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Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

Queen Mary's Psalter


Creator: Sir George Frederic Warner (1845-1936) (introduction writer)
Creation Date: 
32 x 23.5 x 7.5 cm
XQG 2002 335
Acquirer: Queen Mary, consort of George V, King of the United Kingdom (1867-1953)
Presented to Queen Mary by the Trustees of the British Museum in 1912

Bound in dark blue levant goatskin, gold-tooled; all edges gilt and gauffered.

This book constitutes an interesting link with the Old Royal Library. It comprises facsimiles of the miniatures in the manuscript known as Queen Mary's Psalter, now in the British Library, edited by Sir George Warner, who until 1911 was Keeper of the Department of Manuscripts at the British Museum. The fourteenth-century volume belonged to Henry Manners, second Earl of Rutland. After his arrest for Protestant sympathies early in the reign of Mary Tudor, the manuscript was impounded and presented to the Queen. It was rebound in velvet embroidered with the pomegranate badge, which she had inherited from her mother, Catherine of Aragon. It had been added to the Spanish royal arms to symbolise the reconquest of Granada from the Moors in 1492 by Catherine's parents, Ferdinand and Isabella.

In 1757 the manuscript passed to the British Museum with the Old Royal Library. By the 1870s, when Warner began work there, the study of medieval manuscripts for their illustrations rather than for their text alone was becoming acceptable, and this was one of his main interests. The manuscript was chosen for facsimile reproduction because of its large number of lively vignettes of fourteenth-century life.

In view of the artistic interests of Queen Mary, consort of King George V, and the coincidence of names, this facsimile volume was an obvious gift for her. The Trustees of the British Museum commissioned Katharine Adams, one of the foremost craft bookbinders of the early twentieth century, to bind the presentation copy. Katharine Adams, a friend of William Morris's family, trained in 1897 under Sarah Prideaux and Douglas Cockerell, before establishing a small workshop in Lechlade. She later moved her workshop to Broadway in Worcestershire. From 1899 she exhibited with the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society; many of her bindings were on Private Press books for friends in the Arts and Crafts Movement.

Katharine Adams designed both the bindings and most of the special tools used in their decoration. The acorns and oak leaves, here forming the border, and pointillé floral designs, using numerous small dots, are characteristic of her work. The central panel bears heraldic roses and pomegranates, uncial Ms, and crowns like Queen Mary's 1911 coronation crown.

With ninety-eight pages and 316 plates, the book was printed in London by the Oxford University Press for the Trustees of the British Museum.

Inside front board, gold-tooled on vellum: PSALTERIVM MARIAE QVONDAM ANGLIAE REGINAE ... MARIAE NVNC ... CONSORTI OBTVLERVNT MVSEI BRITANNICI GVBERNATORES A.D. MCMXII (The Governors of the British Museum have offered the Psalter of Mary, formerly Queen of England, ... to Mary, now Queen Consort ..., AD 1912).

Adapted from the catalogue entry in 'Royal Treasures, A Golden Jubilee Celebration', London 2002.

Further details

Additional Creators: London : Trustees of the British Museum (publisher)
Broadway : Katharine Adams (binder)