A Nostalgic Filter: A University of Pittsburgh Exhibition

Parma Psalter

Parma, Biblioteca Palatina, Ms. Parm. 1870 (cod. De Rossi 510)

This richly decorated Jewish psalter was first documented in the collection of Giovanni Bernardo de Rossi, a noted Christian scholar of the Hebrew language at the University of Parma in the early 19th century. Though the manuscript’s original owners are not known, the colorful illuminations with delicate gilding indicate it must have been made for wealthy Jewish patrons who delighted in its depictions of fantastical animal-headed figures playing contemporary musical instruments. The psalms are framed on each page with commentaries by the Jewish philosopher Abraham Ibn Ezra, written in a smaller hand; some of these texts are unique survivals not known in any other manuscript.

The Parma Psalter facsimile is printed on specially produced paper that its publishers describe as ‘vegan parchment’ due to its uncanny resemblance to the look and feel of a medieval book. The golden highlights have been added by hand so that they may more accurately produce the effects of the original manuscript; this human intervention blurs the boundaries between the mechanical printing process of the modern facsimile and the medieval practices of illumination that are still a vital part of luxury bookmaking today.

To the best of our knowledge, this manuscript has yet to be fully digitized and made available online.  If you would like to bring an open-access digitization to our attention, please contact the UAG at Pitt.

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