Dr Carol Farr
Full day - from 10.00 to 17.00
Maximum: 15 students
Venue: Senate House

In what ways and to what purposes did early medieval scribes and artists incorporate decoration and visual images into psalter manuscripts of Britain and Ireland, 7th to 12th centuries? The course will provide an introductory survey to their art, texts and uses across the range of liturgy and prayer. We will explore iconography associated with the psalter and how it, along with the contemporary art styles, could be adapted to changing desires and needs. The graphic uses of decoration will be an overriding concern. Most of our attention will be directed to the psalters of Late Anglo-Saxon England (c. 900-1050) and Ireland c. 800-1200, although surviving early examples such as the ‘Cathach’ and Vespasian Psalter will begin our study. The course will end with examination of several facsimiles and introduction to primary and secondary references.


L. Webster. Anglo-Saxon Art. London: British Museum, 2012
F. Henry. Vols 1 and 2 of her survey:  Irish Art in the Early Christian Period to A.D. 800, and Irish Art during the Viking Invasions. London: Methuen & Co, 1965, 1967. Dated but the best introductory survey; affordable copies available from bookshops or on-line; in many libraries.
Michelle P. Brown. Art of the Islands: Celtic, Pictish, Anglo-Saxon and Viking Visual Culture, c. 450-1050. Oxford, 2016.
M.J. Toswell. The Anglo-Saxon Psalter. Turnhout: Brepols, 2014.
T. O’Neill. The Irish Hand: Scribes and their manuscripts from the earliest times. Cork University, 2014.

Student Comments

Massive and brilliant introduction to pre-Norman psalters, including development and evolution of styles.

Fully according to course description. Excellent handouts with much useful information. Clear explanation of subject, with beautiful slides.