The Luttrell Psalter takes its name from a highly prominent inscription, inserted into the biblical text right before the last of the important Psalter divisions of Psalm 109 (in Vulgate numbering). The additional language reads: Gloria patri. D[omi]n[u]s Galfridus louterell me fieri fecit (‘Glory to the Father. Lord Geoffrey Luttrell caused me to be made’). Directly beneath is an image of a man on horseback, whom most scholars identify as Sir Geoffrey himself.
In size, the Psalter is a very large format (355 x 245 mm). It is heavy, too, so it is clear that it was not designed as a hand-held devotional book. Indeed, the Luttrell Psalter would have been much easier to handle (and still is) when placed on a lectern or desk of some sort. The text is large (the smaller letters are about 10 mm high) and is extremely legible, with very few abbreviations. These factors, together with the size of some of the decoration, suggests that the Luttrell Psalter may have been intended for communal reading or use by Sir Geoffrey and his immediate family.
Sir Geoffrey’s book is extensively illustrated, and is particularly known for the rather bizarre hybrid creatures that populate the margins of some of its pages. The full border around the beginning verses of Psalm 69 (Psalm 68 in the Vulgate) includes several such constructs, three with human heads atop sinuous bodies that form part of the decoration. Yet the ornamentation also includes much more straightforward and standardized biblical imagery. In the initial itself, a king, identified by a crown (perhaps king David) stands in deep water, illustrating the first verse: ‘Save me, O God: for the waters are come in even unto my soul’ (v.1 Douay–Rheims).
For another descendant in David’s royal line, the words of this Psalm would seem equally appropriate: the crucified Jesus of Nazareth, given vinegar to drink (v.21); a ‘stranger to his brethren’ (v.8); and altogether ‘consumed’ by his zeal for his Father’s house (v.9).
69Save me, O God!
For the waters have come up to my neck.
2I sink in deep mire,
where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters,
and the flood sweeps over me.
3I am weary with my crying;
my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim
with waiting for my God.
4More in number than the hairs of my head
are those who hate me without cause;
mighty are those who would destroy me,
those who attack me with lies.
What I did not steal
must I now restore?
5O God, thou knowest my folly;
the wrongs I have done are not hidden from thee.
6Let not those who hope in thee be put to shame through me,
O Lord God of hosts;
let not those who seek thee be brought to dishonor through me,
O God of Israel.
7For it is for thy sake that I have borne reproach,
that shame has covered my face.
8I have become a stranger to my brethren,
an alien to my mother’s sons.
9For zeal for thy house has consumed me,
and the insults of those who insult thee have fallen on me.
10When I humbled my soul with fasting,
it became my reproach.
11When I made sackcloth my clothing,
I became a byword to them.
12I am the talk of those who sit in the gate,
and the drunkards make songs about me.
13But as for me, my prayer is to thee, O Lord.
At an acceptable time, O God,
in the abundance of thy steadfast love answer me.
With thy faithful help 14rescue me
from sinking in the mire;
let me be delivered from my enemies
and from the deep waters.
15Let not the flood sweep over me,
or the deep swallow me up,
or the pit close its mouth over me.
16Answer me, O Lord, for thy steadfast love is good;
according to thy abundant mercy, turn to me.
17Hide not thy face from thy servant;
for I am in distress, make haste to answer me.
18Draw near to me, redeem me,
set me free because of my enemies!
19Thou knowest my reproach,
and my shame and my dishonor;
my foes are all known to thee.
20Insults have broken my heart,
so that I am in despair.
I looked for pity, but there was none;
and for comforters, but I found none.
21They gave me poison for food,
and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
22Let their own table before them become a snare;
let their sacrificial feasts be a trap.
23Let their eyes be darkened, so that they cannot see;
and make their loins tremble continually.
24Pour out thy indignation upon them,
and let thy burning anger overtake them.
25May their camp be a desolation,
let no one dwell in their tents.
26For they persecute him whom thou hast smitten,
and him whom thou hast wounded, they afflict still more.
27Add to them punishment upon punishment;
may they have no acquittal from thee.
28Let them be blotted out of the book of the living;
let them not be enrolled among the righteous.
29But I am afflicted and in pain;
let thy salvation, O God, set me on high!
30I will praise the name of God with a song;
I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
31This will please the Lord more than an ox
or a bull with horns and hoofs.
32Let the oppressed see it and be glad;
you who seek God, let your hearts revive.
33For the Lord hears the needy,
and does not despise his own that are in bonds.
34Let heaven and earth praise him,
the seas and everything that moves therein.
35For God will save Zion
and rebuild the cities of Judah;
and his servants shall dwell there and possess it;
36the children of his servants shall inherit it,
and those who love his name shall dwell in it.