Old Norse Law Books from a Material Perspective

Page 1

Old Norse Law Books from a Material Perspective

Edited by Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir and Lukas Rösli


Reformasjonstidens religiøse bokkultur cirka


tekst, visualitet og materialitet

Bente Lavold og John Ødemark (red.)


Old Norse Law Books from a Material Perspective

Old Norse Law Books from a Material Perspective

Edited by Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir and Lukas Rösli

National Library of Norway, Oslo 2024

List of Figures 8

1 Introduction: Old Norse Law Books from a Material Perspective 13

Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir and Lukas Rösli

2 The Norwegian Lawbook Ms.4o 1 and its Whereabouts 30 in the Sixteenth Century

Már Jónsson

3 The Hamar Lawbook 78

Anders Winroth

4 Codex Hardenbergianus: A Prachthandschrift from Medieval Norway 112

Stefan Drechsler

5 Token of Love or Expression of Female Agency? Helvig Hardenberg 159 and Codex Hardenbergianus

Randi Bjørshol Wærdahl

6 The Sixteenth-Century Translations of the 1274 Landslǫg 189 (Laws of the Land) – An Introductory Approach

Anna Catharina Horn

7 ‘Þetta er hworke gamallt ne gagnlegt’ (This is neither Old nor Useful): 219 (Re-)Constructions of the Medieval Legal Archive in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century

Lena Rohrbach

8 Norway’s Pioneering Editions of Old Norse Laws: The Creation of Keyser 256 and Munch’s Norges gamle Love indtil 1387

Mette Refslund Witting


Andreas Heusler’s German Translation and Paratextual Realignment

in Isländisches Recht. Die Graugans and its National Socialist Publication Context

Lukas Rösli

Index 328 List of Manuscripts 339 Contributors 343

List of figures

Chapter 1

Figure 1: Copenhagen, Royal Library, GKS 1154 fol., Codex Hardenbergianus, fol. 1v. Photo: National Library of Norway, Gorm Kjelsrud Gaare.

Figure 2: Codex Hardenbergianus, fol. 2v. Photo: National Library of Norway, Gorm Kjelsrud Gaare.

Chapter 2

Figure 1: Oslo, National Library of Norway, Ms.4° 1, fols. 15v and 17r. Photo: National Library of Norway, Gorm Kjelsrud Gaare.

Figure 2: Codex Hardenbergianus, detail from fol. 1v.

Figure 3: Reykjavík, Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, AM 334 fol. (Staðarhólsbók), detail from fol. 2v. Photo: Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, with permission.

Figure 4: Ms.4° 1, fol. 86v.

Figure 5: Ms.4° 1, fol. 11r.

Figure 6: Ms.4° 1, fol. 28v.

Figure 7: Ms.4° 1, fol. 20r.

Figure 8: Ms.4° 1, fol. 89r.

Figure 9: Ms.4° 1, fol. 95v.

Figure 10: Ms.4o 1, fol. 103v.

Figure 11: Abraham Ortelius. ‘Septentrionalium regionum descrip’. Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, printed and published by Officina Plantiniana, Antwerpen, 1601 [1570]. From the National Library of Norway’s map collection, map 2259, eks. 2.

Figure 12: cover of Ms.4° 1. Photo: National Library of Norway, Gorm Kjelsrud Gaare.

Figure 13: Ms.4° 1, fol. 131r.

Figure 14: Ms.4° 1, details from binding. Photo: National Library of Norway, Gorm Kjelsrud Gaare.


Figure 15: Ms.4° 1, front flyleaf, verso side.

Figure 16: Oslo, National Archives, Diplomsamling, RA/EA-5965/F06/L0065: Document nr. 92, 1561. https://www.digitalarkivet.no/db50002331100002. Public domain.

Chapter 3

Figure 1: Oslo, National Library of Norway, Ms.4° 317, fol. 166v–167r. Photo: National Library of Norway, Gorm Kjelsrud Gaare.

Figure 2: Ms.4° 317, fol. 97v.

Figure 3: Ms.4° 317, fol. 152v.

Figures 4–5: Ms.4° 317, fol. 108r.

Chapter 4

Figure 1: Codex Hardenbergianus, fol. 15v–16r. Photo: National Library of Norway, Gorm Kjelsrud Gaare.

Figure 2: Codex Hardenbergianus, fol. 14v.

Figure 3: Uppsala, University Library, De la Gardie 8, fol. 7r. Photo: Manuscripta.se, public domain 1.0.

Figure 4: Codex Hardenbergianus, fol. 1v. Photo: National Library of Norway, Gorm Kjelsrud Gaare.

Figure 5: Reykjavík, Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, AM 343 fol. (Svalbarðsbók), 1330–1340, fol. 1v. Photo: Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, with permission.

Figure 6: Codex Hardenbergianus, fol. 2v. Photo: National Library of Norway, Gorm Kjelsrud Gaare.

Figure 7: Codex Hardenbergianus, fol. 6v.

Figure 8: Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS Lat. 10435, f. 1r, 1290. Photo: Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris, with permission.

Figure 9: Dresden, Saxon State and University Library, Dresden, Mscr.Dresd.M.32, fol. 4r, 1320. Photo: Sächsische Landesbibliothek. Public domain.

Figure 10: Bergen, University Library, Spesialesamlingen, Dipl. 34. University Library, with permission.

Figure 11: Codex Hardenbergianus, fol. 22r.

Bibliography 9
List of figures

Chapter 5

Figure 1: Codex Hardenbergianus, fol. 16v–17r. Photo: National Library of Norway, Gorm Kjelsrud Gaare.

Figure 2: Codex Hardenbergianus, fol. 15r.

Figure 3: Portrait of Helvig Hardenberg, held at Gavnø castle. Source: Yngvar Nielsen, Norges Historie, vol. 4.1, Tidsrummet 1537–1588, 319. Kristiania: H. Aschehoug, 1909.

Figure 4: Rosenkrantz tower in Bergen, arms of alliance with Erik Rosenkrantz’s and Helvig Hardenberg’s coat of arms. Photo: David40226543, Wikimedia Commons, CC 3.0. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Erick_Rosenkrans_ Ottenson.jpg.

Figure 5: A replica of Erik Rosenkrantz and Helvig Hardenberg’s gravestone in Rosenkrantz tower in Bergen. Photo: Bymuseet, Bergen, with permission.

Chapter 6

Figure 1: A selection of manuscripts with the Laws of the Land in the National Library of Norway’s collection. Ms.fol. 5, Ms.4° 58, Ms.4° 314, Ms. 8° 296, Ms.8° 3121. Photo: National Library of Norway, Gorm Kjelsrud Gaare.

Figure 2: Oslo, National Library of Norway, Ms.4° 553, fol. 1r.

Figure 3: Oslo, National Library of Norway, Ms.4° 377, fol. 7r.

Figure 4: Oslo, National Library of Norway, Ms.4° 58, fol. 1r.

Figure 5: Oslo, National Library of Norway, Ms.4° 314, fol. 3r.

Figure 6: Oslo, National Library of Norway, Ms.8° 296, fol. 4v.

Figure 7: Oslo, National Library of Norway, Ms.8° 3121, fol. 3r.

Chapter 7

Figure 1. Oslo, National Library of Norway, Ms.fol. 86. Photo: National Library of Norway, Gorm Kjelsrud Gaare.

Figure 2: Ms.fol. 86, fol. 1r (p. 7 of the digitised images).

Figure 3: Ms.fol. 86, fol. 6v (p. 18 of the digitised images).

Figure 4: Reykjavík, Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, AM 334 fol. (Staðarhólsbók), fol. 70r. Photo: Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, with permission.

Figure 5: Ms.fol. 86, fol. 2r (p. 9 of the digitised images).

10 List of figures

Figure 6: Ms.fol. 86, fol. 89v–90r (pp. 184–185 of the digitised images).

Figure 7: AM 334 fol., fol. 87v–88r. Photo: Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, with permission.

Figure 8: Ms.fol. 86, fol. 106v (p. 218 of the digitised images).

Figure 9: Ms.fol. 86, fol. 114r (p. 233 of the digitised images).

Figure 10: Ms.fol. 86, fol. 130v (p. 266 of the digitised images).

Figure 11: Ms.fol. 30, fol. 8r (p. 17 of the digitised images).

Figure 12. Oslo, National Library of Norway, Ms.fol. 87b, booklet 3.

Figure 13: Ms.fol. 87b, booklet 3, fol. 9v–10r (pp. 18–19 of the digitised images).

Figure 14: Ms.fol. 87b, booklet 3. Photo: National Library of Norway, Gorm Kjelsrud Gaare.

Figure 15: Ms.fol. 87b, booklet 5, fol. 15r (p. 30 of the digitised images).

Figure 16: Oslo, National Library of Norway, Ms.8° 66, fol. 8v (p. 16 in Eggert Ólafsson’s numbering of the text, p. 22 of the digitised images).

Figure 17: Ms.8° 66, fol. 159r (p. 31 in Eggert Ólafsson’s numbering of the text, p. 353 of the digitised images).

Fig 18: Ms.8° 66, front flyleaf.

Figure 19: Ms.8° 66. Unfastened gatherings of the individual texts. Photo: National Library of Norway, Gorm Kjelsrud Gaare.

Figure 20: Ms.8° 66, fol. 117v (p. 234 in Eggert Ólafsson’s page numbering of the text, p. 242 of the digitised images).

Chapter 8

Figure 1: Portrait of Peter Andreas Munch by Sophie Ribbing (1865). Universitetet i Oslo, Kunstsamling. Digitaltmuseum.no. Public domain.

Figure 2: Rudolf Keyser. Daguerrotype by an unknown photographer (1850s).

Source: Per Sveaas Andersen, Rudolf Keyser. Embetsmann og historiker. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1961. Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Figure 3: Covers of Oslo, National Library of Norway, Mss.4° 684, 696, 697, 698. Photo: National Library of Norway, Gorm Kjelsrud Gaare.

Figure 4: Ms.4° 684, p. 11.

Figure 5: Ms.4° 682, p. 21.

Figure 6: Norges gamle Love, vol. 1, pp. 248–249. Photo: National Library of Norway, Gorm Kjelsrud Gaare.

11 List of figures

Figure 7: Copies of Norges gamle Love from the National Library of Norway’s collection. Photo: National Library of Norway, Gorm Kjelsrud Gaare.

Chapter 9

Figure 1: Heusler, trans., Isländisches Recht. Die Graugans, xxx–unpaginated page. Germanenrechte. Texte und Übersetzungen 9. Böhlau: Weimar, 1937.

Figure 2: Heusler, trans., Isländisches Recht. Die Graugans, unpaginated page–1.

Figure 3: Basel, Universitätsbibliothek, UBB NL 26 52n, unpaginated, Nachlass Andreas Heusler III.

Figure 4: UBB NL 26 52n, p. 12, Nachlass Andreas Heusler III.

Figure 5: UBB NL 26 52n, p. 13, Nachlass Andreas Heusler III.

Figures 6–13: Covers, endpaper and front matter of Heusler, trans., Isländisches Recht. Die Graugans.

12 List of figures

1. Introduction: Old Norse Law Books from a Material Perspective

Law books fulfilled a special role in Old Norse society. The ‘Section about Going to Assembly’ (Þingfararb ǫlkr) in the Norwegian Laws of the Land (Old Norse Landsl ǫg) from 1274 describes how the annual assembly held each June was to be organised, and here, a book was at the centre of things. When everything had been prepared, and the delegates who had travelled there from across the country had sworn their oaths, the law stipulated that the royal magistrate (l ǫgmaðr) was to have the largest bell rung when he wished to proceed to the assembly með bók (with a book). 1 Which book he was to bring was not explicitly stated, and thus it is not clear what would have been written in it, or whether it would have been large and elaborately decorated, or smaller and unornamented, as most medieval books were. However, we can speculate that the royal magistrate would likely have brought a copy of the Laws of the Land , the law for all secular matters, which he and other participants would have consulted, and according to which they would have judged, at the assembly. Another possibility would be the holy Bible – in legal proceedings, people

1 Paragraph 3 of Þingfararb ǫlkr, see Rindal and Spørck, eds., Kong Magnus Håkonsson Lagabøtes landslov, https://www.nb.no/content/uploads/2020/06/Landsloven_del2_Tingfarebolken.pdf.


swore oaths to God á bók (on a book), implicitly the Bible – but it seems more likely that the focal object for the royal magistrate would be a book containing the most important laws for the assembly’s proceedings. Whatever the case, at stake in this description is the book’s symbolic function in its opening rituals. The highly performative act of carrying a law book in public to the assembly must have added greatly to the solemnity of the occasion, and, in turn, conferred authority on the royal magistrate as the holder of the law, in addition to his title and office.

The older Norwegian regional laws of Gulathing and Frostathing referred to themselves as books and so, too, in the Laws of the Land , the laws are called l ǫgbókin (the law book), landsbókin (the book of the land) or just bókin (the book). 2 The law and the book are thus synonymous, and moreover, they are inextricably linked to both the crown and the divine. King Magnús VI Hákonarson Lagabætir (the Lawmender, r. 1263–1280) commissioned the Laws of the Land , and the law’s prologue claims that the king himself participated in writing them. 3 The illumination at the beginning of the luxurious manuscript called Codex Hardenbergianus (Copenhagen, Royal Library, GKS 1154 fol.) highlights this by showing the enthroned king handing a book to a younger man (fol. 1v, Figure 1). The law ultimately came from God, the prologue states, but the king and his advisors had a share in it by rendering it in written form. Fines and punishment were meted out in the king’s name, rather than God’s. The laws are thus derived from heaven,

2 For example, the Gulathing laws begin on 1r with the rubric ‘Her hefr upp Gulaþings boc’ (Here begins the Gulathing book); see Copenhagen, Royal Library, E don. var. 137 4to (c.1250), see digital images on http://www5.kb.dk/manus/vmanus/2011/dec/ha/ object173193/en/. Individual manuscripts of the Laws of the Land often retain this formulation, referring to themselves as being the book of the region rather than the entire country; see, e.g., rubrics in the beginning of Þingfararb ǫlkr in Rindal and Spørck, eds., Kong Magnus Håkonsson Lagabøtes landslov, https://www.nb.no/content/uploads/2020/06/ Landsloven_del2_Tingfarebolken.pdf.

