Parma Psalter

Parma Psalter

Emilia (Italy) — ca. 1280

All 150 Psalms magnificently decorated with gold and featuring a commentary by Abraham ibn Ezra: one of the most beautiful Jewish manuscripts of the Middle Ages

  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. Contains an early commentary on the Psalms by the Spanish polymath Abraham ibn Esra (1088–1167)

Parma Psalter

MS. Parm. 1870 (De Rossi 510) Biblioteca Palatina (Parma, Italy)
Price Category: €€ (1,000€ - 3,000€)
Edition available
Price: Login here!
  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
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!

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 × 10.0 cm
Origin
Italy
Date
ca. 1280
Style
Language
Illustrations
Each of the 150 psalms is illuminated
Previous Owners
Giovanni Bernardo De Rossi (1742–1831)

Available facsimile editions:
Parma Psalter – MS. Parm. 1870 (De Rossi 510) – Biblioteca Palatina (Parma, Italy)
Facsimile Editions Ltd. – London, 1996
Limited Edition: 550 copies
Detail Picture

Parma Psalter

Psalms 10 and 11

A large eagle with spread wings is perched to the left of the initial word and between the text of the two Psalms. In his verses, the Psalmist protests: In the Lord I put my trust; How can you say to my soul, “Flee as a bird to your mountain”? For look! The wicked bend their bow, They make ready their arrow on the string… (Ps. 11:1-2) The tip of its left wing is held by an enigmatic ape, who is likely just ornamental, sitting atop the initial letter and wearing a tall golden headdress.

The Parma Psalter
Single Page

Parma Psalter

Psalm 15

Hebrew manuscripts often feature drolleries of humans with animal heads, and although subtle, here we see a man with the face of a dog. Standing behind a small golden mountain, he is under a bell tent with blue and gold bands that is topped by a golden fleur-de-lis. The opening verse of this Psalm asks: Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? (Ps. 15:1)

The text and imagery together suggest that gold may have been a corrupting force for both the tent of the Lord and for the Temple Mount – the Temple of Solomon – that succeeded it as the earthly dwelling place of Yahweh. At the bottom of the page, a lanky hound dog with visible ribs snags a bite of the initial letter, completing the canine motif.

The Parma Psalter
Facsimile Editions

#1 The Parma Psalter

Facsimile Editions Ltd. – London, 1996
Parma Psalter – MS. Parm. 1870 (De Rossi 510) – Biblioteca Palatina (Parma, Italy)
Parma Psalter – MS. Parm. 1870 (De Rossi 510) – Biblioteca Palatina (Parma, Italy) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Facsimile Editions Ltd. – London, 1996
Limited Edition: 550 copies
Binding: The binding of the Parma Psalter has been reproduced by a master binder from London. The only surviving part of the original binding is the spine, which has been meticulously gold printed on Havana sheepskin, weather tanned and 'aged' by hand. The two book covers are overlaid with the finest English vellum. Before binding, the irregular page edges of the Psalter were painstakingly trimmed to the exact size and shape of the original and then gilded. After completion, each book has been discreetly numbered on the inside with the help of small steel stamps. The commentary volume is bound in dark brown calfskin with gold printed on the spine. The facsimile and commentary volume are protected by an elegant hand-marbled slipcase edged in Moroccan leather.
Commentary: 1 volume (280 pages) by Jeremy Schonfield, Emmanuel Silver, Malachi Beit-Arié, Nice Ugolotti, and Thérèse Metzger
Language: English
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: €€ (1,000€ - 3,000€)
Edition available
Price: Login here!
You might also be interested in:
Brussels Hours
Brussels Hours
France – ca. 1400

With the famous portrait of Jean Duc de Berry as patron: masterly miniatures in demi-grisaille technique in an outstandingly beautiful book of hours

Experience More
Officiolum of Francesco da Barberino
Officiolum of Francesco da Barberino
Florence (Italy) – 1304–1309

Created by a friend of Dante, illuminated with miniatures from his Divine Comedy: the oldest surviving book of hours in Italy

Experience More
Blog articles worth reading
Filter selection
Publisher