Leaf from a Psalter:
Initial D: A Fool Rebuked by God, about 1300-20
Northeastern France or Flanders, perhaps
St.-Omer or Thèrouanne
Ink, tempera, and gold on vellum
The Jeanne Miles Blackburn Collection [Cat. no. 16]
The extenders (decorative marginal outgrowths) of this initial include an assortment of drolleries-grotesque, often hybridized little figures that typically engage in amusing and diversionary activities. Drolleries are often shown playing musical instruments. Here one may be seen playing a vielle, an early stringed instrument played with a bow. The profusion of drolleries and whimsical marginalia in illuminated manuscripts, especially psalters, became increasingly popular around 1300, a phenome-non that has been much analyzed by scholars. Probably produced for a pious lay clientele, the margins of these tiny psalters are filled with endlessly varied and often highly animated animals, persons of every occupation (including clerics), hybrids, and monsters. Their function was often satirical and was clearly meant to amuse and give enjoyment. They may have also functioned as a kind of visual cue, enabling a book's user to locate specific pages and texts.