3 ‘Prolog’, in Rindal and Spørck, eds., Kong Magnus Håkonsson Lagabøtes landslov, https:// www.nb.no/content/uploads/2020/06/Landsloven_del1_Prolog.pdf. The Laws of the Land would go on to be the country’s law for another four hundred or so years, until replaced by Christian IV’s Norske Lov (Norwegian laws) in 1604.


but they arrive via the throne, and although their origins are divine, they are very much interlocked with worldly power. Codex Hardenbergianus makes this clear in the illumination at the beginning of the ‘Section about Going to Assembly’, where Christ in Majesty is depicted above a king and a bishop, both of whose authority and power derive from him (fol. 2v, Figure 2). When held by a certain person in a ritual such as the assembly opening, it follows that a law book is invested with such symbolic heft – both secular and spiritual – that it becomes the physical manifestation of the king’s, and, by extension, God’s, power. This mediated immediacy of the book transports a presence of the divine and of secular power, but also the knowledge of its inaccessibility.4 The theme of this volume is the materiality of law books through time, and we explore an array of books in different materials and formats. This journey will begin with three fourteenth-century codices:

4 Kiening, Mediality in the Middle Ages

Figure 1: Codex Hardenbergianus. King Magnus the Lawmender, enthroned, hands a book to a man.

Codex Hardenbergianus and two smaller, somewhat older volumes containing the same law. It will pass through sixteenth-, seventeenthand eighteenth-century paper manuscripts, and take us all the way to modern printed editions and translations as well as archival materials. Each of the objects we will look at expresses the ideas of their makers and owners through its material, provenance and physical aspects such as paratext, and these features give us clues about how Old Norse laws were regarded and used throughout history. We will see law books functioning as practical tools with which to navigate society and wield power, mediums through which to display wealth, cultural resources and/or ideology, and repositories of knowledge about the past. The material aspect will take us through some of the history of mediums for the written word, from expensive vellum to the more accessible but still exclusive hand-made paper, to cheap mass-produced paper. We will also see how books are not stable objects. Units of books were taken from their binding, moved around and combined with other units to produce new books, and loose pages were transformed into properly bound volumes which framed them for the reader. The

Figure 2: Codex Hardenbergianus. Christ in Majesty above a bishop and a king. See also larger image on p. 125.

repeating modification of the physical manifests itself in a wide range of end products that can be read for meaning, just as their contents can. Parts of books were added or removed for different purposes, sometimes to augment a volume’s value for the individual owner, other times to censor and hide uncomfortable truths.

* * *

Though the oldest extant fragments of Old Norse legal manuscripts date to the late twelfth century, the oldest more-or-less whole books –such as the Norwegian Codex Rantzovianus of the Gulaþingsl ǫg (Laws of Gula thing) or the Icelandic Staðarhólsbók, containing the laws called Grágás and Járnsíða – are from the middle or second half of the thirteenth century. 5 However, it was around 1300 that the production of law books in Norway and Iceland really took off, and there are dozens of preserved fourteenth-century copies of the laws that were valid in these countries, i.e., the Laws of the Land in Norway (1274) and Jónsbók (1281) in Iceland. With a few notable exceptions, most of these books are not particularly lavish and their organisation and signs of use suggest that they were presumably practical and functional volumes rather than display items.

In this volume, we will look at two such books, both now preserved at the National Library of Norway in Oslo. These codices – Ms.4° 1 and Ms.4° 317 – contain texts of the Laws of the Land along with other laws and legal amendments, but the contexts in which they were originally used were quite different. Previously, they were included in broader surveys and philological studies of law manuscripts, but they have not been analysed as objects in extended, independent studies until now. 6 However, in their respective chapters,

5 Respectively, E don. var. 137 4to; Reykjavík, Arnamagnæan Institute for Icelandic Studies, AM 334 fol., c.1260–1281.

6 See, e.g., Storm, ‘Haandskriftbeskrivelse’; Horn, ‘Lov og tekst i middelalderen’; Rindal, Handskrifter ; Drechsler, ‘The Production and Use of Norwegian Law Manuscripts 1280–1400’.


Már Jónsson and Anders Winroth show how a study of a single codex from a material point of view can greatly enhance our knowledge of lawbooks and their owners, whether in the earliest parts of their ‘lives’ or in their fascinating trajectories through the centuries.

In Már’s chapter, we see how Ms.4° 1’s paratextual and physical features suggest that it was a typical Old Norse law book, emerging out of a dynamic Norwegian-Icelandic scribal milieu in which the two nationalities could not be neatly separated. With time, new owners added more pages and text – mainly royal law amendments – to keep the book useful as a practical resource for its legally oriented readers, and this continued updating allowed it to retain its original function for over 200 years. By following threads from a set of initials in the book belonging to the hapless magistrate Jens Pederssøn (executed in 1575), Már then contributes new information about the book’s ownership in sixteenth-century Norway, and by extension, the role of law books during those turbulent times.

This book seems to have been used by secular readers throughout its time, but the Church was one the of the main pillars of society, and in that context, Winroth explores Ms.4° 317, a book belonging to the episcopal see at Hamar in the medieval period, containing the Laws of the Land but also ecclesiastical laws. Winroth presents a careful study of the manuscript’s structure, provenance and contents, including marginal notes that functioned as finding aids or even to register the scribe’s opinions on individual paragraphs. He illuminates the book’s early history and how it was used, especially which bans and fines were consulted the most. His study thus gives an insight into how the Church’s legal machinery, derived from the international canon law of the Catholic Church, was run in practice in rural, eastern Norway. With methodological detail, Winroth uncovers facts about the book’s complicated codicology and history, revealing how the book was adapted to suit the needs of the clerics at the cathedral, and his analysis demonstrates how careful attention to a book’s continuing development through the ages is a fundamental part of understanding its original form. Together, these two chapters give us a good idea of how the law was used to wield power, and how law books ostensibly


containing the same legal framework were adapted and reworked effectively to serve their users.

Both manuscripts give a glimpse of complex, multi-national cultures existing in medieval Norway, and a third Norwegian legal manuscript showing the movement of people, books and ideas across land and sea is part I of Codex Hardenbergianus, a manuscript with the Laws of the Land originating in mid-fourteenth-century Bergen. So far, we have painted a picture of medieval law books as utilitarian, but this lavishly decorated codex is a prominent exception. Given its large, gilded illuminations, it is a prime example of a law book whose purpose was to display wealth, rank and cultural capital. Just as Bergen itself was a central hub in a wide-ranging trade network, Stefan Drechsler traces art historical and scribal aspects of Codex Hardenbergianus west to Iceland and south to Europe, especially Germany. He emphasises that the book was inspired by a multitude of influences from abroad, but that its makers combined these influences in new and innovative ways. Finally, Drechsler advances a new suggestion concerning the patron of this manuscript: Ívarr Andrésson, a nobleman and sýslumaðr who would have had the resources to pay for such an extravagant codex. The fact that the patron – whether Ívarr or someone else – chose for it to contain the Laws of the Land , rather than, e.g., a religious or chivalric text, tells us a great deal about their worldview and the signals they wished to send to their contemporaries.

In Randi Bjørshol Wærdahl’s chapter, we move from the book’s first putative owner to one who is certain – Helvig Hardenberg, the woman after whom the book takes its nickname. A Danish noblewoman who owned extensive property in Norway, Hardenberg wrote her name into the book’s margins four times as well as a marginal note next to an illumination. Her notes have, until now, generated surprisingly little interest in her as an individual with agency, and she has remained an elusive presence in the narrative surrounding this famous manuscript, which has tended to focus on her husband. It is only with the research presented in Wærdahl’s chapter that we can begin to understand more fully why Hardenberg might have left such a clear mark on her manuscript, and what owning a sumptuous


law book like this might have meant for an educated, wealthy and wellconnected woman in the late sixteenth century.

The fourteenth century was a period when Icelandic and Norwegian (legal) manuscript cultures were intimately connected, but subsequently, the two milieus branched off in different directions. In Norway, there was an abrupt fall in bookmaking after the outbreak of the great plague in 1349 and it was only in the sixteenth century, when Danish officials were appointed to many administrative posts in Norway, that law books came into substantial production again. These officials did not know Old Norse, which gave rise to the need for translations of the laws into Danish, and these were copied either on their own or in two-columned paper manuscripts with the original text parallel to the translation. However, there was no single, official translation, which resulted in the somewhat chaotic situation that more than one translation of the country’s laws was in circulation. In her chapter, Anna Catharina Horn conducts a pioneering study of these manuscripts and their contents, giving us an entirely new insight into this transitional period in Norway’s history. Horn sheds light on how people made efforts to keep a legal framework codified in a language foreign to most people functioning, and the different translation strategies chosen by sixteenth-century translators in their struggles to keep their country’s legal tradition alive.

In Iceland, on the other hand, the language remained much the same through the ages and thus there were no linguistic barriers to reading ancient laws even centuries after they were first written. The many Jónsbók manuscripts from this time contained the country’s current laws, but Icelanders also enthusiastically copied law texts that were no longer valid (or had never been so in the country). Although an exclusive pursuit, interest in these texts as historical sources took off in the seventeenth century and continued into the eighteenth, by which time the Icelanders’ most prestigious medieval law books had all been taken to Copenhagen. However, copying continued in both places and the resulting manuscripts give us intriguing glimpses of how medieval laws had come to be seen in this period of scholarly study. In Lena Rohrbach’s chapter, we see how scribes – whether Icelandic farmers,


intellectuals or students – and their patrons strove to reconstruct, preserve and understand the laws of ancient times. By analysing three manuscripts in the National Library and contrasting them with ones from Árni Magnússon’s collection, Rohrbach traces the developing approaches to categorising medieval law texts and the criteria used by Árni, as opposed to other scribes and collectors. Her chapter shows what knowledge was considered important to preserve and make accessible in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but also that there were different interpretations of this knowledge current at this time.

The line of reception of Old Norse laws continued into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, when printed editions and translations of legal texts were produced. These were propelled by ideas rooted in the greater ideological developments of their times. Despite a new medium, the work of the editors of these editions has clear intersections with earlier scribal activities, and Mette Witting’s chapter shows how much thought and resources were put into both their content and, no less importantly, their physical aspects – just as with medieval parchment manuscripts. The pioneering edition of medieval Norwegian laws printed in Rudolf Keyser and P.A. Munch’s first three volumes of Norges gamle Love (1846–1848) took decades from conception to print, and, using the transcriptions and collations on which the printed text was based as her point of departure, Witting leads us into the compelling world of nineteenthcentury textual criticism. She uncovers how typeface and nation building are connected, and how the challenges of working in archives far from home affected the individuals who later became larger-than-life figures in Norwegian historiography. Her chapter also gives a clear insight into the prosaic nature of the work that lies behind such a foundational edition – proof-reading, administration and requests for funding – but, not least, the enormous, careful and detailed work that the editors carried out, some of which, in a time where we modern scholars cannot begin to imagine life without computers, beggars belief.

The last chapter, too, looks at a scholar’s unpublished archival material that formed the foundation for a published legal text. Lukas


Rösli’s analysis of Andreas Heusler’s German translation of the medieval Icelandic laws Grágás reveals a scholar and editor trying to make sense of his sources – for himself and his imagined audience. Heusler had no qualms about inserting himself into the printed edition, perhaps much more markedly than, e.g., Keyser and Munch. He divided the text into smaller units, adding a title and headings, and took other liberties with the medieval source material. Like Norges gamle Love , Heusler’s Graugans is printed in Fraktur typeface. However, although both publications have connections to ideologies centring on ideas of nation and ethnicity, the latter appears in an altogether more sinister context, namely the Nazi cultural project, in which an imagined Germanic past was leveraged in the present for violent ends. The career of individual exemplars of this translation sheds yet more light on how books are invested with power, even relatively cheap paper books such as Heusler’s Graugans. Stamps, binding, removed pages and paper glued over words reveal how these books were distributed by Nazis, acquired by university libraries and at least one copy was later altered in order to draw attention away from its origins.

Although the chapters in this volume analyse different sources, the same issues and themes surface repeatedly. We see how the people holding the pen approached their task with great care and deliberation, and editors later altering what they wrote or presenting the text according to their ideas about what it meant. We witness readers writing in margins that were previously pristine, putting their individual mark on the book. Others pulled volumes apart and put them together in another shape – one that better communicated how they intended to use it or wanted it to be seen. In all cases, the laws’ context, contents and materiality are interconnected, and the chapters collectively demonstrate how valuable it is to look at medieval laws in their various physical manifestations through the ages.

* * *


This volume has its origins in a conference held at the National Library of Norway in March 2022. The conference’s theme was the materiality of law books, and it brought together scholars working on these books – broadly defined – from many perspectives. Just as the objects discussed in this volume show crosscurrents between countries and spheres of society, the chapters’ authors are an international group who work in different fields. This volume is part of a much larger project undertaken to commemorate the 750th anniversary of King Magnus the Lawmender’s Laws of the Land from 1274, an undertaking which has yielded new scholarly editions and translations of King Magnus’s laws as well as a variety of studies on their content, background and effects on society. 7 The present volume complements these outputs by putting the spotlight on their ultimate sources: the manuscripts. This theme was partly sparked by the more general development in scholarship in the last two or three decades towards seeing manuscripts and printed books as not only repositories of text but objects that are culturally invested with meaning. 8 In this context, it aims to add to previous work, especially on law manuscripts, most notably the volume The Power of the Book: Medial Approaches to Medieval Nordic Manuscripts, edited by Lena Rohrbach and published in 2014. Thus, this volume seeks to produce more knowledge about previously under-studied medieval and early modern codices.

