Anglo-Saxon Costume & Soldiers in

The Tiberius Psalter. England (Winchester), c.1050.
British Library Cotton ms Tiberius C VI

The Tiberius Psalter, an eleventh-century manuscript made at Winchester shortly before the Norman Conquest, was damaged in a fire in 1731 at Ashburnham House. Fortunately, its important series of tinted line-drawings were not destroyed.

This Psalter is justly famous for its 24 vibrant drawings in coloured outline depicting episodes from the lives of both Christ and King David. The Tiberius Psalter from eleventh-century Winchester, demonstrating a late Anglo-Saxon style where vibrancy is achieved through vivid drawing rather than use of colour.

Cotton Collection
Sir Robert Cotton (1571-1631) gathered a remarkable collection of manuscripts, especially rich in historical, devotional and literary material of British interest. Cotton manuscripts bear distinctive shelfmarks, which reflect the organisation of Cotton’s own library. He had fourteen cases, each surmounted by the bust of a Roman emperor or imperial lady (e.g., Nero, Tiberius, Cleopatra). The shelves of each case were assigned a letter, and every volume on a shelf a Roman numeral.

Cotton MS Tiberius C VI

3rd quarter of the 11th century-2nd half of the 12th century


Psalter (the 'Tiberius Psalter'), imperfect, with a prefatory pictorial cycle, computistic tables, prayers, confession, a homily in Old English and Collects.


