

On this page, the design is drawn around the text. Each line of text is positioned by a hard point on the sheet. Go from there, with the idea that the layout could be strongly governed by these points.
32 hard points position 32 lines. Draw a red rectangle, its width is the distance between two hard points.

At that time, the square is a figure often used (see the Bayeux Tapestry), apply it to our Psalter. In this idea, draw 32 vertical lines spaced the same distance as the horizontal lines, we thus form a square. By a desire not to overload, all vertical lines are not reproduced in the image below.

What gives this picture?
    Vertical :
        One space for upper case,
        Eight spaces for the first text column,
        Two spaces separate texts, one for upper case,
        Eight spaces on the second column of text,
        Two spaces separate texts, one for upper case,
        Eight spaces on the third column of text,
        Two spaces to complete and contain the edges of the drawings.

Thus, vertical space is the basis of the layout of the text. on the other hand, the drawings are not built of this space. The drawings are made freely relative to the text.

    Horizontal :
The space between lines is of course used to position the text lines but again does not serve at all to compose drawings.
The layout order, therefore, precisely the text, gives a space for drawing, but does not compose it
See on other folios, even if the same layout is found.

Folio 22v

In this folio, the design is created by another hand, is surrounded by text, unlike previously.
Apply a grid identical.

Similarly, the vertical lines place the text, but with a slight difference. Two spaces outside the text are used to place the large capital "D" while in the previous portfolio, one was enough. So, there remains a space on the right instead of the previous two. This gives:
        Two spaces for upper case (two for the "D", one for small capitals)
        Eight spaces for the first text column,
        Two spaces separate texts, one for upper case,
        Eight spaces on the second column of text,
        Two spaces separate texts, one for upper case,
        Eight spaces on the third column of text,
        A space to finish the edges and contain drawings.

In this folio, designed by another artist, the layout orders only the text. The artist gives a space to create the illustration of the psalm.
The layout differs on the implementation of large capital letter, depending on whether the folio is in front or in back.

See other examples on the application of the grids.

Folio 69r



Folio 72v



Folio 73r


These three folios are designed by a third artist.
For these three folios, the same grid is used, with the distinction front or back. on the other hand, this artist has difficulty to contain in its space and beyond.

The psalter was inspired by that of Utrecht. Then see if the same layout can be found?


Utrecht Psalter (ca. 820):

Consider three examples of folios and apply our grid.

Folio 15r



Folio 82v



Folio 83r


These three examples of folios of the Utrecht Psalter mount the same grid was used on Harley and Utrecht. Likewise, the drawings do not have geometric composition that might rely on the grid. The drawings fill the space allocated in the grid but do not rely on it.
The difference between these two Psalters is in the layout of the capital letters. At Harley, we have two spaces on the folio back and one on the folio front; of Utrecht, the opposite is true.


Bury Saint Edmunds Psalter (XIth):

Start from the idea of grid based on the distance between two lines and apply the same approach.

Psaume 67

Determine the space between two lines that form the basis of our grid.

Apply this space from the vertical.

Capital letters are held in a vertical space. The drawings on the right and left in four spaces.

On this psalter, the layout has a different logic simpler although the notion of relying on the distance between two lines to calibrate the vertical layout is again considered. The drawing remains outside the text, the designer and scribe do not have to worry about the other one in the realization of the page.
Let's make the transition from the great beauty of design with its lines very tense.



Psalter of Paris - MS Latin 8824 (XIth):

The psalter, from the same time as that of Bury, has the same layout. Drawings, fairly basic, however, are embedded in the text.

By applying the same process as above, we see that the same layout is adopted. The drawings have a space, but are not compounds relative to the grid.



Eadwine Psalter (ca 1150):

The Eadwine Psalter was made after that of Harley.

Folio 243v

Follow the same approach starting from the distance between the major lines of the central text.

Apply a horizontal grid based on this space, on the entire folio.

Appear the following:
         The design is well defined by this grid
         Elements of the designs are aligned with grid lines
         The large upper case have, either 3 spaces, or 2 spaces
         The text at the bottom was maybe added later since it does not rely on lines?
Apply now this space to the vertical lines.

Appear the following:
         The design is well defined by this grid
         Elements of the designs are aligned with grid lines
         Texts are delimited by these vertical
The layout is set by the grid. The drawing is now defined by a frame. It is composed. The drawing and text are no longer imbricated as in the previous Psalters, each lives his own life. on the other hand, respect for the geometric grid can create the link and the consistency of the two spaces.
See a different folio.

Halley's Comet

Consider the space between two lines of the main text.

Apply this distance on the top of folio.

Again, the design is well positioned on the horizontal lines so drawn. Large upper case have 3 and 2 spaces.
Apply this space on the vertical.

The characters in the top of the drawing are positioned on the vertical as well as texts.
On these two folios, the same approach is reflected in the layout of text and drawing.


Eadwine Psalter - Paris - Latin MS 8846 (ca 1170):

This Psalter is a little after that of Eadwine.

Folio 20

The layout has much resemblance to that of Eadwine, apply the same principle.
But for this psalter, separate the space between the two red horizontal lines by a horizontal green line located at the half.

Apply to the entire folio.

The bottom of the drawing sits on a green horizontal. Lines of text are either on a red or on a green line.
Again, the upper case is 2 or 3 spaces. The two horizontal of drawing are based on this grid.
Let the vertical.

The characters and elements of design are punctuated by vertical, the text also.
Trace the vertical central axis of the drawing and the horizontal axis.

The drawing has a vertical and horizontal symmetry. A beautiful cross is provided on the folio ...

Thus, on these examples, the layout is still based on the space, either horizontally or vertically. At first, the drawing and the text get involved and adapt one of the other one, each has to leave a place to the other one, then they differ but remain in cohesion with the layout.


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