Manuscripts and Special Collections
   
   
  

The Rushall Psalter (Me LM 1)

Detail from Me LM 1, f.79r 
 

Latin, with some English additions and glosses, 15th century. 197 ff

The Rushall Palter is a parchment volume written in the 15th century. It was a chained book, and the original iron chain still survives. Its first owner, John Harpur, pronounced a curse on anyone who removed the book in an ownership poem on f. 20v of the volume, but offered a pardon to anyone who repaired it. In 1993 the book was repaired and rebound with new boards, which are supplied with the means to attach the original chain.

The volume forms part of the archives and manuscripts of the Mellish family of Hodsock Priory.  The Mellish family had acquired the volume through the marriage of the Rev. Edward Mellish (1767-1830) to Elizabeth Leigh.

The Rushall Psalter had been in the hands of the Leigh family since the 16th century, following the marriage in 1540 of William Leigh to Elizabeth Harpur. Elizabeth was the great grand-daughter of the original owner, John Harpur of Rushall in Staffordshire. His arms are shown on folio 21r. John endowed a chapel at Rushall, consecrated in 1440, and gave the Psalter to be used there. It was presumably retrieved from the chapel at the time of the Reformation and kept within the family for safe-keeping.

The liturgical texts are richly illuminated. They consist not only of the Psalter (ff. 79r-187r), containing the text of the Psalms, but also a Calendar (ff. 14r-19v), the Hours of the Virgin (ff. 21r-78v) and the Litany of Saints (ff. 187v-192r).

A number of additional folios have been bound in front of the liturgical texts, containing material in English:

  • Poems by Lydgate: Dietary, Kings of England, and four stanzas from the Fall of Princes (ff. 1r-2v)
  • Geoffrey Chaucer's Truth (f. 2v)
  • Prose history of Rushall in Staffordshire, tracing the history of the estate from the Norman Conquest until the time of John Harpur (ff. 3r-5Ar)
  • Notes on the Harpur family (ff. 5Ar-8r)
  • 'How to live well' and 'How to die well' (f. 12r)
  • Notes on land, from the reign of Henry VII (f. 13Bv)

After the Calendar, a blank page was used for a copy of Geoffrey Chaucer's Gentilesse and several proverbs (f. 20r)

Finally, at the end there are a number of quotations from Bernard, Augustine, Jerome etc., and a 15th-century memorandum of William Harpur (ff. 194-195v).

View the catalogue record

 

Further reading

  • Thorlac Turville-Petre and Dorothy Johnston, Image & Text: Medieval Manuscripts at the University of Nottingham (Nottingham: Djanogly Art Gallery, University of Nottingham Arts Centre, 1996), p. 4.
  • J.W. Whiston, 'The Rushall Psalter', appendix to N. J. Baker, 'The gatehouse of Rushall Hall, Staffs', in Transactions of South Staffordshire Archaeological and Historical Society vol. xxiii (1983), pp 89-91
  • Frederic W. Willmore, Records of Rushall (Walsall, 1892)
 

Images

  The Rushall Psalter (Me LM 1), in new binding but with original chain 

The Rushall Psalter (Me LM 1), in later binding but with its original chain

   

 Ownership poem, detail from Me LM 1, f.20v   Detail from Me LM 1, f.21r   Detail from Me LM 1, f.4v

  Left-right: Details from Me LM 1, f. 20v (ownership poem), f. 21r (coat of arms of John Harpur) and folio 4v (history of Rushall) 

 

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