The National Library of Norway holds many manuscripts containing medieval Scandinavian laws, some medieval but mostly early modern and modern. Many of these contain the Laws of the Land

7 See, e.g., Horn and Seip, eds., Lov og lovgivning: Nye studier av Magnus Lagabøtes landslov, editions of the laws by Magnus Rindal, Bjørg Dale Spørck, Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir, Marit Aamodt Nilsen and Espen Due-Karlsen, and several volumes and special journal issues edited by Jørn Øyrehagen Sunde, Erik Opsahl, Else Mundal and Miriam Tveit.

8 Many publications could be mentioned here, but recent examples are contributions in: Lethbridge and Svanhildur Óskarsdóttir, eds. New Studies in the Manuscript Tradition of Njáls saga ; Hufnagel, Þórunn Sigurðardóttir and Davíð Ólafsson, eds., Paper Stories ; Heslop and Glauser, eds. RE:writing ; Horn and Johansson, eds., The Meaning of Media ; Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir, ed., Góssið hans Árna ; Etheridge, et al., eds., A World in Fragments


either in the original Old Norse or in Danish translation, but here, we also find other secular and canon laws from medieval Scandinavia. These manuscripts came to Oslo (then Christiania) in the early to mid-nineteenth century, when the library was a new university library trying to establish a collection pertaining to Norway’s history.9 At this point, almost all the medieval Norwegian and Icelandic codices were held by institutions in Sweden and Copenhagen – the latter of which was Norway and Iceland’s capital for centuries. The Old Norse manuscripts acquired by the library in this period seem to have been brought together mostly from what could be purchased at auctions of the books of various Danish intellectuals and book collectors. 10 Ms.4° 317 is a notable exception, being probably the last medieval Norwegian law book ever to be sold by an individual owner in 1844, while Ms.4° 1 came into the collection from the Commission for Antiquities (Antikvitetskommisjonen), which, in turn, received it as a donation from the estate of a Norwegian bishop.11 This book is likely the only medieval manuscript with Laws of the Land never to have left Norway. On that note, in a period where cultural objects are increasingly being repatriated, Codex Hardenbergianus – a part of the Danish royal collection since at least 1670 – has been on loan to the National Library from Copenhagen since 2018. The scholarship on this elite manuscript had notable gaps that this volume seeks to fill, while none of the remaining books discussed here had until now been studied much, if at all, as individual objects, making them ripe for discussion. This neglect is partly to do with the scholarly focus on identifying the ‘original’ or ‘oldest’ version of a text.12 Many seventeenth- or eighteenth-century paper manuscripts, held

9 On the library’s early history, see, e.g., Collett, ‘Universitetsbibliotekets historie’; about its manuscript collection, see Witting, ‘Nasjonalbibliotekets landslovhåndskrifter’, 41–43.

10 See provenance information in Jónas Kristjánsson’s catalogue of these manuscripts in Skrá um íslenzk handrit í Noregi , available at www.nb.no.

11 See further Witting, ‘Nationalbibliotekets landslovshåndskrifter’, and Már Jónsson’s, Witting’s and Winroth’s chapters in this volume.

12 See, e.g., Glauser, ‘What is Dated, and Why?’; Rösli, ‘The Primal Scribe’.


either in Oslo or elsewhere, were copied from known exemplars and since they had no ‘text-critical value’ for editorial work, past scholars often showed little interest in such manuscripts. However, in recent years, this situation has reversed and researchers now regard them as vital sources for medieval and early modern cultural history. Given the changing perspectives towards these neglected sources, it was fitting to include such manuscripts in the conference and edited volume.

The transcriptions and collations that lay behind the first Norwegian scholarly editions of medieval Norwegian laws are also housed at the National Library of Norway, and we are including them within the category of law books, as well as related material held elsewhere, in this case, Heusler’s drafts for his Graugans. As new scholarly editions of medieval laws are being published under the auspices of the library, it is important, in that context, to contribute to a deeper understanding of previous editions and how they have shaped the reception of Old Norse laws. Yet another of this volume’s aims is thus to show that not only older manuscripts, but nineteenth- and twentiethcentury archival material, too, is a rich source for our understanding of modern historiography and scholarship on medieval law, and consequently, medieval law itself. Here, we seek to demonstrate that the printed editions and translations which made modern scholarship possible are the results of particular historical conditions. They were founded on decisions based on ideology, within the framework of contemporaneous technology, and their format and physical attributes are not coincidental or universal, but the result of deliberate choices that were intended to shape the reader’s understanding of the text. Just as with medieval and early modern handwritten manuscripts, individual printed books can tell us much about the people that produced and used them.

By acknowledging the multitude of meanings that we can read from these books as objects, we – scholars and readers in the twentyfirst century – share something with the onlookers who witnessed a royal magistrate walk with his book to the assembly hundreds of years ago. We do not know what feelings this book evoked but we can speculate that some of the onlookers might have been in awe of or grateful


for what it represented, while others perhaps feared or resented its ability to limit their actions and possibilities in life. The sources discussed in this volume will also provoke a range of feelings, but whatever they are, we hope the research communicated here will give a better understanding of how they came into being and what they meant to the people that held them throughout the ages.




Copenhagen, Royal Library

GKS 1154 fol. (Codex Hardenbergianus)

E don. var. 137 4to (Codex Rantzovianus)

Oslo, National Library of Norway

Ms.4° 1

Ms.4° 317

Reykjavík, Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies

AM 334 fol. (Staðarhólsbók)

Printed sources

Collett , John Peter. ’Universitetsbibliotekets historie i universitetets historie’. In Kunnskap – Samlinger – Mennesker: Universitetsbiblioteket og forskningen gjennom 200 år, edited by Svein Engelstad and Signe Brandsæter, 11–23. Skrifter fra Universitetsbiblioteket i Oslo 6. Oslo: Universitetsbiblioteket i Oslo, 2011.

Drechsler, Stefan . ‘The Production and Use of Norwegian Law Manuscripts 1280–1400’. Opuscula 20 (2022): 193–272.

Eithun, Bjørn, et al., eds. Den eldre Gulatingslova. Norrøne tekster 6. Oslo: Riksarkivet, 1994.

Etheridge, Christian , et al., eds. A World in Fragments: Studies on the Encyclopedic Manuscript GKS 1812 4to. Reykjavík: Stofnun Árna Magnússonar í íslenskum fræðum, 2021.

Glauser, Jürg. ‘Staging the Text: On the Development of a Consciousness of Writing in the Norwegian and Icelandic Literature of the Middle Ages’. In Along the Oral-Written Continuum. Types of Texts, Relations and their Implications, edited


by Slavica Ranković, Leidulf Melve and Else Mundal, 311–334. Utrecht Studies in Medieval Literacy 20. Turnhout: Brepols, 2010.

Glauser, Jürg. ‘What is Dated, and Why? Saga Dating in the History of Old Norse-Icelandic Literature’. In Dating the Sagas. Review and Revisions, edited by Else Mundal, 9–30. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2013.

Heslop, Kate , and Jürg Glauser , eds. RE:writing. Medial Perspectives on Textual Culture in Icelandic Middle Ages. Medienwandel – Medienwechsel – Medienwissen 29. Zürich: Chronos, 2018.

Horn, Anna Catharina. ‘Lov og tekst i middelalderen. Produksjon og resepsjon av Magnus Lagabøtes landslov’. PhD thesis. Göteborgsstudier i nordisk språkvetenskap 26. Gothenburg University, 2016.

Horn, Anna Catharina , and Karen Arup Seip , eds. Lov og lovgivning: Nye studier av Magnus Lagabøtes landslov. Nota bene 14. Oslo: Nasjonalbiblioteket, 2020.

Horn, Anna Catharina, and Karl G. Johansson , eds. The Meaning of Media. Texts and Materiality in Medieval Scandinavia. Modes of Modification 1. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2021.

Hufnagel, Silvia , Þórunn Sigurðardóttir and Davíð Ólafsson , eds. Paper Stories. Paper and Book History in Early Modern Europe. Materiale Textkulturen 38. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2023.

Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir , ed. Góssið hans Árna: Minningar heimsins í íslenskum handritum. Reykjavík: Stofnun Árna Magnússonar í íslenskum fræðum, 2014.

Jónas Kristjánsson. Skrá um íslenzk handrit í Noregi. Typewritten catalogue. Reykjavík: Handritastofnun Íslands, 1967. Available at www.nb.no.

Kiening, Christian. Mediality in the Middle Ages. Abundance and Lack. Translated by Nicola Barfoot. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2020.

King Magnus the Lawmender’s Laws of the Land. Translated by Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir. Routledge Medieval Translations. Abingdon: Routledge, 2024.

Lethbridge, Emily , and Svanhildur Óskarsdóttir , eds. New Studies in the Manuscript Tradition of Njáls saga: The historia mutila of Njála. The Northern Medieval World. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 2018.

Rindal, Magnus . Handskrifter av norske mellomalderlover ved Nasjonalbiblioteket. NB tema 8. Oslo: Nasjonalbiblioteket, 2020.

Rindal Magnus, and Bjørg Dale Spørck , eds. Kong Magnus Håkonsson Lagabøtes landslov. Norrøne tekster 9. Oslo: Arkivverket, 2018.

Rohrbach, Lena , ed. The Power of the Book: Medial Approaches to Medieval Nordic Manuscripts. Berliner Beiträge zur Skandinavistik 14. Berlin: Nordeuropa Institut, Humboldt Universität, 2014.

Bibliography 28

Rösli, Lukas. ‘The Primal Scribe - The Old Norse scriptogenesis and Ari Þorgilsson inn fróði as Iceland’s First Author’. In In Search of the CulpritAspects of Medieval Authorship, edited by Rösli and Stefanie Gropper, 53–74. Andere Ästhetik - Studien 1. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2021.

Storm, Gustav . ‘Haandskriftbeskrivelse’. In Norges gamle love indtil 1387, vol. 4, edited by Storm, 389–797. Christiania [Oslo]: Kommisjonen for Utgivelse av de Gamle Norske Lover, 1885.

Witting, Mette Refslund . ‘Nasjonalbibliotekets landslovshåndskrifter og deres proveniens’. In Horn and Seip, eds., Lov og lovgivning i middelalderen, 32–66.

Bibliography 29

2. The Norwegian Lawbook Ms.4o 1 and its Whereabouts in the Sixteenth Century

In 1804, a manuscript was put to auction with books and coins that had belonged to Ole Irgens (1724–1803), bishop of Bergen from 1779 onwards. A printed catalogue contains an admiring – and indeed admirable – description of the vellum, now housed at the National Library of Norway and catalogued as Ms.4° 1. Here was a beautifully executed copy of the Norwegian Laws of the Land (Landsl ǫg) of 1274

Figure 1: Ms.4° 1, open to fol. 15v and 17r, Landvarnarbǫlkr (Land Defence Section). Fol. 16 has gone missing.

with some corrections in the margins, two royal letters, a fragmentary church law and a number of royal letters written ‘næsten uforstaaeligt’ (almost incomprehensibly) on 24 paper leaves, and finally five vellum leaves containing old legislation, also ‘vanskelig at læse’ (difficult to read).1 Instead of being sold, the manuscript remained with the family, and in the spring of 1812, Rev. Johannes Irgens, bishop Ole’s son and parson at Vikør in the diocese of Bergen, presented it to the Commission of Antiquities (Antikvitetskommisjonen), recently established by the Norwegian Society for Develop ment (Selskabet for Norges Vel), of which he was member. In 1818, the collections of that Commission were taken over by the Royal Frederick University (Det Kongelige Frederiks Universitet) in Christiania (now University of Oslo), and on 19 January 1829, it was decided that all its manuscripts and books should go to the University Library. 2

In this chapter, the constituent parts of Ms.4° 1 will be described, and I will present an overview of what earlier scholars have said, evaluating these arguments against the manuscript. First, I will discuss the Laws of the Land , written around 1300, second, the Icelandic Christian Law (Kristinréttr Árna Þorlákssonar) of 1275, written at the end of the fourteenth century, and, finally, a substantial supplement containing mostly royal amendments, added just after the middle of the sixteenth century. Together with the binding, these latter additions turn out to be useful for an almost certain identification of two previously unidentified owners in that period, both of them magistrates at Steigen in Hålogaland. The first of these is Steffen Anderssøn, who added the material and had the manuscript rebound, and second, Jens Pederssøn, who acquired the manuscript in 1562 and put his initials on the cover. The latter’s vicissitudes after that have an intrinsic interest and will be treated in some detail. After his execution in 1575, the manuscript likely became public property in Bergen until Bishop Irgens got hold of it more than two centuries later.

1 Cited from Witting, ‘Nasjonalbibliotekets landslovhåndskrifter’, 45.

2 Ibid, 47.


Laws of the Land

The bulk of the manuscript, the first 86 leaves, is an early fourteenth­ century copy of the law of 1274. It was not meant to be a glamorous piece for ostentation, like the better­known Codex Hardenbergianus, 3 but rather, an item to be kept at hand by magistrates and other officials on travels and in court. The writing is continuous. The leaves have been trimmed and their current width and height are 139 x 183 mm. However, the lower and inner margins are intact, and the original size can be estimated at approximately 150 x 200 mm – close to size A5, and smaller than the present book, which measures 160 x 220 mm. The sum of these two numbers, in Italian semiperimetro, is 350 mm, which provides a ratio of 0.750 between width and height. It is thus among the smallest preserved manuscripts of the Laws of the Land , and somewhat clumsy at that, as the ideal proportion of medieval makers of manuscripts was the elegant proportion of 0.707 – the same as for a paper leaf of A4, measuring 210 x 296 mm = 506 mm. The beauty of that size is that when folded, the proportion remains the same.

