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Walters Ms. W.45, Fieschi Psalter

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Fieschi Psalter

Text title


This Psalter, with an additional Office of the Dead, was created in the late thirteenth century in northeastern France. A large quantity of Franciscan saints in the calendar and litany, as well as marginal imagery of them, suggests that the original owner had a strong affinity for that order. The manuscript was likely begun for one patron but finished for another, given a change in scribal and artistic hands and the addition of heraldry from Psalm 109 onward. Arms for the Fieschi family, as well as a birth notice in the calendar, identify the manuscript's first owner as Leonardo dei Fieschi, a Genoese nobleman (d. 1331). Among a multitude of drolleries, the manuscript contains a number of unusual marginal vignettes depicting SS. Francis, Clare, and Elisabeth of Hungary. One image of St. Francis (fol. 139v) is heavily worn, which may be evidence of devotional touching by the manuscript's owner.


Last quarter 13th century CE


Northeast France/Flanders?






The primary language in this manuscript is Latin.

Support material


Medium-weight parchment, cream-colored with some spotting from moisture on front leaves


Foliation: 293

There are 293 numbered folios; however the first two and last two folios are blank, and while they have been foliated, they are not part of the quire structure of the manuscript and are therefore flyleaves; modern pencil foliation upper right corners, rectos


Formula: Quire 1: 8, with first folio cancelled (fols. 3-9); Quire 2: 6 (fols. 10-15); Quires 3-13: 10 (fols. 16-125); Quires 14-17: 8 (fols. 126-157); Quire 18: 8, lacking seventh folio (fols. 158-164); Quires 19-30: 8 (fols. 165-266); Quire 31: 10 (fols. 267-272); Quire 32: 8 (fols. 273-284); Quire 33: 8, with eighth folio cancelled (fols. 285-291)

Catchwords: Written in dark ink in lower right corners, versos

Signatures: None



12.9 cm wide by 18.0 cm high

Written surface

7.2 cm wide by 10.2 cm high

  1. Columns: 1
  2. Ruled lines: 16
  3. Layout different in calendar: 8.2 x 11 cm written surface; five columns; seventeen lines

