Folio 93 verso of British Library MS Cotton Vespasian A 1, known as 'The Vespasian Psalter'.
A Psalter is a book of the Psalms, used in the services of the Church. The Vespasian Psalter was written in Canterbury in the second quarter of the 8th century, in the elegant artistic form of Roman Uncials often known as Artificial Uncial, typical of the English development of this script.
The elaborate initials at the top are decorated with a interlace and a bird figure. They form the first word of the Psalm, and act in practice as a kind of title.
There is, however, another title in red at the top. This is called a rubric, from Latin ruber, meaning 'red'. In which script is it written?
The small spiky interlinear writing is a gloss, written into the manuscript in the first half of the 9th century. It is in Mercian Old English, one of the few evidences we have for what that dialect might have sounded like. You will learn to read this script in a couple of weeks.
© MEG TWYCROSS 1998