Two similar vellum manuscripts of the Laws of the Land are Copenhagen, Arnamagnæan Institute, AM 60 4to and AM 62 4to, which have a semiperimetro of 366 and 413 mm respectively, whereas the largest volumes in continuous writing are Copenhagen, Royal Library, GKS 3261 4to and Copenhagen, Arnamagnæan Institute, AM 302 fol., with 480 and 497 mm, respectively. On average, manuscripts written in two columns are somewhat larger (see Table 1), and the largest of these is Copenhagen, Arnamagnæan Institute, AM 305 fol. with 521 mm. However, the smallest one by far – and quite an anomaly – is also written in two columns: Copenhagen, Arnamagnæan Institute, AM 31 8to, which has a semiperimetro of 247 mm. Compared to a Norwegian average of a semiperimetro of 420 mm, legal manuscripts in Sweden and Iceland were somewhat smaller, at 378 mm and 368 mm respectively. The Danish ones were by far the smallest at 278 mm. 4

3 On Codex Hardenbergianus, see the chapter by Stefan Drechsler in this volume.

4 Már Jónsson, ‘The Size of Medieval Icelandic Legal Manuscripts’, 30.


Table 1: Size and proportion of manuscripts of the Norwegian Laws of the Land from c. 1280 to 1400.5

In spite of the tight binding, the quire structure of the part of Ms.4° 1 that contains the Laws of the Land can easily be determined. Most of the leaves are quite thick, but some are more regular or standard – the thickness ranges from 0.25 to 0.40 mm. 6 Numbers from 1 to 86 have been written in dark ink on the upper and outer corners of the leaves, most likely when the manuscript was bound in around 1560 (see below).

The Laws of the Land part of the manuscript is made of 11 quires of six to eight leaves each:

1. Six leaves, marked 1–2, 4–7; all of them thick. Originally, the quire had eight leaves. One leaf is missing at the front and would have protected the first page of the text. When the numbers were written, there was a fol. 3, but this has since been removed. The corners of fols. 2 and 4 had been cut off before the numbers were written. At the bottom right on fol. 7v, there is a Roman numeral ‘.i.’ (Old Norwegian fyrsta rather than eitt) which appears to be contemporary to the manuscript.

5 The group consists of manuscripts and fragments that have not or just barely been trimmed. In order of size: AM 31 8vo, AM 69 4to, Holm. perg. 35 4°, NB Ms. 4° 1, NB Ms.4° 317, AM 68 4to, Holm. perg. 28 4°, AM 74 4to, AM 60 4to, Holm. perg. 30 4°, AM 58 4to, AM 65 4to, AM 61 a 4to, AM 1056 VIII 4to, AM 62 4to, NKS 1640 4to, AM 71 4to, Holm. perg. 34 4to, AM 72 4to, AM 322 fol., AM 307 fol., Holm. perg. 29 4°, GKS 1154 fol., AM 315 h fol., Holm. perg. 33 4°, AM 1056 VI 4to, Holm. perg. 11 fol., AM 78 4to, AM 57 4to, AM 56 4to, AM 309 fol., GKS 3261 4to, AM 304 fol., AM 315 i fol., AM 302 fol., AM 305 fol. AM indicates, here, Copenhagen, the Arnamagnæan Institute; NKS- and GKS-manuscripts are held at the Royal Library in Copenhagen; Holm. is short for Stockholm, National Library; NB signifies Oslo, National Library of Norway.

6 Measurements made by Giulia Oretti and Chiara Palandri, conservators at the National Library of Norway, on 13 October 2022.

Average semiperimetro Range of semiperimetro Average proportion N: Continuous 415 315–497 0.729 20 Two columns 427 247–521 0.720 16 Total 420 247–521 0.725 36

2. Eight leaves, marked 8–15; all of them thick. At the bottom right on fol. 15v there is a ‘.ij.’ (annat rather than tvau , see Figure 1).

3. Six leaves, marked 17–22; all thick, except for the last one. Originally, the quire had eight leaves, as fol. 16 has gone missing since the numbers were added, and one leaf was already missing between fols. 21 and 22. Before the text was written, there was a small rift on fol. 21 and the scribe wrote around it. One would have expected the Roman numeral ‘iii.’ on fol. 22v but there is none.

4. Nine leaves, marked 23–31; most of them rather thin, that is fols. 24, 27, 28, 30 and 31. Fol. 23 is a single leaf and at the bottom left on the recto­side there is a ‘.iiij.a’ ( fjórða), which means that the makers of the manuscript decided to change their system by indicating the quire number at the beginning of a quire instead of the end. For that reason, the third quire did not need a number on fol. 22v.

5. Eight leaves, marked 32–39; all of them thick except for fols. 33 and 38. At the bottom right on fol. 32r, there is a ‘va’ ( fimmta).

6. Eight leaves marked 40–47; all thick. At the bottom left on fol. 40r, there is a ‘via’ (sjötta).

7. Eight leaves marked 48–55; all thick. At the bottom left on fol. 48r, there is a ‘vija’ (sjaunda).

8. Eight leaves marked 56–63; all thick. At the bottom left on fol. 56r, there is a ‘.viii.a’ (áttunda).

9. Seven leaves marked 64–71; all thick. Leaf 65 has been removed since the numbers were written. There is no Roman numeral on the quire.

10. Eight leaves marked 72–79; all thick. There is no Roman numeral.


Figure 2 and Figure 3. Codex Hardenbergianus, detail from fol. 1v; and Staðarhólsbók, detail from fol. 2v. The ink and drypoint ruling, respectively, are clearly visible.

11. Seven leaves marked 80–86; all thick. The last coloured initials are on fol. 82r. There is no Roman numeral. Below the final sentences of the Laws of the Land on fol. 86v, an amateur scribe around 1400 added a note on berries and wheat that he had bought. 7 Below that, there is a note in dark red, either from the auction or the library’s acquisition of the manuscript. 8

Most Norwegian manuscripts in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries were ruled for margins and lines with dark ink that is usually still visible (Figure 2). On the other hand, Icelandic manuscripts were most often prepared with drypoint ruling (Figure 3). In Ms.4° 1, no remains of ruling can be seen. They may of course have disappeared, but a more likely theory is that the scribe’s only visual support were holes in the outer margins of the pages, which have disappeared because of the trimming. If this was the case, the result was good enough, since the lines are quite regular. This was observed in the auction catalogue of 1804, whose author was impressed by the beauty and consistency of the writing and the meticulous layout:

Skriften er meget siirlig og tydelig, Bogstaverne lige tykke, Distancerne jævne, og den eene Linie svarer allevegne saa nøye til den anden paa Bagsiden, som i den nøyagtigste Tryk, hvilket man og ved første Øyekast kunde fristes til at antage det for, dersom ikke nogle Blade hist og her vare skrevne med større Bogstaver, end andre.9

7 See NgL, 2:724.

8 Witting, ‘Nasjonalbibliotekets landslovhåndskrifter’, 43

9 Cited in Witting, ‘Nasjonalbibliotekets landslovhåndskrifter’, 44.


(The writing is orderly and clear, the letters of equal thickness, the distance between them equal, and the lines correspond exactly opposite each other on both sides of the leaf, so at first glance one might think that the text was printed, if only it were not so that on some pages the letters are larger than elsewhere.)

All the pages have 22 lines except for the last one, which has 18. Research into the speed of writing indicates that a trained scribe would have written around 200 lines per day.10 This means that the unknown scribe of Ms.4° 1 may have managed to write eight or even nine pages on a daily basis, and that it would have taken him 18–20 days to finish the 3780 lines of the Laws of the Land ; in other words a month or so of steady work.

After the final prayer and an impressive ‘Amen’, the scribe finished off with a scribal saying: ‘Dextera scriptoris benedicta sit omnibus horis’ (The scribe’s right hand is to be blessed for all times, see Figure 4). In 1937, Lynn Thorndike defined such comments as ‘final jingles in medieval manuscripts’, or more precisely, ‘Latin rhymes with which tired copyists expressed their relief at signing off from their labors’.11 Out of around 40 vellums containing the Laws of the Land , only Tórshavn, National Archives, Kongsbókin (previously Stockholm, National Library, Isl. Perg. 33 4to) has the same phrase, but added

10 Guðvarður Már Gunnlaugsson, ‘Hversu lengi voru skrifarar á miðöldum’. 11 Thorndike, ‘Copyists’ final Jingles in Mediaeval Manuscripts’, 268.

Figure 4: The scribe’s final jingle on fol. 86v.

somewhat later (fol. 71v). A longer and happier comment can be seen at the end of the Farmannal ǫg (maritime law) in Stockholm, National Library, perg. 34 4°, where the scribe Eiríkr Þróndarson concluded with a verse (fol. 90r):

Dextera scriptoris careat grauitatis doloris

Laude scriptorem donec uideas meliorem

Scriptor sum talis demonstrat litera qualis

Scriptor sit sanus sit sua sana manus.

(The scribe’s right hand is not in severe pain / Praise the scribe until you see better / I am a scribe as the letters show / Let the scribe be healthy, let his hand be healthy.)

A number of Icelandic vellum manuscripts from the early fourteenth to the late fifteenth centuries have exactly the same, or very similar, scribal jingles as Ms.4° 1.12 There could, therefore, be an Icelandic connection between the manuscript and Iceland, and indeed, in 1885, Gustav Storm concluded that the script in Ms.4° 1 resembled Icelandic writing from around 1300, whereas the orthography was essentially Norwegian. He considered the codex either to have been written by an Icelander in Norway, or dictated by a Norwegian. 13 Magnus Rindal investigated this issue thoroughly within a promising perspective of collaboration and reciprocal influence between scribes in the two countries, as the language was almost the same. Icelandic scribes will have worked in Norway and Norwegian scribes must have used manuscripts produced in Iceland. They will also have travelled to Iceland, and indeed, Haraldur Bernharðsson has recently argued that one of the four unknown scribes of the encyclopaedic vellum

12 These are: AM 232 fol., fols. 83rb and 107vb; AM 241 a I fol., fol. 16r; AM 343 a 4to, fol. 98v; AM 533 4to, fol. 38v; GKS 1812 II 4to, fol. 21r; NKS 1824 b 4to, fol. 38r; DG 11 4° (UppsalaEdda), fol. 92. This is mostly based on information from Guðvarður Már Gunnlaugsson; see also Kupferschmied, Die altisländischen und altnorwegischen , 1:216; Heimir Pálsson, ‘Uppsalaedda’, 137. Images of most of these manuscripts are available on handrit.is.

13 ‘[A]ltsaa er Bogen aabenbart skrevet af en Islænding i Norge eller efter en Nordmands Diktat’, NgL, 4:724.


Reykjavík, Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, GKS 1812

4to, writing in the early fourteenth century, was a visiting Norwegian.14 Rindal considers numerous ortographical details in Ms.4° 1 to be Norwegian rather than Icelandic. The scribe only writes ‘hl­’ twice in the beginning of a word: ‘hlutanum’ (2v19) and ‘hluti’ (4r3), but otherwise, the manuscript has ‘lyðni’ (10r16), ‘luta’ (22v3), and so on. Icelandic scribes, however, frequently dropped the ‘h’ here too, so this is not conclusive evidence. It could equally be used to argue that this was an Icelander who inadvertently kept the ‘h’ early on, but then adapted to the Norwegian way of doing this – since he was writing for the Norwegian market. The form ‘øy’ is overwhelmingly used, and not ‘ey’, as an Icelander would have done: ‘gløyma’ (13v3) and ‘løypr’ (73v4). There is, however, one instance of ‘geyma’ (24v10). The negative prefix is mostly ‘ó’ rather han ‘ú’, such as in ‘ómaga’ (19r10) and ‘óbóta’ (83v10); but not ‘úmaga’ and ‘úbóta’, which is an Icelandic trait. The writing also includes the Norwegian peculiarity of the letter ‘Ð’ at the beginning of a word instead of ‘Þ’, such as ‘Ðess’ (10v7) and ‘Ðat’ (78v3), which is extremely rare in Icelandic manuscripts. From his disquisition, Rindal concluded that the manuscript was probably written in Bergen and that the language is Norwegian, probably from the northern parts of Vestlandet.15

On the other hand, it should be noted that many characteristics of Ms.4° 1’s text are more common in Icelandic manuscripts than in Norwegian ones, such as the letter ‘þ’ within a word instead of ‘ð’, as in ‘iarþir’ (1v19) and ‘útlægþar’ (71v21). More importantly, the geminate consonants, such a ‘gg’ and ‘rr’, are frequently indicated by a superscript dot above the letter, or by a small capital letter (Icel. hásteflingur). This was rare in Norway, where the consonant letter was just doubled, or there was only one.16

14 Haraldur Bernharðsson, ‘Scribes and Scribal Practice’, 111–112. See also discussion and references in Stefan Drechsler’s chapter in this volume.

15 ‘Språkforma i handskriftet må difor karakteriserast som norsk, truleg nordvestlandsk. Det kan ha blitt til i Bergen’, Rindal, Handskrifter av norske mellomalderlover, 24; cf. Horn, ‘Form og formål’, 64.

