DCL MS. A.II.13Commentary on Psalms 101-150
Held by: Durham Cathedral Library: Durham Cathedral Manuscripts

Commentary on Psalms 101-150 in French, volume III of III, companion to DCL MS A.II.11 and 12, the only complete copy of this work, a French Psalter commentary compiled for Laurette d’Alsace (died 1170). The two sets of signatures, and the enlargement of quire XII to a 10 to contain the end of Psalm 108, indicate that f.1-98 with Psalms 1-108 and f.99-275 with Psalms 109-150 were made as separate phases of work (this distinction is reinforced by differences in the presentation of lemmata and slight differences in the decoration between the two parts).

Digitised: https://n2t.durham.ac.uk/ark:/32150/t1m1831ck196.html

Physical description of manuscript

Parchment: stout, even-toned, numerous minor flaws. Arranged HF, FH. A tab was formerly attached to f.155*.

Extent: i+276+i f
Size: 366-370 mm x 262 mm


Modern pencil foliation (155 numbered twice).

Secundo folio: nostre bon poeure χρς


Catchwords: Original catchwords (survive) on quires I, IX, and XIII.
Signatures: Quire signatures I-XII for quires I-XII, and crossed I-XXII for quires XIII-XXXIII, both sets seemingly by the same hand. Leaves in the first half of quires are marked, generally on versos, with numbers. For quires II and X, XX, XXII letters were used; in quires XI and XVII, XXIV and XXXIII sigla; quire XIII has letters on rectos rather than versos; nothing survives on quires XIV and XV.

Text-block: 290 x 205 mm. Two columns (width, 95 mm). Lines: 40 (space, 7-8 mm; height of minims, 4 mm for commentary, 7-8 mm for scriptural lemmata).
Pricking: awl. Prickings survive in all three outer margins (the cropping of flourishing attests to the fact that the margins have still been reduced). Ruling: lead. Single verticals flank both columns (two in total in the intercolumnar space); first two and last two (occasionally the last three or the last and antepenultimate) horizontals extended; all horizontals run across the intercolumnar space. From f.100r-274v, wherever psalm lemmata were to be written, a pair of extra verticals was supplied to divide the relevant lines of the column vertically into two sub-columns (the left-hand portion for the lemmata, the right-hand one for commentary); on the first two occasions, these lines were guided by a ruler, thereafter, with a few exceptions, they were done freehand.


Written in Textualis semi-quadrata. The scriptural lemmata are written in Textualis precissa, twice the size of the commentary (strokes 2 mm thick). The number of hands involved is uncertain. The striking differences in aspect between f.98v and f.99r appear to suggest that two hands were at work, the latter more regular, less spiky, and more laterally compressed than the former; however, as the stint of the latter goes on, it evolves towards the manner of the former.


f.1r. A 6-line-high once-golden initial “D”, flourished in red and green, heads Psalm 101; almost all the gold has been lost, exposing a red-brown underlay.f.99r, a 5+-line-high initial “D” for Psalm 109, the letter-form in red and blue, filled with foliate forms in green and yellow, all set against a brown panel. f.182v, a 6+-line-high initial “A” for Psalm 119, the letter-shape in red and blue, adorned with foliate curls in yellow and green, set against a brown ground. The incipits of other Latin Psalm texts are marked by 4+-line-high initials, alternately red then blue, flourished in the other colour or in both colours. The start of each Latin verse is headed by a 2+-line-high initial, alternately red then blue, flourished in the other colour.


Tuckett re-binding, mid 19th century full brown calf over thick wooden boards (Charles Tuckett, binder to the British Museum, rebound many Durham manuscripts in the 19th century), rebacking with 16th century leather covers (both decorated with rolled panel design). Stains on f.1r and 275v from the turn-ins of an earlier binding.

Manuscript history

Written in England or France, early 13th century.


The claim that the set as a whole “was made and held at Durham Cathedral during the episcopacy of Hugh de Puiset” and “was in all likelihood made for De Puiset himself” (Rector 2010, p.20) ignores the fact volumes I and II almost certainly, and volume III indubitably, postdate du Puiset (d. 1195), and that no such work appears on the list of his books that came to Durham Cathedral Priory.

Inscriptions: “.R. liber Sancti Cuthberti”, mid 14th century, f.1r, top left.
“R”, later 14th century, f.1r, top right.
“Tercia pars psalterij in gallico”, later 14th century, f.1r, top right.
Pressmark: 1a.5i.T., 15th century, f.1r, top right.

1392 and 1416 Spendement catalogues “Tercia pars Psalterii glo, in Gallico. iio fo, nostre bone poeure”. Listed in Misc. Charter 2475.

Manuscript contents
(a)     f.1r-275r
Modern title: Commentary on Psalms 101-150
Incipit: Domine exaudi orationem meam, et clamore meus ad te ueniat. Cist titles dit, Cist psalmes est oreisun de poeure quant il ad anguise
Explicit: Bele seor en la lur cumpaignie mettet deus les cors, et les almes de nus en la lur ioie, et en la lur feste, ke nus ou oec els pussuns chanter in cymbalis iubilationis. Omnis spiritus laudet dominum nostrum iesum christum. Qui cum patre et spiritu sancto uiuit et regnat deus per omniaa secula seculorum. Amen.
Language: French
Language: Latin

f.1r-99r, the scriptural lemmata occupy complete column lines, with the commentary starting immediately thereafter; from f.100r onwards, they occupy half of the width of the column (on 197v, two-thirds of the width), with the commentary starting beside them. The exception (f.182v) is Psalm 119, for which whole lines were again used, doubtless for visual emphasis. The first three verses of Psalm 102 were rewritten in rasura by the original scribe. There is virtually no annotation.

Edited: Dean 1999, no. 452

Microfilmed in 1985/86 by the Hill Monastic Manuscript Library, St John's Abbey and University, Collegeville, Minnesota. Copies held by them and Durham Cathedral Library.

Digitised material for Durham Cathedral Library MS A.II.13 - French psalter commentary Psalms 101-150
Digitised September 2019 as part of the Durham Priory Library Recreated project


Catalogi veteres librorum Ecclesiae cathedralis dunelm. Catalogues of the library of Durham cathedral, at various periods, from the conquest to the dissolution, including catalogues of the library of the abbey of Hulne, and of the mss.   OCLC citation, Surtees Society 7, (London: J.B. Nichols and Son, [1838]).

Dean, Ruth J., Anglo-Norman Literature: a guide to texts and manuscripts   OCLC citation (London: Anglo-Norman Text Society, 1999)

Liebman, C. J., The Old French psalter commentary: contribution to a critical study of the text attributed to Simon of Tournai   OCLC citation ([USA]: W. F. Humphreys, 1982).

Rector, G., "The Romanz Psalter in England and Northern France in the Twelfth century: production, mise-en-page and circulation", Journal of the Early Book Society 13 (2010), 1-38

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