An unknown manuscript by a medieval master

‘The Lucas Psalter is of clear artistic and cultural significance, and tells a fascinating English story.'

Images: British Library Board.

The British Library – the national library for the United Kingdom – has announced the new acquisition of a late 15th-century copy of the Psalms, a previously unknown example of the work of one of the most-influential artists of the late medieval period. Known as the ‘Master of Edward IV’ for their contributions to manuscripts made for King Edward IV (most of which are now in the Royal Collection at the British Library), the artist skilfully painted eight large initials for this newly acquired Psalter. This copy of the Psalms, made in Bruges, Belgium, might initially have been part of a volume or set of volumes of liturgical texts. It was owned by Thomas Houchon Lucas (1460-1539) of Suffolk, who was Solicitor General under Henry VII and whose coat of arms has been added to the manuscript, giving it the name by which it is now known: the Lucas Psalter.

Kathleen Doyle, from the British Library, says, ‘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 acquisition is an important one, as only a few individual Psalter manuscripts from this period in England are known, and so the Lucas Psalter opens up a window for future research into the iconography, the liturgical elements, and the use of the manuscript.

The Lucas Psalter will be digitised by the library and made freely available online at www.bl.uk/manuscripts/. It will also go on display at the British Library in London.