16 See details in Zorzan, ‘Early Icelandic Scribal Practice’, 34–43, 60–63, 78–82.


The writing and orthography of Ms.4° 1 thus reveal elements that are certainly Norwegian, though some other aspects are clearly Icelandic. The same goes for the red rubrics or chapter headings, only entered in little more than half of the manuscript. The last regular one is at fol. 48r, and others appear sporadically, at fols. 65v, 71v, 80v and 81r. The writing is similar to the main hand, but this is definitely not the same scribe, and the orthography has even more Icelandic traits. Rindal concluded that there was reason to believe that the scribe of the rubrics must have been an Icelander.17

As for the initials, they, too, have similarities with what can be seen in contemporary Icelandic manuscripts, as Storm pointed out in

17 Rindal, Handskrifter av norske mellomalderlover, 25. Figure 5: A decorated initial on fol. 11r, in a style reminiscent of Fríssbók.
Figure 6: Colourful initials on fol. 28v.

1885 in a comment on their Icelandic character.18 The initials at the beginning of the different parts of the law are quite elaborate, and they are two to five lines high, with some of the letters stretching down the left margin (Figure 5). The chapter initials are two or three lines high – the colours are blue, green and red, with red, green or blue fillings, many of them finely drawn; in a few cases with some yellow (Figure 6). Otherwise, that colour only appears in the larger initials. The last chapter initial is a blue N, close to the end of Þjófabálkr (Section on Thieves, fol. 82r), with only nine pages remaining of the law. Anna Catharina Horn has convincingly connected these decorations with almost identical ones in Copenhagen, Arnamagnæan Institute, AM 45 fol., a manuscript nicknamed Fríssbók, containing Heimskringla . 19 This book was written in Norway in the early fourteenth century, probably by an Icelander.

All in all, what we have in Ms.4° 1 is a collaborative NorwegianIcelandic product in the line of Fríssbók, and also the vellum Stockholm, National Library, perg. 4 fol., containing Þiðriks saga af Bern , not to mention Codex Hardenbergianus itself. 20 On this phenomenon, Giulia Zorzan concluded – after an exhaustive investigation of geminate consonants – that such an Icelandic­Norwegian mixture was created ‘either because the scribe worked in close contact with an Icelander, or because the scribe was possibly Icelandic himself’. 21

The part of Ms.4° 1 containing the Laws of the Land was made for the region of Gulathing. 22 It is one of at least seventeen vellums of that kind that are preserved. Like all medieval manuscripts, it has the usual run of textual errors and even entire sentences that are missing – which does not necessarily mean that the scribe did a bad job. In

18 NgL, 4:724.

19 Horn, ‘Form og formål’, 65–66.

20 Jørgensen, ‘Islandske målmerker’, 217–221; Haugen, ‘Høgmellomalderen (1050–1350)’, 227–230; Drechlser’s chapter in this volume.

21 Zorzan, ‘Early Icelandic Scribal Practice’, 94.

22 Identified as Gt in Keyser and Munch’s Norges gamle Love , vol. 2 (1848) and Rindal and Spørck’s Kong Magnus Håkonsson Lagabøtes landslov (2018).


Figure 7: Marginal additions on fol. 20r supplied in the early fourteenth century from another manuscript (here in square brackets): ‘þeir friðhelgir er fé sitt veria ok frendkonor manna fyrir þeim [er vill søkia]. En hinir aller úgilldir hvárt sem þeir fá af ben eða bana, bæði fyrir konungi ok karlle. [Þat er ok úbótamáll ef falsar steðja, bréf eðr innsigli konungs várs] Þat er ok óbótamál ef maðr drepr ... eða á konungs skipi, [þó at konungr (sé) eigi í garði eða á skipi]. En ef innan bøiar verðr ...’ Cf. Rindal and Spørck, eds., Kong Magnus Håkonsson Lagabøtes Landslov, 316–318.

Mannhelgi (Human Inviolability), the section on killings and maiming, there are a number of corrections and additions by another scribe from the first half of the fourteenth century, as duly noted by Storm (Figure 7). 23 This occurs frequently on fols. 18v–29r, either between the lines or in the margins. Some of the additions must have been based on another manuscript, but when compared with the variant apparatus of the 2018­edition of the Laws of the Land , most of them appear to be idiosyncratic and even unnecessary fiddling that anyone with a fairly good knowledge of the text might venture to produce while reading it over. 24

In the sixteenth century – as it appears – someone added a few rubrics that were lacking (fols. 40v, 47r, 51v, 52r) and put slips at the beginning of Mannhelgi (18r) and Búnaðarbálkr (Section on Agriculture, fol. 46v) that stick out of the manuscript. 25 Such a slip was likely also placed at the beginning of Erfðatal (Section on Inheritance, fol. 29r), but it has disappeared.

23 NgL, 4:724.

24 Rindal and Spørck, eds., Kong Magnus Håkonsson Lagabøtes landslov, 1:293–424.

25 Búnaðarbálkr is often called Landleigubálkr (Section on land tenancy) in manuscripts of the Laws of the Land


Late fourteenth-century additions

At some point around 1400, three quires were added to the Laws of the Land – the vellum is somewhat lighter, and the leaves are, on average, thinner. There is no doubt that these quires were a coherent unit at the time. However, the textual composition is puzzling, as the first two leaves contain a Norwegian amendment and were clearly written by a Norwegian scribe, whereas the rest is an Icelandic text, written by an Icelander.

1. Seven leaves (diagram 1), marked 87–93 (much later, in pencil).

The bifolia 87 and 93, 88 and 92, 89 and 90 are intact, but a leaf is missing between fols. 89 and 90 that will have been connected to fol. 91. Fols. 87r–88v contain King Hákon V Magnússon’s (r. 1299–1319) general amendment for Frostathing, promulgated in Trondheim (Nidaros) on 2 May 1313. 26 Storm calls this ‘hand b’ and defines it as a stiff and formal Norwegian script from the mid­fourteenth century. 27 On fol. 88v, the scribes changed to cursive, but the text continues. After the mid­sixteenth century, another of King Hákon’s

26 NgL, 3:98–102; Regesta 3:264–265, nr. 858.

27 ‘[E]n stiv norsk Frakturhaand’, NgL, 4:726.

87 88 89 90 91 92 93 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Diagram 1: The first quire of three added in the fourteenth century

amendments was added, this one concerning free transport on land and sea for magistrates, published in Tønsberg in the eighth year of his reign, that is, between 10 August 1306 and 9 August 1307. No other manuscript has this text, and the editors found the old language somewhat degraded, for dærvet . 28 The amendment is written in what Storm called ‘hand c’, a rapid and somewhat fuzzy cursive script from around 1560. 29 Fols. 89–93 contain Bishop Árni Þorláksson’s Icelandic Christian Law of 1275. The script of ‘hand d’, as Storm calls it, is a stiff Icelandic cursive from around 1400 (Figure 8). 30 The text starts with ‘[hus]rum ok selia þeim mat ok hey’, found in the end of the law’s first chapter on baptism. Fol. 89 contains around 600 words, and around 500 are missing at the beginning of the law, so a leaf is missing that will have contained the first 500 or so words. This indicates that the Christ ian Law in this manuscript did not start with the Kristindómsbálkr (Christianity Section) of the Icelandic law Járnsíða of 1271, as many others do. 31 Fol. 91 is partly torn.

If Storm is right about ‘hand b’ being older than ‘hand d’, the amendment would have been written on fols. 87 and 88 first, and the remaining pages were left empty for later use – in another country. Given that the Christian Law continues on two more quires – albeit irregular in size – and the vellum is the same, a more plausible option is that it was written first and two leaves were left empty at the beginning, and these were then filled after the text had come to Norway, let us say in the early years of the fifteenth century. This can hardly be determined with any certainty.

28 NgL, 3:73; Regesta , 3:139; nr. 413.

29 ‘[E]n rask, noget gnidret Cursivhaand’, NgL, 4:724.

30 ‘[E]n islandsk stiv Cursivhaand fra c. 1400’, ibid .

31 Haraldur Bernharðsson, Magnús Lyngdal Magnússon and Már Jónsson, eds., Járnsíða og kristinréttur Árna Þorlákssonar, 40–43.

Figure 8: Bishop Árni’s Christian Law on fol. 89r, copied by an Icelandic scribe c.1400.

Diagram 2: The second quire of three added in the fourteenth

2. Two single leaves, marked 94 and 95 (diagram 2). Originally the quire had only three leaves. The text continues from fol. 93v in the previous quire to fol. 94r here: ‘verda til epterkomandi mag/fyllar audrum degi’. Fol. 95v ends with: ‘þar sem madr leggr fe til kirkna’ and fol. 96r in the next quire starts with ‘skipan ok bodordi’, which means that a leaf has gone missing between fols. 95 and 96, part of a bifolium with fol. 94 (Figure 9).

Diagram 3: The third quire of three added in the fourteenth century.

96 97 98 1 2 3 4 5 6

3. Three leaves, marked 96–98 (diagram 3). Originally the quire had six leaves. A leaf has gone missing at the end – it was a bifolium together with fol. 96. A bifolium within the bifolium 97 and 98 has been removed so that only a few letters in each line can still be seen. The final words on fol. 98v are ‘alls kyns fiska ok hvali’ in chapter 32, close to the end. There is a hole on fol. 97 and the scribe wrote around it. Bishop Árni’s Christian Law (Kristinréttur Árna Þorlákssonar) is written in two columns with 29 lines on each page. Cuts have been made

94 95

in the leaves to indicate how columns and lines were to be positioned, and the former have been traced with ink or by lead and are partly faded. This is the only instance of the Icelandic Christian Law in a manuscript of the Norwegian Laws of the Land , and it was certainly never valid in Norway. However, legal experts working on either side of the inconclusive dispute on ecclesiastical law between church and royal power during

Figure 9: Fol. 95v. The stump of the missing folio is clearly visible.

the fourteenth century would, of course, have been interested in having the text that all Icelanders were more than happy to use. 32

Mid-sixteenth-century additions

To begin with, there are 27 paper leaves, marked 99–125. One or more leaves at the beginning have disappeared, and the first text is incomplete. At least one leaf has certainly gone missing between fols. 116 and 117, and perhaps more. That happened before the numbers were written in pencil, probably at the University Library. Gustav Storm discerned three quires of 18, 4 and 12 leaves, with some missing. At the end of the manuscript, there is a vellum quire of five leaves, marked 126–130. Storm provides a list of the 38 texts in his supplement, 33 reproduced here with additional information on more recent editions, when identified.

Fols. 99r–100v are written in the already mentioned ‘hand c’ from around 1560:

1. The last 14 lines of a general amendment of Christian I (r. 1450–1481) (99r). 34

2. Christian I, an undated edict on robbery (99r–v). 35

3. King Hákon VI Magnússon (r. 1355–1380) on illegitimate children, promulgated for Iceland on 10 June 1375 (100r). 36

4. King Hákon V Magnússon on the duty of sending men for war and attending the general assemblies, perhaps published on 29 May 1303 but certainly between 10 August 1299 and 8 May 1319 (100v). 37

Fols. 100v–103v, in direct continuation, are written in ‘hand e’, starting in the middle of the page. In Storm’s words, it is a nicely executed cursive script from around 1560. 38

32 On Christian laws, see further chapter by Anders Winroth in this volume.

33 NgL, 4:724–726.

34 This amendment has not been published in NgL, anden række, vol. 2.

35 This amendment has not been published in NgL, anden række, vol. 2.

36 Már Jónsson, ed., Jónsbók , 293–294; DI, 3:299–300; Regesta , 7:192–193.

37 NgL, 3:141; Regesta , 3:336, nr. 1100; cf. III, 51, nr. 82, and NgL, 3:56.

38 ‘[E]n smuk Cursivhaand’, NgL, 4:724.

Figure 10: Hand c takes over from hand e halfway down fol. 103v.

5. King Hákon Magnússon on the fishing period, tithe and the Sámi, sent to Hålogaland on August 12 1313 (100v–102r). 39

6. Kings Magnús Eiríksson (r. 1319–1374) and Hákon Magnússon on commercial transactions on behalf of minors, published on 8 March 1364 (102r–v).40

7. King Magnús Eiríksson on the royal prerogative of buying fish in Bergen, published on 1 May 1373 (103r–v).41 ‘Hand c’ now takes over again in the middle of the page and writes fols. 103v–130v (Figure 10).

8. King Hákon Magnússon on local commerce in Bergen, published 16 October 1299 (103v–104r).42

9. King Eiríkr Magnússon (r. 1280–1299), general amendment of 1280 (104r–106v).43 The king sent the amendment to all the men in the region of Steigen: ‘ollum monnum ij Steiga tings logum’ (104r).

10. King Hákon Magnússon on threats, published in Tønsberg on 29 May and Bergen on 6 October 1303 (106v–107v).44

11. King Hákon Magnússon on marriage contracts, published between 10 August 1299 and 9 August 1306 (107v–108r). 45 The king sent this letter to all friends of God and himself at the assembly of Steigen: ‘ollum guds vinum oc sinum a Steiga tingi’ (107v).

12. King Hákon Magnússon on the interests of state officials, published on 26 December 1309 (108v).46

13. King Hákon Hákonarson (r. 1217–1263) confirms Cardinal Vilhelm of Sabina’s decision of 1247 on holy days and the privileges of the church (109r–v).47

39 NgL 3:106–108; Regesta , 3:269–270, nr. 874.

40 NgL 3:184–185; not in Regesta , 6:325–326.

41 NgL 3:192–193; Regesta , 6:155, nr. 358.

42 NgL, 3:41–42; Regesta , 2:359, nr. 1011.

43 NgL, 3:3–11; Regesta , 2:108, nr. 246.

44 NgL, 3:59–62; Regesta , 3:65, nr. 130.

45 NgL, 3:138–141; Regesta , 3:123–124, nr. 355.

46 NgL, 3:86–88; Regesta , 3:200, nr. 634.

47 NgL, 1:454.


14. King Hákon Hákonarson confirms Cardinal Nikolaus’s decision on gifts (109v–110r).48

15. King Hákon Magnússon on not heeding royal letters (brevbrud ), published on 25 November 1315 (110r–v). 49 The king sent the letter to all men at the assembly of Steigen: ‘ollum Steiga tings monnum’ (110r).

