Scientists found lost book of psalms of refugee princess after 1000 years
Archaeologists have found fragments of a lost manuscript that is almost 1000 years old. It may have belonged to a princess who fled England after it was conquered by the Normans in the 11th century.
According to a study published in the journal Anglo-Saxon England, researcher Thijs Pork identified 21 fragments of the manuscript that were found in an archive in the city of Alkmaar in the Netherlands.
The discovery of the manuscript fragments was "accidental," said Pork, an associate professor of medieval English. Staff at the Alkmaar Regional Archives sent him images of fragments they found while examining bindings in their collection, which included a fragment of the book.
The fragments found in the Alkmaar archive come from a manuscript in Latin that contains additional annotations in Old English. These annotations - "glosses" - are often found in medieval texts to explain foreign or obscure words.
The researchers tried to find an answer to the question "how did a Dutch bookbinder in 1600 become the owner of an 11th-century manuscript from England?" They concluded that around the middle of the sixteenth century, manuscripts from England were sent to Europe in large quantities when the property of English monasteries was confiscated so that they could be reused by bookbinders and soap makers. One theory is that the 11th-century manuscript was one of them.
But Pork proposed this hypothesis - the manuscript is the long-lost psalter of the English princess Gunhild, who fled after the Norman raids that began in 1066. Gunhild was the sister of the English king Harold Godwinson, who died in the Battle of Hastings. The princess died in 1087, and since then any trace of the psalter has disappeared. All attempts to find it have been unsuccessful.
After her death, the Calvinists took the books and founded a library, and sold the books they didn't need. Perhaps the Psalter was sold with them.
"It is likely that the Psalter ended up in the workshop of a Leiden bookbinder in 1600, and the fragments now discovered in Alkmaar may have been part of her personal copy of the Psalms," Pork said.