fols. 1r - 293v:
  1. Title: Psalter-hours
  2. Contents: Psalter with Office of the Dead
  3. Hand note: Written in textura; scribal hand changes at fols. 16r, 191r, 267r, 277r, and 291r; three artists' hands evident in historiated initials and accompanying bar borders that open major psalms: fol. 16r: Hand A; fols. 49r-139v: Hand B; fol. 191r: Hand C
  4. Decoration note: Eight historiated initials extant (8 lines), one missing before Psalm 97 between fols. 163 and 164; marginal drolleries throughout, although more substantial on pages with historiated initials; enlarged decorated initials throughout, including "KL" in calendar and secondary text divisions, in gold, red, rose, and blue with white detailing (2 to 3 lines); borders in same colors usually spring from initials and contain flora and/or fauna; incipits for Psalms 1 and 109 written in gold; psalm versals begun with alternating red and blue pen flourished initials (1 line); line fillers almost entirely missing; rubrics in red; text in black ink
fols. 3v - 15r:
  1. Title: Calendar
  2. Rubric: Januarius habet dies. xxxi. luna. xxx.
  3. Contents: Calendar for Franciscan Use, half to two thirds full; graded in red and black; Egyptian verses begin each month, and those days marked in calendar; birth notice of first owner added on January 30, fol. 4r: "Anno nativitatis Domini Leonardi de flisco [dei Flieschi] filii domini Alberti Comitis lavanie Anno domini m ccxlvi (?)"; notable saints include Dominic (Aug. 5), Clare (Aug. 19), Bernard (Aug. 20)
  4. Decoration note: KL (4 lines) with baguette borders extending from them begin each month; drolleries along borders
fols. 16r - 243r:
  1. Title: Biblical Psalter
  2. Incipit: Beatus vir
  3. Contents: Biblical psalter, nine part-division at Psalms 1, 26, 38, 51, 52, 68, 80, 97, and 109; folio missing from the beginning of Psalm 97 between fols. 163 and 164
  4. Decoration note: Historiated initials at major psalm divisions: fols. 16r, 49r, 70v, 89v, 90v, 112r, 139v, and 191r; historiated initial missing from Psalm 97 between fols. 163 and 164
fols. 243r - 267r:
  1. Title: Canticles
  2. Incipit: Confitebor tibi
  3. Decoration note: Drolleries throughout
fols. 267r - 275r:
  1. Title: Litany, petitions, and prayers
  2. Incipit: Kyrieleyson
  3. Contents: Fols. 267r-269v: Litany, Franciscan use; martyrs, including Stephen, Lawrence, Vincent, Fabian, Sebastian, John, Paul, Cosmas and Damian, Gervasius and Protasius, and Eustace; popes, confessors and doctors, which include Silvester, Gregory, Martin, Augustine, Ambrose, Jerome, and Nicholas; monks and hermits include Benedict, Francis, Antony, and Dominic; virgins and widows, which include Mary Magdalene, Agnes, Lucy, Cecilia, Agatha, Clare, and Catherine; fols. 269v-271v: petitions; fols. 271v-272v: Pater noster; fols. 272v-275r: ten prayers
  4. Decoration note: Drolleries throughout
fols. 277r - 286r:
  1. Title: Office of the Dead
  2. Rubric: Ad vespere absolute incipit antiphone.
  3. Incipit: Placebo domino in regione vivorum
  4. Text note: Use of Rome
  5. Decoration note: Drolleries throughout
fols. 286v - 290v:
  1. Title: Prayer to St. Augustine
  2. Rubric: Oratio beati augustini.
  3. Incipit: Domine deus omnipotens qui trinus es et unus
fols. 291r - 291r:
  1. Title: Added prayer to the Virgin
  2. Incipit: Sancta et immaculata virgo dei genitrix
  3. Contents: Added in fifteenth century by later owner
  4. Hand note: Textura, written in a fifteenth-century Italian hand


fol. 16r:

  1. W.45, fol. 16r
  2. Title: Initial "B" with David harping above, and decapitating Goliath below; King Saul with bagpipe and David aiming his slingshot at Goliath
  3. Form: Historiated initial "B," 8 lines
  4. Text: Psalm 1

fol. 49r:

  1. W.45, fol. 49r
  2. Title: Initial "D" with Christ anointing David; man plays viele, and dog and hybrid man carry reliquary in margin
  3. Form: Historiated initial "D," 8 lines
  4. Text: Psalm 26

fol. 70v:

  1. W.45, fol. 70v
  2. Title: Initial "D" with David pointing to mouth before God; dogs hunting, man riding stag in margin
  3. Form: Historiated initial "D," 8 lines
  4. Text: Psalm 38

fol. 89v:

  1. W.45, fol. 89v
  2. Title: Initial "Q" with Judas hanging; St. Clare holding a monstrance and flanked by two Franciscan nuns in margin
  3. Form: Historiated initial "Q," 8 lines
  4. Text: Psalm 51

fol. 90v:

  1. W.45, fol. 90v
  2. Title: Initial "D" with the enthroned David scolding a fool; SS. Elisabeth of Hungary and Clare in margin
  3. Form: Historiated initial "D," 8 lines
  4. Text: Psalm 52

fol. 112r:

  1. W.45, fol. 112r
  2. Title: Initial "S" with Christ blessing above, and David in a boat below; St. Clare holding monstrance in margin
  3. Form: Historiated initial "S," 7 lines
  4. Text: Psalm 68

fol. 139v:

  1. W.45, fol. 139v
  2. Title: Initial "E" with David ringing bells; St. Francis preaching to animals with friar Leo behind him, and St. Clare with monstrance, in margin
  3. Form: Historiated initial "E," 8 lines
  4. Text: Psalm 80

fol. 191r:

  1. W.45, fol. 191r
  2. Title: Initial "D" with the Trinity; SS. Francis, Elisabeth of Hungary, and Clare in the margin
  3. Form: Historiated initial "D," 8 lines
  4. Text: Psalm 109


The binding is not original.

