No bigger than a matchbox: an exceptional 9th century Psalter

Psalterium Sancti Ruperti

North-East France — 3rd quarter of the 9th century

Psalterium Sancti Ruperti

Psalterium Sancti Ruperti

North-East France — 3rd quarter of the 9th century

  1. This tiny 9th century psalter measures only 37 x 31 mm and additionally has a unique open medieval binding

  2. Although no larger than a matchbox, it offers masterful miniatures and tiny, yet clearly legible lyrics

  3. The occasional use of gold ink and purple backgrounds indicates the Psalter was the commission of a high-ranking noble

Das Psalterium Sancti Ruperti (Normal Edition)

Psalterium Sancti Ruperti

Decorative “D” Initial

This tiny golden “D” is over 1,100 years old and has certainly deteriorated over time, but the blue and red pigments are still discernable, particularly the reds which outline and so wonderfully contrast with the gold. On the other hand, the gold leaf has survived in remarkably good condition and still maintains its original luster – it is truly the most eternal of substances. Leafy tendrils intertwine themselves with the initial itself and come into the corners with three-pointed leaves.

Psalterium Sancti Ruperti

Alternative Titles:
  • Il Salterio di San Ruperto
  • Psalter des Heiligen Rupert
Psalterium Sancti Ruperti – Cod. A I. 1 – Archiv von St. Peter (Salzburg, Austria)
Psalterium Sancti Ruperti – Cod. A I. 1 – Archiv von St. Peter (Salzburg, Austria)
Psalterium Sancti Ruperti – Cod. A I. 1 – Archiv von St. Peter (Salzburg, Austria)
Psalterium Sancti Ruperti – Cod. A I. 1 – Archiv von St. Peter (Salzburg, Austria)
Psalterium Sancti Ruperti – Cod. A I. 1 – Archiv von St. Peter (Salzburg, Austria)
Psalterium Sancti Ruperti – Cod. A I. 1 – Archiv von St. Peter (Salzburg, Austria)
Psalterium Sancti Ruperti – Cod. A I. 1 – Archiv von St. Peter (Salzburg, Austria)
Psalterium Sancti Ruperti – Cod. A I. 1 – Archiv von St. Peter (Salzburg, Austria)
Psalterium Sancti Ruperti – Cod. A I. 1 – Archiv von St. Peter (Salzburg, Austria)
Psalterium Sancti Ruperti – Cod. A I. 1 – Archiv von St. Peter (Salzburg, Austria)
Psalterium Sancti Ruperti – Cod. A I. 1 – Archiv von St. Peter (Salzburg, Austria)
Psalterium Sancti Ruperti – Cod. A I. 1 – Archiv von St. Peter (Salzburg, Austria)
Psalterium Sancti Ruperti – Cod. A I. 1 – Archiv von St. Peter (Salzburg, Austria)
Psalterium Sancti Ruperti – Cod. A I. 1 – Archiv von St. Peter (Salzburg, Austria)
Psalterium Sancti Ruperti – Cod. A I. 1 – Archiv von St. Peter (Salzburg, Austria)
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

The smallest facsimile in the world, now possible with new technological innovations and some of the most experienced hands in the industry! With pages measuring only 37 x 31 mm, Psalterium Sancti Ruperti from the library foundation of St. Peter in Salzburg is a gem of illumination that is not much bigger than an actual gemstone. Most likely written in the third-quarter of the 9th century in north-eastern France, it resides today in the oldest library in Austria. Thanks to the skilled hand of some anonymous scribes, the text of the tiny manuscript is incredibly legible. Additionally, its early medieval binding is unique and consists of an open book spine of the codex, whereby the two trusses with booklet seams and also two headbands are left visible. The occasional use of gold ink and purple backgrounds indicates that the psalter was created for a royal of some kind.