16. King Hákon Magnússon on the inheritance of someone who had been legitimised (ættleiðingr ), published on 28 March 1318 (110v–111r). 50

17. King Hákon Magnússon on the duties of men at his court, published on 11 October 1303 (111r–v). 51 The king sent the letter to all men in the region of the Steigen assembly: ‘ollum monnum ij Stege tings logum’ (111r).

18. An excerpt on marriage contracts from the older law of Gulathing (111v–112r). 52

19. Queen Margrete (r. 1387–1412) on the debts of men who had been killed, on exile, adultery and other issues, published on 29 March 1392, but here, undated and incomplete (112r–v). 53

20. Hákon Magnússon, amendment for Ringerike, published on 10 April 1297 (112v–114v). 54 The end is missing but it must have been on a leaf, or rather two leaves, that have disappeared from the middle of the quire, between fols. 114 and 115.

21. An ordinance (reces) for Norway, published by the royal representatives Truid Gregersen Ulfstand (1487–1545) and Claus Bille (d. 1558) in Oslo and Bergen in 1539. The beginning is missing (115r–116r). 55

48 NgL, 1:447.

49 NgL, 3:114–115; Regesta , 3:289–290, nr. 941.

50 NgL, 3:128–131; Regesta , 3:322, nr. 1051.

51 NgL, 3:66–67; Regesta , 3:65–66, nr. 131.

52 NgL, 4:15–16.

53 NgL, anden række, 1:22–24.

54 NgL, 3:27–30; Regesta , 2:311–312, nr. 872.

55 Paus, Gamle Kongelige Forordninger, 291–298; cf. lokalhistoriewiki.no/wiki/Leksikon:Herredag.


22. On assuring reciprocal security or ‘gridsettningh’ (116r). 56

23. King Hákon Magnússon on the duties of men at his court, published on 29 May 1303 (116v). 57

24. King Erik of Pomerania (r. 1396–1439) on commerce, published on 29 August 1421 (117r–v). 58

25. King Christoffer III (r. 1440–1448) on the rights of German merchants, published on 4 December 1444 (117v–121r). 59 A few lines are missing at the end as the lowest part of fol. 121 has been cut off.

26. King Christian III (r. 1537–1559) on dishonest businessmen (bissekræmmere) in 1546 (121v). An edition has not been identified.

27. King Christian III on coins and weights, published on the third Sunday in Lent in 1541 (122r–124v). An edition has not been identified.

28. King Frederik II (r. 1559–1588) on trade in Nordland, promulgated in Esrum in northern Sjælland on 17 April 1562 (125r–v). 60 At the bottom of the page, the scribe added: ‘24 blade’ and they are now 27. Fols. 126–130. A quire of five vellum leaves. A leaf between fols. 127 and 128 has been cut out. 61 Fol. 126r is empty except for a stamp from the University Library and the year 1562, likely written by a librarian.

29. King Christoffer III’s general amendment for Norway of 6 July 1442 (126v–127r). 62 The edition mentions this manuscript, with a suggestion that the scribe may have been Jørgen Pederssøn, magistrate in Trondheim. 63 This must be based on the initials ‘IP’, written on the inside of the first leaf, but it is not correct (see later in this chapter). Jørgen Pedersen Staur held the post in the years 1565 to 1589. 64

56 Edited in a footnote to the description of the manuscript in NgL, 4:726.

57 NgL, 3:56–57; Regesta , 3:51, nr. 82.

58 NgL, anden række, 1:105–107, where this manuscript is mentioned.

59 NgL, anden række, 1:234–243.

60 NRR, 1:348–349.

61 NgL, 4:724.

62 NgL, anden række, 1:212–214.

63 Ibid, 212.

64 ‘Jørgen Pedersen Staur’, Lokalhistoriewiki.no


30. A verdict on robbery ( gripdeildir) from the reign of Queen Margrete (127v). Fol. 128r has no text.

31. King Hans (r. 1483–1513) on a variety of issues concerning Norway, published on 7 July 1491 (128v). 65 The date is missing and at least five lines have been cut off.

32. King Magnús Eiríksson on false oaths (meinsæri ), clandestine killings (snigmord ) and attacks with knife, published on 18 February 1348 (129r). 66

33. On the time of year for hunting seals, similar to what is found in the older Frostaþingsl ǫg and Bjarkeyjarréttr (the laws for Nidaros town). 67

34. King Hákon Magnússon on not attending general assemblies, published on 10 June 1313 (129v). 68 The king sent the letter to all sheriffs and their representatives, as well as those of the bishop, in the region of Steigen: ‘ollum syslumonnum sinum oc theira lensmonnum oc biskups armonnum j Stege tings laugum’ (129v).

35. King Hákon Magnússon on officials who were to attend general assemblies, published on 23 June 1310 (129v). 69 Three manuscripts have ‘all men’ and one has ‘Frostaþingsmenn’ (men of Frostathing), whereas here, yet again, the king sends the letter to all men in the region of Steigen: ‘ollum monnum i Stege tings logum’ (129v).

36. Articles from a meeting of the State council (Herredag) in Oslo after the oaths of allegiance to King Frederik II on 10 July 1548 (130r). 70

37. A short note on the price of land and a cow in the year 1554 (130v).

38. On whales and seals in the Sea of Greenland ‘Ex speculo regali’ (130v). These are short notes excerpted from Konungs skuggsjá

65 NgL, anden række, 3:160–162. The year 1483 refers to his reign as King of Norway.

66 NgL, 3:172–173; Regesta , 5:357.

67 Rindal, Handskrifter av norske mellomalderlover, 23; NgL, 1:252, 330.

68 NgL, 3:105–106; Regesta , 3:267; nr. 866.

69 NgL, 3:88–90; Regesta , 3:206; nr. 655.

70 Edited as ‘Optegnelser af Peder Claussön’ from AM 94 4o in Johnsen, Aktstykker, 20; cf. Scheel, Lagmann og skriver, 34.


(King’s Mirror) on the size of such animals, that the scribe for some reason or other found interesting. 71 At the bottom of fol. 130v there is an auction note in red (mentioned at the beginning of this chapter). 72

The most recent part of the manuscript is thus the common medley of royal amendments and letters for Norway, extant in dozens of manuscripts from the latter half of the sixteenth century. What is unique here is the detail in some of the oldest amendments that the king supposedly sent them to the men of Steigen in the far north in Hålogaland (see Figure 11): 1280 (nr. 9), 1303 (17), 1306 (11), 1310 (35), 1313 (34) and 1315 (15). Rindal observed this peculiarity and explains that no other manuscript has these six references. 73 That assembly was one of five established by King Hákon Magnússon in around 1300. One of the six amendments was published before that, and the formula must have been added later to all of them, probably by the scribe himself, i.e., ‘hand c’. He most certainly knew the old language well and may have wanted to adapt the texts to local conditions and boost the reputation of Steigen. In any case, there can be no doubt that those paper and vellum additions were written in that region.

71 Rindal, Handskrifter av norske mellomalderlover, 23; Holm-Olsen, ed., Konungs skuggsiá , 15–17, 28–29.

72 Witting, ‘Nasjonalbibliotekets landslovhåndskrifter’, 43.

73 Rindal, Handskrifter av norske mellomalderlover, 22.

Figure 11: Map of Norway from 1570. Steigen (Steg on the map) is visible at the top.

It should be safe to assume that the vellum part was written in around 1554, as indicated by the date provided in nr. 37. The paper part was written a few years later. Its last text, and the youngest royal letter, was published on 17 April 1562 (nr. 28) and addressed to ‘Nordlandene’ (the people of the North). The king had been informed that merchants and other inhabitants of Bergen and Trondheim went to the North and bought fish at sea so that no tithe was paid from the catch, to the detriment of royal revenue. To make things worse –according to the letter – these men brought harmful merchandise to the region, such as alcohol, figs, grapes and gingerbread, damaging farmers rather than doing them good: ‘som Bønderne mere ere til Fordærv end til Gavn’. From now on, such imports were strictly forbidden, and those who wished to buy fish should only bring merchandise that was useful to the inhabitants. 74 On that same day, King Frederik II published two extensive decrees concerning Bergen and Stavanger that the scribe did not include. 75 As it happens, the year 1562 has been stamped on the front cover of the binding of the manuscript and on the inside of the cover someone has written the same year along with his initials and insignia (see below).

The Binding

Cuts in the inner margins of the oldest parts of the manuscript – the Laws of the Land and the vellum additions – indicate that they had been bound together before the manuscript was bound as it is now. It may also have been trimmed at that earlier stage. It is most likely that the current binding was made to order for this specific manuscript, but there is also the option that the binding as a whole was taken from a printed book and reused. There must have been bookbinders who were sufficiently skilled for both tasks in Bergen at the time, although the job could, of course, have been done in Copenhagen or even in the northernmost regions of the German states.

74 NRR, 1:349.

75 NRR, 1:345–348.


The covers are wooden boards with stretched brown leather, probably calfskin. The two metal clasps are partially preserved. There are three raised ribs across the spine, stitched with thick thread. 76 The covers will have been moistened, with motifs impressed on them by the use of heated stamps and rolls. This binding has vertical and horizontal panel stamps, partly overlapping, with flower patterns and small profile portraits of Martin Luther, Philipp Melanchton, Erasmus and Johann (or Jan) Hus, with ornamental forms between them (Figure 12). Such panels were common on bookbinding in the Protestant regions of Germany in the second half of the sixteenth century, and they served to enhance the memory of these men. Equally popular were panels with these four men along with Emperor Charles V. Hundreds of such bindings are extant. Melanchthon never has a hat and most often he

76 Cf. Stephens, ‘16th Century German’; Pirie, ‘A Bookbinding from Wittenberg’.

Figure 12: The binding of Ms.4° 1 up close, showing flowers and small profile portraits of prominent intellectuals within boxes and frames. A portrait of Martin Luther is visible in the bottom left corner.

and Luther look to the right. 77 The bookbinder has not left his initials on the cover.

At present, there is a loose vellum leaf inside the front cover of the manuscript, and another one at the back – a widespread practice among bookbinders in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as ‘useless’ vellums were reused, in this case a Catholic text. In Gustav Storm’s time, these leaves were pasted to the cover, and he identified on them a text about Saint George. 78 In fact, the text on the two leaves contains parts of sermons on saints by Peregrinus of Oppeln in Silesia (now Poland), who, at an early age, entered the Dominican monastery of St. Jacob in the neighbouring Ratibor. He may have studied abroad, and by 1303, he had become prior as well as court preacher of the ducal family. His two collections of homilies, one according to the church year (De tempore) and the other on saints (De sanctis), were composed in the years 1297–1304. Peregrinus then moved to Breslau to become abbot of the Dominican monastery of Saint Adalbert, and in 1305, he was elected as head of the Polish province of the order. He moved back to Ratibor in 1312 and died in Breslau in 1333 or shortly after that. 79 His sermons were popular in Central Europe in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. They are preserved in close to 300 manuscripts in over 60 library collections, the oldest one written in 1305. Nine printed editions were published in Köln, Strasbourg and Ulm in 1474 to 1505. 80 The two leaves come from the same manuscript and were most likely written in the fifteenth century – but not in Scandinavia (Figure 13). The 1997 edition of the sermons on saints is based on a

77 Porr, ‘Lehrhafte Buchgewänder’, 1:6, 11, 14, 228–231, 239. For fine rippings of such panels from books published between 1545 and 1585, see 2:74, 104–111, 119, 141–145, 218, 240–246, 261, 342–344. None of them are exactly like this one, nor are any of those available at the German Einbanddatenbank (EBDB), www.hist-einband.de –> Suche –> Werkzeuge; for instance ‘Erasmus’ or ‘Melanchthon’. A few bindings with these panels from the years 1564–1584 are to be glimpsed in the British Library’s database of bookbindings when searching for ‘protestant reformers’; the images are almost invisible.

78 ‘Over Træpladerne er klistret Blade af et Legendarium, hvor læses om St. Georgius’, NgL, 4:727.

79 Tatarszyński, Peregrini de Opole , xlii–xlviii; Martin, Pérégrin d’Opole , 13–20.

80 Tatarszyński, Peregrini de Opole , li, lvi; Martin, Pérégrin d’Opole , 37–42.


fourteenth­century manuscript in the Vatican Library (Palat. lat. 465), and ten other manuscripts were consulted. 81 There is wide variety between manuscripts as to what sermons are included, and many scribes shortened the text or reorganized it. 82 It is thus no surprise that the text in Ms.4° 1 differs from the edition. The leaf on the inside of the back cover comes before the other.

The first line is the end of a sermon that cannot be identified; it is not in the edition. More than half of the sermon on Saint George is preserved here with a rubric in red: ‘De sancto Georgio martyris’ (On the martyr Saint George). It starts with a quote to the letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians 6, 11 (‘Induite vos armaturam Dei’) and ends with ‘ut infra unum mensem xvii’. The text is the same as in the edition, although with some differences in wording and extensive omissions – for instance, a discussion between the saint and the girl he is about to rescue from the dragon. 83 The text inside the front cover starts in the middle of a sermon on Saint Peter, and at the bottom of the page, a sermon on Saint Lawrence begins with a red rubric: ‘De sancto Laurentio’. The second page contains almost half of that sermon, the text ending with the Devil being thrown out of heaven: ‘eiectus de claustro celesti quia in probatione’. The text in Ms.4° is close to the edition but slightly shorter. 84

The works of Peregrinus must have been known and in use by Dominicans in the Nordic countries in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. However, no other fragments of his sermons are extant in Norway, nor in Sweden. 85 The National Library of Finland has an incomplete fifteenth­ century manuscript containing sermons by Peregrinus on vellum and paper, written in two columns in a cursive

81 Tatarszyński, Peregrini de Opole , lxiii–lxiv, lxxi.

82 Tatarszyński, Peregrini de Opole , lx.

83 Tatarszyński, Peregrini de Opole , 405–409.

84 Tatarszyński, Peregrini de Opole , 471–474.

85 E-mails from Åslaug Ommundsen on 22 September and Johnny Grandjean Gøgsig Jakobsen on 18 November 2022; Riksarkivets databas över medeltida pergamentomslag (Sweden’s National Archives’ database of medieval parchment folders).