Contents: ff. 2r-6r: Lunar and paschal tables; details and the equivalent tables in the Leofric Missal (Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Bodley 579, as described in Warren, Leofric Missal (1883)), are as follows: f. 2r: Table for calculating the age of the moon in a lunation of 29 days (Leofric f. 45v); f. 2v: Calendar for February and March; f. 3r: Calendar for April and May; f. 3v-4r: Table of the terms of Lent, Easter etc. : 'Terminus secondae lunae initii' (Leofric, f. 51v) and 'Terminus xiiii lunae paschalis' (Leofric, f. 52r); f. 4v: Table for calculating the age of the moon on the first day of a given month: 'De ratione saltis lunae' (Leofric, f. 46r); f. 5r: Table for finding the day of the week on the first day of a given month: 'Circulo per XXVIII annus solaris cursus singulorum mensium (Leofric, f. 46v); f. 5v: Table for calculating the moon's position in the zodiac (Leofric 48r); f. 6v: Diagram of Vita and Mors; f. 7r: Horologium and Easter computations on the fingers of a hand; ff. 7v-16r: A prefatory cycle of scenes from the Old and New Testaments; ff. 16v-18r Diagrams of musical instruments with descriptions in Latin; ff. 19r-27v: Prefaces to the Psalter followed by prayers and the Ordo Confessionis; ff. 28r-30r: The Latin homily, De septiformi spiritu, incipit, 'Spiritus sanctus pro septinaria operatione' is followed by an Old English version of the same text (ff. 28v-30r), with the rubric, 'Her is þæt ylce on ænglisc', incipit, 'Isaias se witega awrat'. The Old English text has a 15th- or 16th-century English interlinear gloss to the first 35 lines. Two Latin prayers follow on f. 30r, the second with the Old English rubric, 'Dis gebed baeda sang æt þam saltere'.ff. 31r-129v: The Latin Psalter in the Gallican version (imperfect), ending at Psalm 113.11, with an interlinear gloss in Old English; each Psalm has a heading and is followed by a Collect . The Collects are part of the Spanish series: see Wilmart, Psalter Collects (1949). On f. 114r a note has been added in Latin in a 12th-century hand, incipit, 'Non interficias nec sanguis relaxetur'. followed by note in Anglo-Norman French, incipit 'Sunt II iurs en cascun mais ico que l'en cummenset'. Decoration: Two full-page miniatures in colours with full borders (ff. 18v, 30v). 27 outline drawings in colours preceding the Psalter (ff. 7v-16r) and within the Psalter (ff. 71v, 114v, 126v). Four full-page initials with full acanthus borders in colours at the beginning of the prefaces and Psalms 1, 51 and 101 and 109 (ff. 19r, 31r, 72r, 115r and 127r). Large initials with decoration in colours at the beginning of Psalms 26, 38, 52, 67, 80, 97 (ff. 48v, 60, 73, 85, 98v, 112). Computistic and canon tables, with architectonic and figural imagery outlined in colours (ff. 2v-5r). Initials in red, blue or green at text divisions and at each verse of the Psalms. Highlighting and rubrics in red. The subjects of the images are:ff. 2v-3r: Standing angels in the spandrels of the arches; f. 4v: Two lions decorating a computistical table; f. 5r: Two eagles, devouring their prey, decorating a computistical table; f. 5v: A feast, perhaps representing the month of January; f. 6v: A diagrammatic representation of Vita et Mors, with Christ-Vita above and a naked woman/angel below, both holding scrolls with numbers for the calculation of the chances of recovery or death; f. 7r: Circular diagram (above); a large hand emerging from drapery with Easter computations written on the fingers (below); f. 7v: The Creation, with the head and hands of the Creator above the earth. He holds a pair of dividers and scales and has two horns or trumpets issuing from his mouth, representing his breath; below, the Holy Ghost moves over the waters.f. 8r: David rescuing a lamb from the jaws of a lion with the flock grazing below; f. 8v: David with his sling and a group of Israelites behind, and, below, David thrusting Goliath's sword into his chest; f. 9r: Goliath, with a helm, shield, and sword; a group of people (Philistines) behind him, fleeing; f. 9v: The Anointing of David by Samuel; f. 10r: David seated on his throne with a harp; f. 10v: The third Temptation: Christ and the Devil, who has wings with eyes; f. 11r: Christ riding into Jerusalem on a donkey with crowds watching; f. 11v: Christ washing the feet of St Peter, with an angel above bringing a towel from Heaven; f. 12r: Judas kissing Christ on the cheek, with men carrying torches in the background; f. 12v: Christ standing before Pilate, who is seated in a pavilion; f. 13r: The Crucifixion, with one Roman soldier piercing Christ's side with a spear, the other holding a sponge; f. 13v: The Angel at the empty tomb of Christ appearing to the three Holy Women; f. 14r: The Harrowing of Hell; with Christ bending down to rescue souls; f. 14v: Doubting Thomas touching Christ's side; f. 15r: The Ascension; f. 15v: Pentecost, with the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove coming down to the Disciples; f. 16r: St Michael defeating the dragon; f. 16v-18r: Diagrams of biblical musical instruments including the tympanum, lute, cithara and bell, with David playing the psaltery (f. 17v); f. 18v: Christ in glory, holding a horn and cross; f. 30v: David and his musicians; f. 71v: A tonsured ecclesiastic in Mass vestments, perhaps St Jerome; f. 114v: Christ with a cross and staff, trampling on a dragon; f. 126v: The Holy Trinity, in a quatrefoil within a circle, with God the Father in the middle, the Lamb on his right and the Dove on his left. Includes Wormald's 'Type II' initials (Francis Wormald, 'Decorated initials' (1945), p. 126). This is the only Anglo-Saxon Psalter with a prefixed cycle of pictures, according to Kauffmann, Romanesque Manuscripts (1975) p. 17, and the earliest surviving example of a Psalter with prefatory illustrations, according to Zeitler, Queen Melisende Psalter (2000) p. 72.

English, Old

Physical Description

Materials: parchment.
Dimensions: Binding: 345 × 250 mm; folios: 245 x 150mm (text space: 220 x 120mm)
Foliation: ff. 129 (f. 1 is a parchment flyleaf + 1 unfoliated parchment flyleaf at the beginning + 5 unfoliated paper flyeaves at the beginning and 9 at the end). Four unnumbered blank parchment folios have been inserted after ff. 18, 30, 71 and 114.
Collation: All parchment folios (damaged by fire in 1731) have been mounted separately on modern paper leaves so the original collation is not detreminable; post-medieval quire signatures on some folios show that quires were originally 8 leaves (see Ker, Anglo-Saxon (1957), p. 262). Several quires are missing at the end.
Script: Caroline minuscule.
Binding: British Museum in-house binding, 1894.

(?)Old Minster, Winchester
Source: British Library

A Late Saxon Fyrdman by Ian Heath based on the Tiberius Psalter
Other Illustrations of 11th century Costume & Soldiers