News | November 18, 2020

British Library Acquires Unique 15th-Century Lucas Psalter

Courtesy of the British Library

London — The British Library announces it has acquired the Lucas Psalter, an important and hitherto unknown copy of the Psalms dating from the second half of the 15th century.

Made in Bruges for an English patron, the late medieval manuscript is known as the Lucas Psalter after the added arms of Thomas Houchon Lucas (1460-1539) of Suffolk, the secretary to Jasper Tudor and Solicitor General under Henry VII.

Featuring eight large finely painted initials, the manuscript is a previously unknown example of the work of the Master of Edward IV, one of the most influential artists of the late Middle Ages. This Psalter is an unusual example of his painting in a sacred text, which might have originally formed part of a breviary volume or set of volumes. The artist is known for his contributions to manuscripts made for Edward IV, the majority of which are now in the Royal collection in the British Library.

Courtesy of the British Library

One of a handful of independent Psalter manuscripts dating from the second half of the 15th century in England, the Lucas Psalter offers considerable research potential in the selection and iconography of images for the major divisions of the text, the nature of the liturgical elements such as antiphons and hymns and its context and use.

Dr Kathleen Doyle, Lead Curator of Illuminated Manuscripts at the British Library, said:

‘One of the British Library’s core purposes is to build, curate and preserve the UK’s collection of written, published and digital content and we continue to acquire medieval manuscripts to enhance the national collection. The Lucas Psalter is of clear artistic and cultural significance, and tells a fascinating English story. The manuscript reveals the close links with Europe and the interests of a middle ranking figure in Tudor society, Thomas Houchon Lucas of Suffolk, who was a secretary to Jasper Tudor. Lucas rose to a high office of state under Henry VII. His added arms (with those of his wife) demonstrate the distinctive and long-standing interest of English laity in the text of the Psalms.’

The British Library will digitise the Lucas Psalter to make it freely available online for everyone at Digitised Manuscripts before putting it on display in the free permanent gallery, Sir John Ritblat Gallery: Treasures of the British Library.

The Lucas Psalter was purchased by the British Library with the generous assistance of donations from Art Fund, the Bernard H. Breslauer Fund of the American Trust for the British Library and the British Library Collections Trust.