About the Collection

The Beatus vir Psalter and Prayerbook was added to Reed’s special collections in 2005. It joins the Poissy Processional as the second of two late-Medieval illuminated manuscripts, both dated to around 1510. The Beatus vir Psalter and Prayerbook, even more heavily ornamented than the Processional with 40 painted miniatures, 10 of which are full-page, also appears to have been made in northern France, perhaps Paris. The diminutive Beatus vir Psalter and Prayerbook, approximately 15 cm. high by 10 cm. wide, retains most of its original sixteenth century leather binding, having been carefully rebacked at some point. The dark brown leather covers are gold-tooled in an elaborate design with the centerpiece and corner pieces framed by double gold lines. The design features fleurs-de-lis, leaves, and flowers with a partial infill of dots and an unusual three-circle figure among interlacing arabesque lines and shapes. There is no indication of original ownership—or patron, or binder. The manuscript, based on content, is in keeping with the psalters and prayerbooks of the early 1500s. The final unfinished two-folio signature points to a Franciscan order based on the multiple references to St. Francis and Franciscan saints. This section documents the introduction of the vernacular into religious worship. Its seven prayers are a mixture of Old French and Latin; all the responses are in French and some of the prayers are a mixture. The work bears the ownership signature of Elias Hony Frosh who likely obtained the manuscript in 1852. The work was purchased for Reed at auction from Sotheby’s in London during their July 5, 2005 sale of Western Manuscripts and Miniatures.

Text by Gay Walker '69, Special Collections Librarian. Research done for an audited class, "Medieval Manuscript Illuminations," Reed College Art 316, taught by William Diebold, fall semester, 2010.