Figure 13: Back flyleaf, fol. 131r, with text from a sermon on saints by Peregrinus of Oppeln.

14: Details from the binding of Ms.4° 1. In the trapezoid-shaped frame, the initials IP are visible, added in between two flowers and a fleur-de-lis.

handwriting, quite unlike the handwriting on the two leaves in Ms.4° 1. On the upper margins on fols. 22r and 22v, there are notes in Swedish or Danish, most likely written in the late sixteenth century. 86

An owner’s note has been impressed in between flowers on the front cover of Ms.4° 1: ‘I P / 6 2’. A little higher to the right, the letters ‘I’ and ‘P’ have also been impressed (Figure 14). Inside the front cover,

86 The National Library of Finland, https://www.doria.fi/handle/10024/113063 and https:// www.finlit.fi/sites/default/files/mediafiles/tutkimus/nationallibrarycoi6.pdf

Figure Figure 15. Initials and insignia on Ms.4° 1’s front flyleaf.

the owner has drawn his insignia (bomærke) and written the initials ‘I P’ as well as the year 1562 (Figure 15). Gustav Storm did not know who this was but suggested that it was written by ‘hand c’. 87 That would indeed be interesting, but it cannot be verified, based only on the two majuscules I and P, and the four numbers 1, 5, 6 and 2. There is a note on some property above these and along the left margin of the whole page – certainly not ‘hand c’ but from the sixteenth century. The initials and insignia appear to have been placed afterwards in an empty space between this note and the first line of Peregrinus. The number 207 (left of the insignia) is a much later addition.

When asked about the initials ‘IP’, Jo Rune Ugulen at the State Archive in Bergen immediately identified him as Jens Pederssøn, magistrate (lagmann) in Stavanger and later at Steigen. Ugulen also pointed to a charter written in Bergen on 29 July 1561 where Pederssøn was present. His seal is still there and has the same symbol as in the manuscript (Figure 16). 88 The Norwegian magistrates were judges in courts of appeal in the regional assemblies around the country. The importance of this position can be seen in that on 20 March 1559, all Norwegian magistrates were ordered to travel to Copenhagen so that they could attend the crowning of a new king. 89 Two years later, in a royal letter of 5 May 1561, Jens Pederssøn first appears as magistrate of Stavanger.90

On 28 March 1562, King Frederik II ordered five magistrates to meet in Bergen in order to prepare the rebuilding of the town after a devastating fire the year before; these were Mats Størssøn of Bergen (d. 1569), Søren Pederssøn of Trondheim (d. 1565), Jon Simonssøn (1512–1575) at Agdesiden, Jens Pederssøn (d. 1575) of Stavanger and Steffen Anderssøn (d. 1564) of Steigen.91 On 4 August, Mats Størssøn,

87 NgL, 4:727; cf. Horn, ‘Form og formål’, 66.

88 E-mail 25 August 2022; Riksarkivets diplomsamling. Dokument nr. 92 (1561), on https:// media.digitalarkivet.no/view/105980/1; cf. Christiansen, ‘Var Tord Benkestokks ektefelle’, 58.

89 NRR, 1:261.

90 NRR, 1:312.

91 NRR, 1:337; Nicolaysen, ed., Absalon Pederssöns dagbog , 282.


Jens Pederssøn and Steffen Anderssøn were together in Bergen, and declared that they had met with Erik Rosenkrantz (1519–1575), the royal representative, to discuss a variety of issues.92 Steffen had, by then, been magistrate at Steigen for twenty years, having been appointed on 22 March 1542.93 The inclusion of the men of the assembly at Steigen in a number of royal amendments in the paper additions to the Ms.4° 1 makes it tempting to suggest that Steffen must have owned the manuscript and written some of the additions, or that he had all of it written for him – and then had the book bound in Bergen or Copenhagen. The most likely scenario is that Jens Pederssøn bought it, exchanged it with something of equal value or received it as a gift when they met in Bergen in the summer of 1562, and that at that time he put his initials and insignia on the cover – as well as the year. He

92 Nicolaysen, ed., Absalon Pederssöns dagbog , 285.

93 NRR, 1:64.

Figure 16. Jens Pederssøn’s seal, fourth from the left, attached to a charter written in Bergen on 29 July 1561.

was thus not the scribe of ‘hand c’, as Gustav Storm thought, but acquired the manuscript in its present form and must now have taken it to Stavanger, where he would have used it regularly in his work. There is thus nothing in the manuscript that can be attributed to him, but he owned it for thirteen years, and the volume returned to Steigen soon enough – and may even have accompanied him on his journeys to Copenhagen and Bergen. These last years of the owner’s life were so dramatic that they deserve to be described in some detail – and these events are, indeed, relevant to the fate of the manuscript.

The Magistrate of Steigen

On 27 March 1564, the king informed Erik Rosenkrantz that Steffen Anderssøn had died, and that Axel Frederikssøn or some other able man was to replace him as magistrate of Steigen.94 Whether it was for economic or other reasons, Jens Pederssøn clearly thought that Steigen was more attractive than Stavanger. He now hastened to Copenhagen and six weeks later, on 4 May, the king wrote to the inhabitants of ‘Stegen lagsogn’ that Jens was to be its new magistrate; they should be obedient and he would help everyone in accordance with the law.95 The king also informed Rosenkrantz of this, and he was to ensure that Jens respected both the law and the inhabitants. 96 At this point, the so­called Seven Years’ War between Denmark­Norway and Sweden had raged for almost a year, and the king would have known that just two months earlier, the enemy had captured Trondheim. On 13 May, Mats Størssøn, magistrate of Bergen, was ordered to go there and punish those who had collaborated with the Swedes. He carried out these orders, and also attended an assembly at Steigen.97 Jens Pederssøn may have travelled with him, and one must assume that he brought his recently­acquired manuscript to his new home.

94 NRR, 1:397; Nicolaysen, ed., Absalon Pederssöns dagbog , 287.

95 NRR, 1:411.

96 NRR, 1:412.

97 Falkanger, Lagmann og lagting , 146; Nielsen, Norges historie , 136–141; cf. Dyrvik, Norsk historie 1536–1814 , 46–47.


On Saturday, 18 August 1565, Jens Pederssøn was back in Bergen. According to the diary of Absalon Beyer (1528–1575), a lecturer at Bergen Cathedral School and priest at the church at Bergenhus, Jens was present at the baptism ceremony of Herluf, son of the nobleman Jørgen Daa, along with other highly placed men, such as Christoffer Grøn who had replaced him in Stavanger. Among the women, Beyer mentions Helvig Hardenberg, the wife of Erik Rosenkrantz. 98 The day after, Jens attended the wedding of Hans Badsker and Ragni Simensdotter, the widow of his predecessor Steffen Anderssøn. Two namesakes of his were present too, and he is only mentioned by his position: ‘Erik Rosenkrantz … Jens Persen til Tjøtten, Jens Persen til Bro … lagmanden til Steyg’.99 Soon after these happy events, Jens’s luck took a turn for the worse.

In 1568, Jens quarrelled with Hans Gaas (d. 1578), Bishop of Trondheim, who had written a book on marriage with some passages that the magistrate perceived as criticism against himself. He fought back with unknown accusations, and the two men were summoned to a meeting of the Norwegian State Council. As Jens did not turn up, he was suspended from his office, but both men travelled to Copenhagen to present their case to the king. On 10 August, the king declared that in his book on marriage, Gaas had not written anything contrary to church law.100 Nine days later, Jens had made his case, and the king explained to Mads Skeel, his representative in Bergen, that Jens had not turned up when summoned by the State Council. Thinking that he had done that on purpose, the Council had suspended him. He had now explained the matter and there was no offense: ‘at hans forseelse ikke findes’. Jens was to be reinstated, and the king also granted that the church at Steigen would not have to pay taxes for two years so that it could be repaired.101 Absalon Beyer

98 On Helvig, see further the chapter by Randi Bjørshol Wærdahl in this volume.

99 Iversen, ed., ‘Absalon Pederssøns dagbok 1552–1572’, 93.

100 NRR, 1:602; ‘Fortsettelse om de første lutherske biskoper i Trondheim’, 331; Lysaker, Trondhjems stift , 72–74.

101 NRR, 1:604; Iversen, ed., ‘Absalon Pederssøns dagbok 1552–1572’, 132.


notes that Jens was back in Bergen on 16 October, having reclaimed his position.102

On 20 June 1570 (again according to Beyer), Jens Pederssøn had the sheriff Jens Skriver hanged in Nordland for having appropriated a substantial sum out of fines for moral offenses (sagefald ) that the king was meant to receive. 103 Such behaviour was no exception, and on 27 September, the king confirmed a verdict that sheriff Dines Pederssøn (d. 1571) in Senja – even further to the north – should be executed for disloyalty and theft. He also sent lists and copies of local accounts to Mads Skeel, who was to investigate those sheriffs and bring them to court if any offenses had occurred.104 That same day, the king wrote to Jens Pederssøn that he had heard that some sheriffs and other officials had not behaved as they should. One of them had already been punished, and others had been arrested. The king had met Jens twice – giving him the job in 1564 and reinstating him four years later – and he now felt that he could really trust him: ‘efterdi vi til dig have synderligen vor naadigst Fortroende’. He thus sent him copies of accounts from within his district, and if anything was incorrect, Jens was to prosecute the culprits and have them punished.105 Jens may now have become overconfident and in the following years he repeatedly crossed the lines of legality himself.

Dines Pederssøn was hanged in Bergen on 19 April 1571. Jens Pederssøn was not directly involved in that case, but he had owed him some money that Dines wanted his wife to have.106 However, the decision to have Jens Skriver executed the year before now came back to bite him. Skriver’s wife, Gurun, had served Helvig

102 Iversen, ed., ‘Absalon Pederssøns dagbok 1552–1572’, 145; Nicolaysen, ed., Absalon Pederssöns dagbog , 169.

103 Nicolaysen, ed., Absalon Pederssöns dagbog , 191; Iversen, ed., ‘Absalon Pederssøns dagbok 1552–1572’, 165.

104 NRR, 1:667.

105 NRR, 1:668.

106 Nicolaysen, ed., Absalon Pederssöns dagbog , 223–225, 227; Iversen, ed., ‘Absalon Pederssøns dagbok 1552–1572’, 194–196, 200.


Hardenberg while she was in Bergen in the years 1560 to 1568, and she apparently went to see her former mistress.107 In his diary, after describing the execution of Dines Pederssøn in detail, Absalon Beyer copied parts of a letter that he had just received from Helvig on the evildoings of Jens Pederssøn towards her former servant. She was not content, and clearly, she knew Jens personally – she appears to hint at having helped him with his marriage:

Jeg hør nw at det gaar vnderlig thil i Norrige oc synderlig med denne fattige quinne … der lagmanden har giort slig en wræt oc vold oc saa skendelig kommed hennis gode mand om halsen. Gud vil vist straffe honnom der fore, det maa han vist forlade sig til. Der som hand kand vndgaa menniskens straf, da vndgaar hand icke guds straf. Hand maa vist forlade sig dertil, at det schal fortryde mig det han har giortt den fattig quinne. Hand motte lade hende nyt got ad at hun tiente mig oc fødde it af mine børn op, oc gifte baade henne oc hannom aff mit brødt oc hauer tagit fra henne det ieg hafde giuit henne. I maa sige hannom at ieg hauer skriued eder til at i skulle lade hannom see mit bref, som ieg haffuer skriued eder til, oc siger hannom: hafde der kommit en hund til mig oc kunde skud gott paa lagmanden, da skulde ieg hade giort honnom gott for hans skyld, en sige it menniske etc.108

107 Nilsen, Dagbok og Oration om Mester Geble , 7, 12–13.

108 Iversen, ed., ‘Absalon Pederssøns dagbok 1552–1572’, 201–202; Nicolaysen, ed., Absalon Pederssöns dagbog , 231–232.


(I now hear that strange things are happening in Norway and especially concerning this poor woman … as the magistrate has done such wrong with violence and so horribly had her good husband hanged. God will punish him, he can rely on that. He may escape worldly justice, but he will not escape punishment from God. He will have to accept that it saddens me what he has done to that poor woman. He should have done her good for that she served me and raised my children and I married both her and him out of my income, and he has taken from her what I had given to her. You need to tell him that I have written to you that you should show him my letter that I have written to you, and tell him that if a dog had come to me and accused the magistrate, I would have done him good for his sake, let alone a human etc.)

It is no wonder that Beyer took an interest in the case. On 24 May 1571, he writes, Gurun returned after meeting the king, and brought with her a letter stating that Vincens Juel, the royal representative in Bergen, should bring to court the magistrate ‘som lod henge hennis mandt’ (who had had her husband hanged), while on 30 June, a summons arrived for Jens to come to Oslo so that his case could be heard.109 As if this were not enough, three serious accusations were made towards him. On 12 August, Jens came to Bergen with Oluff Siurdssøn, sheriff at Helgeland, for the latter to be executed. He had arrogated fines that belonged to the king, and had been sentenced to hang: ‘oc er dømd til galgen’. Paradoxically, Jens set Oluff free, and the latter subsequently left for Denmark to complain to the king about the persecution he had suffered from the magistrate: ‘at lagmanden hauer saa forfølget hannom’. A second accusation came from the chaplain Gøstaff Olson of

109 Iversen, ed., ‘Absalon Pederssøns dagbok 1552–1572’, 209, 215; Nicolaysen, ed., Absalon Pederssöns dagbog , 239, 246.


