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The Golden Psalter of Charlemagne
A royal golden manuscript from the school of the Carolinian royal court
Vienna, Austrian National Library, Cod. Vindob. 1861, Lorch, Worms, Metz und Aachen, before 795

CODICES SELECTI, Vol. LXIX

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The Golden Psalter of Charlemagne, also known as Dagulf Psalter according to the name of the scribe who wrote it, is among the regal manuscripts of the Palace School, i.e. among those jewels of illumination which were produced before the imperial coronation of Charlemagne in the year 800. The Psalter, a collection of 150 psalms of the Old Testament, covers two decisive phases of the Carolingian School of painting. The section carried out between 783 and 789 may be identified as having been made in Worms and Metz, whereas the completion of the codex undoubtedly took place in Aachen between 790 and 795. The Golden Psalter thus constitutes a testimony to the evolution of the Palace School which started in several places, but after restoration of the Palatinate, was to execute masterpieces of unequalled perfection in Aachen.

Made for Charlemagne’s spouse

Both layout and design of the manuscript reveal that rather than being destined for use in public liturgy it was intended for a private person. The format of the codex is a further reference to Charlemagne’s wife Hildegard who received the Psalter. Dagulf, the scribe, used a remarkable wealth of scripts to decorate his Psalter, as was customary in this period. The beautiful script undoubtedly ranks among the finest examples of early Carolingian minuscule which later played an important part in the development of the Roman script we use today. A major portion of the manuscript goes back to Dagulf who signed the book in a dedication poem to Charlemagne.

Illumination at its very best

All ornamental pages are lavishly executed and delight the viewer with their well balanced harmony of colours and golden tones as well as with soft and rounded forms. A certain tension between the individual elements further enhances their charm.
An element of improvisation is revealed in the frames and this playful character has contributed much to the book’s value. The predominant decorative form is the interlaced band which appears in a wide range of variations. Of all ornamental pages the frontispiece stands out due to its unusual colouring, as it mainly shows tones of blue, without a purple ground, and receding gold.

The fine art facsimile edition

All 324 pages of the manuscript in the format of 19 x 12 cm are faithfully reproduced together with 5 decorated text pages and countless initials in gold and purple. The text is written in gold throughout. The binding is made of pure silk. The facsimile edition is limited to 700 copies and comes with a commentary volume containing 100 pages to guide you through the world of Charlemagne. It also provides a comprehensive explanation of the book’s lavish decoration.

   
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