Saturday, 13 July 2019

Otto Ege's "Chain of Psalms" Manuscript

In a previous post I reported that Otto Ege's 12th-century Italian Lectionary (Fifty Original Leaves / Handlist no. 3) appears in Erik von Scherling's Rotulus catalogue vol.IV (Winter, 1937). Looking again at that catalogue, I now realise that a widely-dispersed manuscript, whose text he referred to as a "Chain of Psalms" (FOL / Handlist no. 4; of which a leaf is shown above), is also there.

Here is von Scherling's description:

[Click image to enlarge]
The dimensions, number of lines per page, and description of the script ("small Gothic script of charter-type"), all correspond, and we can now see where Ege got the title Chain of Psalms ("Catena in Psalmos").

We now know that there were 210 leaves, of which the last five were "an alphabetical index", and the first had a "large initial I in red, white and black": the incipit was "Iocunda psalterio et cithara ...".

von Scherling was unable to identify the author or text. They remained unknown at least as recently as the publication of Scott Gwara's Otto Ege's Manuscripts (2013), but at some point since then, someone (can any reader tell me who?) has identified the text as Philip the Chancellor's Sermons on the Psalms (e.g. here, at the University of Iowa, of which an image appears at the top of this post).

von Scherling's inability to identify the text is easy to understand: the text does not usually begin at "Iocunda psalterio et cithara ...", so it is perhaps missing one or more leaves at the beginning; in any case, it would not have been possible for him to identify the text based on this incipit.

A leaf of the manuscript sold in December 2017 "most probably dates to within the author's lifetime" (he died in 1236), and an even earlier date is proposed: "c. 1200". This seems highly unlikely to me: the writing is 'below top line' throughout, which does not become common before the 1230s, and some leaves have full-width horizontal rulings in the middle of the page, as well as at the top and bottom, which is uncommon before the mid-13th century. Both of these features are clearly visible, for example, in the leaf at Kent State University (click to enlarge the image):

Quite apart from the ruling and layout, and based only on the script, I suspect that von Scherling's dating to "about 1270" is probably right.

For a much larger version of the image above, and about a dozen others, see the Denison University Ege website.


  1. Fantastic, Peter! Prof. Yin Liu and MA student Ariel Brecht at the Univ. of Saskatchewan are working on this manuscript. I'll be sure to pass this post on to them!

  2. This is very useful, thank you. I don't know who correctly identified the text on the U of Iowa website, but the identification was also done independently by Ariel Brecht a few years ago; we have an article forthcoming in Florilegium.

  3. I have folio clxxxiii ( see for the recto. Whilst the rulings themselves are hardly visible, the prickings are quite clear and show double holes at lines 3,16,16 and 31. It is also clear that the text is written above the top pricked line.

    When I was looking for information about my leaf, I could not find the text with a Google search. I therefore used the description provided in the December 2017 catalogue.

  4. I am the person who identified the leaf:) At the time, I was working part-time as a graduate student in 2014 in Special Collections at the University of Iowa. I didn't realize it had been independently identified by Ariel Brecht. Congrats on the forthcoming article! I'm so excited it's getting some recognition!