Psalterium Sancti Ruperti

How small can a book be so that one is still able to read it? In this day and age of computer-aided design in printing technology, the creation of such a work is no longer unattainable. However, imagine, if you would, that one must write a legible text on pages only the size of a matchbox – by hand! Such a feat nowadays seems to us to be almost impossible. Nevertheless, we find a codex amongst the stock of hand-written library codices whose greatness lies in how unimaginably diminutive it is: One of these precious rarities is the Psalterium Sancti Ruperti from the library foundation of St. Peter in Salzburg. The minuteness of this unique Codex is utterly breathtaking: with pages only 37 x 31 mm in size – the face of the text was required to be precisely 33 x 25 mm and composed of 18 lines. The exquisite legibility of the text with a font size of 1.5mm and a maximal line-spacing of only 1.2mm, bears testimony to the masterful strokes of the unbeknownst scribes.

Roots in the 7th Century

The Psalterium Sancti Ruperti, rests today in the oldest library on Austrian soil, founded in the 8th century. The manuscript was most likely written in the third-quarter of the 9th century in north-eastern France. The note of possession from the 15th century Manuale psalterii sancti Rudberti episcopi, found on the first page of the codex, is the earliest evidence that the manuscript was the rightful property of St. Peter's Abbey Salzburg. Therefore, no connection can be made between the manuscript and Saint Rupert, who in 696 founded the oldest monastery in German-speaking world. In Image 2r, a portrait of King David with his harp (most likely a Psalterium) is featured. Of course, this Carolingian psalter also includes the Incipit Beatus vir-Initial in gold ink against a crimson background. Rubricated Titles in Capitalis Rustica font and golden capital letters make the start of the prayers and verses easily recognizable. The sections of text written in gold against a crimson background as well as the gold initials found in Psalms 1, 51 and 101 lead us to believe that the customer of this magnificent manuscript probably came from royal surroundings. The body of text was written down in Carolingian minuscule.

An Unusual Binding

A special book binding feature is the open book spine of the codex, whereby the two trusses with booklet seams and also two headbands are left visible. The rare binding of this manuscript dates back to the late middle-ages. Up until now, no other early middle-age codex with the aforementioned presentation has been found – therefore this Psalter is an absolute unique specimen of early middle-age book production.

Content

One opens the tiny manuscript to find two prefaces: the introduction by Saint Jerome from the edition of his Gallicanum and the prologue “Origo prophetiae Regis David”, which explains the development of the Psalms. There is much to indicate that this minuscule Psalter was made for practical use and not as a status symbol and the abundant signs of handling evidence its frequent usage. It is indeed plausible that the owner of this miniature Psalter wanted to carry with him this little remembrance book at all times.

The World’s Smallest Facsimile

No publisher has dared to produce so small a manuscript in the form of a facsimile until now: in order to meet the standards of a true-to-original reproduction, new manufacturing processes needed to be conceived, as well as costly and expensive adaptations for radiographic technology developed. The extreme care required during the handling of the small pages and book covers was a special challenge for the bookbinders. With the aid of a special custom-built book binding apparatus, the book binder had to use painstaking care and accuracy to sew layer upon layer together with two trusses to the book block. The work of fastening the two wooden book covers is performed on a scale of mere millimeters, the most important requirement for which is the highest possible degree of concentration and years of experience in the art of book binding. As a result of this highly skilled and professional work, we are able to present to you the smallest facsimile in the world.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Il Salterio di San Ruperto
Psalter des Heiligen Rupert
Size / Format
234 pages / 3.7 x 3.1 cm
Date
3rd quarter of the 9th century
Language
Illustrations
A full-page portrait of the author King David, full-page initials at the beginning of Psalms 1, 51 and 101, text pages on ornamental purple ground and golden capital letters on almost every page
Das Psalterium Sancti Ruperti (Normal Edition)

Psalterium Sancti Ruperti

Portrait of King David

One of the tiniest miniatures in all of medieval illumination measures only 3.7 x 3.1 cm. Despite its size and the fact that it is nearly 1,200-years-old, this portrait of King David has survived in surprisingly good condition, which reveals the skill of the anonymous master who created it in a style clearly influenced by Late Antiquity.

