All 150 Psalms magnificently adorned: one of the most beautiful Jewish manuscripts of the Middle Ages

Parma Psalter

Emilia (Italy) — Around 1280

Parma Psalter

Parma Psalter

Emilia (Italy) — Around 1280

  1. This North Italian manuscript is considered to be one of the richest specimens of Judaica to survive today

  2. Gorgeous figurative elements, precious gold, and grandiose compositions illustrate all 150 Psalms

  3. In addition to various human and animal figures adorning the text, music is a prominent artistic theme

The Parma Psalter

Parma Psalter

Psalm 126

This Psalm concerns the Babylonian captivity and is recited by Jews during the Birkat Hamazon (Grace After Meals), on Shabbat, and during Jewish holidays as well as being a regular part of the liturgy of Catholics and Protestants alike. It is adorned on this page by four human figures embedded in marginal décor. The pair on the right look up, one with parted lips and the other with his arm stretched out and holding the panel with the other two, who hold their heads with their eyes closed.

Parma Psalter

MS. Parm. 1870 (De Rossi 510) Biblioteca Palatina (Parma, Italy)
Alternative Titles:
  • Tehillim
  • Parma-Psalter
Parma Psalter – MS. Parm. 1870 (De Rossi 510) – Biblioteca Palatina (Parma, Italy)
Parma Psalter – MS. Parm. 1870 (De Rossi 510) – Biblioteca Palatina (Parma, Italy)
Parma Psalter – MS. Parm. 1870 (De Rossi 510) – Biblioteca Palatina (Parma, Italy)
Parma Psalter – MS. Parm. 1870 (De Rossi 510) – Biblioteca Palatina (Parma, Italy)
Parma Psalter – MS. Parm. 1870 (De Rossi 510) – Biblioteca Palatina (Parma, Italy)
Parma Psalter – MS. Parm. 1870 (De Rossi 510) – Biblioteca Palatina (Parma, Italy)
Parma Psalter – MS. Parm. 1870 (De Rossi 510) – Biblioteca Palatina (Parma, Italy)
Parma Psalter – MS. Parm. 1870 (De Rossi 510) – Biblioteca Palatina (Parma, Italy)
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

The so-called Parma Psalter is considered to be one of the most impressive Hebrew manuscripts in the history of illumination. The Hebrew manuscript was made ca. 1280 in Northern Italy for a wealthy patron. Gorgeous ornamentation with figurative elements, precious gold, and grandiose compositions illustrate the 150 Psalms, which are of special significance for the Jewish religion and culture: the Psalms were recited at particular occasions – in everyday life or for special events. In this way, alongside its status as an outstanding piece of 13th century art, it offers a gorgeous glimpse into medieval Jewish culture!

Parma Psalter

The so-called Parma Psalter is considered to be one of the most impressive Hebrew manuscripts in the history of illumination. The Hebrew manuscript was made ca. 1280 in Northern Italy for a wealthy patron. Gorgeous ornamentation with figurative elements, precious gold, and grandiose compositions illustrate the 150 Psalms, which are of special significance for the Jewish religion and culture: the Psalms were recited at particular occasions – in everyday life or for special events. In this way, alongside its status as an outstanding piece of 13th century art, it offers a gorgeous glimpse into medieval Jewish culture!

The Significance of the Psalms

Codex MS. Parm. 1870 (De Rossi 510) of the Bibilioteca Palatina in Parma, Italy is considered to be one of the most impressive Hebrew manuscripts and a special gem of the collections. The manuscript is a book of Psalms, also known as a Tehillim. One such Psalm-book had great significance for the Jewish religion and culture. The Psalms were spoken at fixed times of day and events, e.g. at weddings, circumcisions, or on the Sabbath. These significant ceremonies are additionally elucidated in the manuscript.

Psalm-Illustrations

The Parma Psalter originated at the behest of a rich northern Italian patron ca. 1280. The 150 Psalms are gorgeously illustrated on the manuscript’s 452 pages measuring 13.5 x 10 cm. Artful ornamentation, sometimes featuring figurative elements, adorn the pages of the Hebrew psalter. The high-quality paintings were additionally ennobled with gold leaf. The gorgeous compositions of the scenes are comprised of magnificently creative pictorial adornments – animals, people, and fantastical creatures for various themes. At the same time, a special focus is placed thematically on music. Therefore, various historical musical instruments, inter alia, are illustrated – something rarely found in the art of the time. These miniatures, which illustrated the content of the Psalms, account for the special charm of the Parma Psalter!

A Rare Psalm-Commentary

The Parma manuscript found itself in the possession of Giovanni Bernardo de Rossi, a significant Christian Hebraist who made the manuscript famous. Alongside the 150 Psalms, the Parma Psalter contains a special feature: the famous commentary by Abraham Ibn Esra. He was an important Jewish poet and scholar of the 12th century. His famous commentary on the Psalms has rarely been handed down from this time. The Parma Psalter presents itself as an impressive testimonial to Jewish scholarship in the Middle Ages!

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Tehillim
Parma-Psalter
Size / Format
452 pages / 13.5 x 10.0 cm
Date
Around 1280
Style
Hebrew
Language
Illustrations
Each of the 150 psalms is illuminated
Previous Owners
The Parma Psalter

Parma Psalter

Psalm 76

“In Judah God is known; His name is great in Israel” (Ps. 76:1) – thus begins the Psalm at hand, which is written in an incredibly neat hand. Musical motifs were common in Psalters because the Book of Psalms is typically attributed to King David, a renowned musician. As such, multiple instruments are depicted in detail on the page including lutes and a zither.

The animal-human hybrid playing a violin on the right margin is a typical feature of the illumination found in Hebrew manuscripts. It is an exemplary specimen created with pigments of dark blue, red-orange, and gold leaf. With a look of concentration on its face – apparently that of a bird – the figure plays the violin with an oversized bow, which it holds in its long, slender fingers.

1 available facsimile edition(s) of „Parma Psalter“

The Parma Psalter
Parma Psalter – MS. Parm. 1870 (De Rossi 510) – Biblioteca Palatina (Parma, Italy)
Parma Psalter – MS. Parm. 1870 (De Rossi 510) – Biblioteca Palatina (Parma, Italy)
Parma Psalter – MS. Parm. 1870 (De Rossi 510) – Biblioteca Palatina (Parma, Italy)
Parma Psalter – MS. Parm. 1870 (De Rossi 510) – Biblioteca Palatina (Parma, Italy)
Parma Psalter – MS. Parm. 1870 (De Rossi 510) – Biblioteca Palatina (Parma, Italy)
Parma Psalter – MS. Parm. 1870 (De Rossi 510) – Biblioteca Palatina (Parma, Italy)
Parma Psalter – MS. Parm. 1870 (De Rossi 510) – Biblioteca Palatina (Parma, Italy)
Parma Psalter – MS. Parm. 1870 (De Rossi 510) – Biblioteca Palatina (Parma, Italy)
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The Parma Psalter

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Publisher
Facsimile Editions Ltd. – London, 1996
Limited Edition
550
Binding
Finest vellum, with a havana-sheepskin spine. Gold-tooled, and then weathered and aged by hand, the facsimile has a green morocco label on which is stamped the volume's title. The original quire formation of the manuscript has been scrupulously observed. The facsimile and commentary volume are boxed in an elegant hand-marbled slipcase edged in morocco
Commentary
1 volume (280 pages) by Jeremy Schonfield, Emmanuel Silver, Malachi Beit-Arié and Thérèse Metzger
Language: English
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