Rebound in Genoa, Italy, in sixteenth century by Viviano of Verase, of Thread Lane; dark brown leather over beech boards; stamped imagery on upper cover in two columns, reading from the top left down, then from the bottom right up: Annunciation, Nativity, Adoration of the Magi, Agony in the Garden, Flagellation, Carrying the Cross, Crucifixion, Resurrection; borders around images comprised mainly of saints and possibly one soldier bearing a sword, with the bust of Christ blessing with rays emanating from him in top border, the initials "IHS" flanked by dragons in the bottom border, and evangelist symbols in the four corners; lower cover has vase of lillies and vines with small figures of an angel kneeling in front of the Virgin (Annunciation), two praying angels below, and a falcon attacking a hare facing a club-wielding man riding a lion, possibly Samson; the inscription around the image reads, clockwise from top left: OPUS. VIVIANI DE. VARIXIO. CARTARII. IN. CARUBEO. FILLI. IAN.; remains of original brass clasps survive on lower board


Created in northeastern France or Flanders, probably in Cambrai region, in the late thirteenth century; Franciscan interests of original owner evident in saints chosen for calendar and litany, and in marginal drolleries of Franciscan nuns; likely intended owner changed halfway through creation, as hand change evident for scribe and artist starting at fol. 191r, and decoration seems to have been carried out quickly, as line fillers mostly unfinished

Leonardo dei Fieschi of Genoa, owned ca. 1290; his birth notice in calendar for Jan. 30, fol. 4r; his arms in borders of second half of manuscript, beginning with fol. 182v

Unknown owner, second half of nineteenth century, added pencil notation on front pastedown "Add. Ms. 19"

Léon or Paul Gruel, Paris, early twentieth century; Gruel note previously attached to front pastedown, now in file

Henry Walters, Baltimore, purchased from Gruel before 1931


Walters Art Museum, 1931, by Henry Walters' bequest


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Miner, D. The History of Bookbinding, 525-526, exhibition catalogue. Baltimore: Trustees of the Walters Art Gallery, 1957; p. 84, cat. no. 192.

Diringer, David. The Illuminated Book: Its History and Production. London: Philosophical Library, 1958; p. 387.

De Marinis, T. La legatura artistica in Italia nei secoli XV e XVI: Notizie ed elenchi. Vol 3. Florence, 1960; pp. 56, 58, no. 2847 bis.

Randall, Lilian M.C. "The Fieschi Psalter." Journal of the Walters Art Gallery 23 (1960): 27-47, figs. 1-9, 11, 13.

Randall, Lilian M.C. "The Snail in Gothic Marginal Warfare." Speculum 37, no. 3 (1962): 358-367; pp. 358, 359, 367 (n. 9), 367 (fig. 1).

Randall, Lilian M.C. Images in the Margins of Gothic Manuscripts. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1966; p. 37 and pasim, figs. 61, 143, 177, 242, 248, 309, 386, 572, 611, 643.

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Das Graduale von Sankt Katharinenthal: Kommentar, edited by Schweizerisches Landesmuseum. Luzern, 1983; p. 194, figs. 42-43.

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Randall, Lilian M.C. Illuminated Manuscripts: Masterpieces in Miniature, Highlights from the Collection of the Walters Art Gallery. Baltimore: Trustees of the Walters Art Gallery, 1984; Pl. 16.

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Principal cataloger: Randall, Lilian M.C.

Cataloger: Herbert, Lynley

Editor: Herbert, Lynley

Copy editor: Dibble, Charles

Conservators: Owen, Linda; Quandt, Abigail

Contributors: Emery, Doug; Izer, Emily; Noel, William; Schuele, Allyson; Tabritha, Ariel; Toth, Michael B.; Wiegand, Kimber


The Walters Art Museum


Licensed for use under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Access Rights, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/legalcode. It is requested that copies of any published articles based on the information in this data set be sent to the curator of manuscripts, The Walters Art Museum, 600 North Charles Street, Baltimore MD 21201.