This is a miniature in the strictest meaning of the word and is a remarkable work of art consisting of crimson and green paint with plenty of gold leaf. King David, one of the most popular biblical figures of the Middle Ages, is depicted here with his signature lyre. The King of Israel’s head and feet exceed the frame, giving the impression that David is coming out of the page and making this a tiny yet surprisingly dynamic image.

2 available facsimile edition(s) of „Psalterium Sancti Ruperti“

Das Psalterium Sancti Ruperti (Normal Edition)
Psalterium Sancti Ruperti – Cod. A I. 1 – Archiv von St. Peter (Salzburg, Austria)
Psalterium Sancti Ruperti – Cod. A I. 1 – Archiv von St. Peter (Salzburg, Austria)
Psalterium Sancti Ruperti – Cod. A I. 1 – Archiv von St. Peter (Salzburg, Austria)
Psalterium Sancti Ruperti – Cod. A I. 1 – Archiv von St. Peter (Salzburg, Austria)
Psalterium Sancti Ruperti – Cod. A I. 1 – Archiv von St. Peter (Salzburg, Austria)
Psalterium Sancti Ruperti – Cod. A I. 1 – Archiv von St. Peter (Salzburg, Austria)
Psalterium Sancti Ruperti – Cod. A I. 1 – Archiv von St. Peter (Salzburg, Austria)
Psalterium Sancti Ruperti – Cod. A I. 1 – Archiv von St. Peter (Salzburg, Austria)
Psalterium Sancti Ruperti – Cod. A I. 1 – Archiv von St. Peter (Salzburg, Austria)
Psalterium Sancti Ruperti – Cod. A I. 1 – Archiv von St. Peter (Salzburg, Austria)
Psalterium Sancti Ruperti – Cod. A I. 1 – Archiv von St. Peter (Salzburg, Austria)
Psalterium Sancti Ruperti – Cod. A I. 1 – Archiv von St. Peter (Salzburg, Austria)
Psalterium Sancti Ruperti – Cod. A I. 1 – Archiv von St. Peter (Salzburg, Austria)
Psalterium Sancti Ruperti – Cod. A I. 1 – Archiv von St. Peter (Salzburg, Austria)
Psalterium Sancti Ruperti – Cod. A I. 1 – Archiv von St. Peter (Salzburg, Austria)
Imageof

Das Psalterium Sancti Ruperti (Normal Edition)

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Publisher
Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Graz, 2007
Limited Edition
881
Binding
With the aid of a special custom-built book binding apparatus, the book binder must use painstaking care and accuracy to sew layer upon layer together with two trusses to the book block. The work of fastening the two wooden book covers on is performed on a scale of mere millimetres, the most important requirement, for which, is the highest possible degree of concentration and years of experience in the art of book binding. Box with black piano finish.
Commentary
1 volume (71 pages) by Florentine Mütherich, Fabrizio Crivello, Petrus Eder and Irmhild Schäfer
Language: German
More Information
All folios are cut according to the original.
Das Psalterium Sancti Ruperti (Luxury Edition)
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Das Psalterium Sancti Ruperti (Luxury Edition)

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Publisher
Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Graz, 2007
Limited Edition
99
Binding
With the aid of a special custom-built book binding apparatus, the book binder must use painstaking care and accuracy to sew layer upon layer together with two trusses to the book block. The work of fastening the two wooden book covers on is performed on a scale of mere millimetres, the most important requirement, for which, is the highest possible degree of concentration and years of experience in the art of book binding. Cassette in form of a book, gold embossed leather; gild edging; padded with velvet, two silver clasps.
Commentary
1 volume (71 pages) by Florentine Mütherich, Fabrizio Crivello, Petrus Eder and Irmhild Schäfer
Language: German
More Information
All folios are cut according to the original.
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