Princess’s lost Book of Psalms believed found

Image of Gunhild's sister Edith, who married King Edward the Confessor
Image of Gunhild's sister Edith, who married King Edward the Confessor (public domain)

Fragments of an almost 1,000-year-old lost manuscript have been uncovered in an archive in the Netherlands, and the manuscript may have belonged to a Princess who fled England.

Thijs Porck, a researcher, identified the 21 fragments found within the binding of a Greek dictionary. Parchment was often recycled to use as binding as it was rather expensive.

The fragments come from a Psalter, and Thijs Porck has dated the fragment to 1050-1075.

“The interlinear Old English gloss makes it a very interesting find because it is relatively rare to find materials in this language,” Porck said. “I could reconstruct some leaves of the Psalter, and, when it was complete, it must have been a beautiful and luxurious book.”

He added, “What made this find even more interesting was the fact that, on the basis of script, language, size and contents, these fragments could be linked to others found throughout Europe: in Cambridge, England; Haarlem, the Netherlands; Sondershausen, Germany; and Elbląg, Poland. These fragments, scattered all over Europe, had once been part of the same manuscript.”

The Psalter may have belonged to a Princess called Gunhild, who had to flee to the continent after the Norman Conquest. She was the sister of King Harold Godwinson, who later died in the Battle of Hastings. She died in exile in Bruges, Belgium, in 1087, after which her belongings were donated to the catholic church in the city. The Psalter was last mentioned in 1561, with added text describing it as the Gunhild Psalter, written in Latin, “but with explanations in the Saxon language, which no one here can quite understand.”

Thijs Porck established that the books of the church were confiscated by Calvinists in 1580, and they sold any books they considered to be unnecessary.

“Perhaps this is how Gunhild’s Psalter ended up in the workshop of a Leiden bookbinder in 1600, and the fragments that were now discovered in Alkmaar may have been part of her personal copy of the Psalms,” Porck said.

About Moniek Bloks 2746 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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