Løding in Salten, who had also come to Bergen. Jens had accused Gøstaff of asking two drunken Sámi why they did not use their sorcery ( finnegand ) against the magistrate, since he had so much money. Gøstaff asked his master, the Revd. Per of Løding, to negotiate on his behalf. That did not help, and Jens suspended him, confiscated all his property and ordered him to leave the vicinity. A third accusation concerned sheriff Anuld of Nordland, whom Jens accused of some irregularities. His wife asked for mercy and asked for a fair trial, promising to provide guarantees (borgen). Jens replied that she could go and secure the payments, but while she was away, he had Anuld hanged. Absalon Beyer concluded that whenever someone disagreed with the magistrate, he would say that he wished that his executioner was there: ‘da skulde jeg lade henge din skalch, din tiuff, din forræder’ (then I would have you hanged, you bastard, you thief, you traitor).110 If this is true – and there is no reason not to believe it – Jens was clearly abusing his powers and transgressing a variety of rules concerning the fair treatment of the inhabitants of the country, communicated in his newly­acquired vellum. It may have been some sort of a counter­attack by Jens Pederssøn that on 7 September 1571, the inhabitants of Steigen, allegedly encouraged by their magistrate, complained to the king of heavy taxation, but also accused unspecified local sheriffs and other officials of taking what belonged to the king.111 This had no effect. On 29 September, King Frederik decided that the cases of Anuld and Oluff Siurdssøn should be investigated.112 On 25 January 1572, he wrote to Mads Skeel, his representative in Bergen, that Jens had done wrong in many ways. His case was to be brought to the assembly (lagting) in Bergen, and, if suspended, he should be replaced by Pros Lauritssøn (d. 1596).113 On

110 Iversen, ed., ‘Absalon Pederssøns dagbok 1552–1572’, 216–217; Nicolaysen, ed., Absalon Pederssöns dagbog , 248; cf. Falkanger, Lagmann og lagting , 119–120.

111 Iversen, ed., ‘Absalon Pederssøns dagbok 1552–1572’, 222; Nicolaysen, ed., ‘Herluf Lauritssöns Bergens Fundats’, 439.

112 Iversen, ed., ‘Absalon Pederssøns dagbok 1552–1572’, 226; Nicolaysen, ed., Absalon Pederssöns dagbog , 258.

113 NRR 2:6; Nicolaysen, ed., Absalon Pederssöns dagbog , 320.


25 March, Beyer informs us, Oluff returned from Denmark with his wife, having been authorised to take Jens to court.114

No further information is available on these proceedings, but on 13 August, in the town hall of Bergen, Gøstaff Olson’s accusations were discussed by an impressive group, consisting of all the most powerful men in Norway: Paul Huitfeld (c .1520–1592), statholder and royal representative at Akershus, Vincens Juel, royal representative in Bergen, Johan Vinstermann, chancellor of Norway, Ludvig Munk, royal representative of Trondheim, the bishops Hans Gaas of Trondheim and Jens Skjelderup of Bergen, and the magistrates Jon Simonssøn of Agdesiden, Pros Lauritssøn of Steigen, Axel Friderikssøn of Bergen, Christoffer Nielssøn of Stavanger, Jørgen Perssøn of Trondheim, as well as Anders Christiernssøn, mayor of Bergen. Since Pros Lauritssøn was there as magistrate of Steigen, it seems that Jens had been suspended, at least temporarily. When asked whether he had confiscated Gøstaff Olsson’s belongings on behalf of the king, or for himself, Jens replied somewhat evasively that he had done it as a friendly gesture of reconciliation (venlig forligelse) and claimed that he still had them. He was clearly aware that he had been caught, and promised not to prosecute Gøstaff for asking the two Sámi to kill him. He also asked for permission to go to Nordland to fetch some papers, but this was rejected on the grounds that he had had time enough. He was to return everything he had taken for himself, and compensate Gøstaff for having unduly suspended him. The verdict concluded that as Jens had behaved unlawfully and contrary to his oath as magistrate, he should be suspended, and he would never be allowed to have a public position again: ‘kunde vi ikke sige hannem nogen lagmand at være og ikke nogen ærlig befalning at have efter denne sag’ (we could not appoint him as lawman for anyone, and to receive no honest recommendation after this case).115

114 Nicolaysen, ed., Absalon Pederssöns dagbog , 263; Iversen, ed., ‘Absalon Pederssøns dagbok 1552–1572’, 232.

115 Nicolaysen, ed., Absalon Pederssöns dagbog , 321–325; cf. Falkanger, Lagmann og lagting , 97–100, 142–143, 214.


Apparently, after this verdict, Jens went back north and started making life difficult for his successor, Pros Lauritssøn – who later compiled and owned the manuscript Holm. perg. 34 4° (mentioned previously), containing all the most important Norwegian medieval laws.116 On 1 March 1575, King Frederik wrote to Paul Huitfeld that Pros had complained of not being able to retrieve the income due to him, that this should be investigated and his rights secured. The final sentence indicates that Jens had something to do with these troubles by disrupting the correct processes: ‘Dog dersom Jens Pederssøn eller andre, som for ham vare, med Urette dem noget har tiltaget, at det andetsteds bortvendes, som det bør at ligge med Rette’ (And if Jens Pederssøn or others, who were there on his behalf, have taken something wrongly, that it shall be returned to where it rightfully belongs). 117 Whatever he had done, however, Jens must now have breached some legal limits in an even more serious way than before, when he had been suspended. It may also be that the hanging of two sheriffs, Jens Skriver and Anuld, had by now been duly investigated, as well as the case of Oluff Siurdssøn. No documentation is extant, but Michael Hofnagel (d. after 1670), who wrote on the recent history of Bergen in the mid­seventeenth century, notes that in 1575, the magistrate of Steigen – without doubt Jens Pederssøn – was executed in that city because of his tyrannical acts by having his head cut off with a sword: ‘Des andren Jahrs darnach ist der Lachman von Styge mit dem Schwerde gerichtet, denn er hatte viel Tiranny getrieben’.118 Yet again, and in a more serious way than ever before, he had violated the law – and paid for that with his life.

116 Hansen 2014, 357; NgL IV, 667–672.

117 NRR, 2:150.

118 Copenhagen, Royal Library, NKS 1551 4to, fol. 37v; cf. NKS 1552 4to, fol. 93v; NKS 1553 4to, fol. 69. The Danish translation of Hofnagel’s annotations starts with the year 1596, see Nicolaysen, N[icolay], ed., ‘[Mikel Hofnagels] Optegnelser 1596–1676’, 169. A translation of this note, without an indication of manuscripts used, is provided in Nicolaysen, N[icolay], ed., ‘Herluf Lauritssöns Bergens Fundats 1580–1583’, 564. The execution is discussed by Falkanger, Lagmann og lagting , 143, 214, and mentioned in Ersland and Sandvik, Norsk historie 1300–1625 , 203.


Concluding remarks

Produced in the early thirteenth century as one of numerous copies of the recently promulgated Laws of the Land , made for the needs of the ambitious Realm of Norway at the time, Ms.4° 1 is a meticulous piece of work – although neither the rubrics nor the initials were filled in all throughout the manuscript. The vellum is of good quality, the quire structure regular and the writing beautiful. As it appears, the main scribe was Norwegian but an Icelander wrote the rubrics. In all likelihood, this collaboration took place in Bergen, and the book’s buyer resided somewhere in the region of Gulathing. The text was partially corrected soon after the manuscript was written, and in around 1400, a supplement was added – a peculiar compilation consisting of a Norwegian royal amendment of 1313 and the Icelandic Christian Law of 1275 – not preserved in any other manuscript of the Laws of the Land .

In the mid­sixteenth century, the manuscript can be placed at Steigen in Hålogaland, where a few missing rubrics were added, and some slips placed on the margins at the beginning of the major parts of the Laws of the Land . A miscellany of royal legislation and other short texts were added, first on a vellum quire and subsequently many more on paper. The most plausible option is that this was done by Steffen Anderssøn, magistrate at Steigen from 1542, and he will have had the manuscript bound – with wooden boards and some of the heroes of the Reformation stamped in profile on the leather cover. It cannot be determined where this was done, but the most probable places are Bergen or Copenhagen. In the summer of 1562, at a meeting in Bergen, Steffen sold or gave the manuscript to his younger colleague Jens Pederssøn, who had just been appointed magistrate of Stavanger. At this point, Jens put his initials and insignia on the outside and inside of the front cover. Two years later, after Steffen died, Jens became his successor at Steigen and moved up north. At the time, he was clearly favoured by King Frederik II, but he did not rise to the occasion, so to speak. In 1572, Jens was deposed, and three years later, he was executed in Bergen. After that, the manuscript probably became public property and stayed in the city, like so many other old


and distinguished legal manuscripts, such as AM 322 fol. 119, but its subsequent history remains a mystery, until it resurfaced in the library of Bishop Ole Irgens after he died, on 15 October 1803.

119 NgL, 3:513.


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NKS 1551 4o. Michael Hofnagel, Chronick der Stadt Bergen zu Norwegen 1648.

NKS 1552 4o. Michael Hofnagel, Cronica der Stadt Bergen.

NKS 1553 4o. Michael Hofnagel, Cronica der Stadt Bergen in Norwegen ad anni 1670, cum nonnullis de rebus Bergensibus.

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Haraldur Bernharðsson, Magnús Lyngdal Magnússon and Már Jónsson, eds. Járnsíða og kristinréttur Árna Þorlákssonar. Reykjavík: Sögufélag, 2005.

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Horn, Anna Catharina. ‘Form og formål: Landsloven som brobygger i norsk historie’. In Språk i arkivet. Historier om hvordan språk reflekterer samfunnet, edited by Johanne Ostad and Else Kleivane, 60–79. Oslo: Nasjonalbiblioteket, 2021.

Jørgensen, Jon Gunnar. ‘Islandske målmerker i Sth. 4 fol. hand 3’. Maal og Minne (1985): 202–222.

Kupferschmied, Irene Ruth. Die altisländischen und altnorwegischen Marienmirakel. 2 vols. Münchner Nordistische Studien 17. Munich: Herbert Utz Verlag, 2017.


Lysaker, Trygve. Trondhjems stift og Nidaros bispedømme 1537–1953. Vol. 1, Reformasjon og enevelde 1537–1804. Trondheim: Nidaros domkirkes restaureringsarbeider, 1987.

Martin, Hervé. Pérégrin d’Opole. Un prédicateur dominicain à l’apogée de la chrétienté médiévale. Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2008.

Már Jónsson. ‘Megindlegar handritarannsóknir’. In Ezio Ornato, Lofræða um handritamergð. Hugleiðingar um bóksögu miðalda, translated by Björg Birgisdóttir and Már Jónsson, 7–34. Reykjavík: Sagnfræðistofnun, 2003.

Már Jónsson. ‘The Size of Medieval Icelandic Legal Manuscripts’. In The Power of the Book. Medial Approaches to Medieval Nordic Legal Manuscripts, edited by Lena Rohrbach, 25–38. Berliner Beiträge zur Skandinavistik 14. Berlin: Nordeuropa­Institut, Humboldt­Universität, 2014.

Nielsen, Yngvar. Norges historie. Vol. 4.1, Tidsrummet 1537–1588. Oslo: Aschehoug, 1909.

Nilsen, Halkild. Absalon Pederssøn [Beyer], Dagbok og Oration om Mester Geble. Kommentarbind. Oslo, Bergen and Tromsø: Universitetsforlaget, 1970.

Pirie, Jane. ‘A Bookbinding from Wittenberg’. University of Aberdeen Museums and Special Collections. 15 November 2017. aberdeenunicollections.wordpress. com/2017/11/15/a­bookbinding­from­wittenberg/

Porr, Christine. ‘Lehrhafte Buchgewänder. Die Historische Bibliothek in Quedlinburg und ihre Sammlung lutherisch geprägter Bucheinbände des 16. Jahrhunderts’. 2 vols. PhD dissertation. University of Western Australia, 2017. https://doi.org/10.4225/23/59bb3842ade36

Rindal, Magnus. Handskrifter av norske mellomalderlover ved Nasjonalbiblioteket. NB tema 8. Oslo: Nasjonalbiblioteket, 2020. www.bokselskap.no/ boker/mellomalderlover.

Scheel, Fredrik. Lagmann og skriver. Rettsliv i Norge i det 16de og 17de århundre. Oslo: Gyldendalske bokhandel, 1923.

Stephens, Catherine. ‘16th Century German Gothic Bookbinding Model’. Behance. January 23, 2017. www.behance.net/gallery/47755571/16th­CenturyGerman­Gothic­Bookbinding­Model

Thorndike, Lynn. ‘Copyists’ final Jingles in Mediaeval Manuscripts’. Speculum 12.2 (1937): 268.

Witting, Mette Refslund. ‘Nasjonalbibliotekets landslovhåndskrifter og deres proveniens’. In Lov og lovgivning i middelalderen. Nye studier av Magnus Lagabøtes landslov, edited by Anna Catharina Horn and Karen Arup Seip, 32–66. Oslo: Nasjonalbiblioteket, 2020.

76 Bibliography

Zorzan, Giulia. ‘Early Icelandic Scribal Practice. The Representation of Geminate Consonants in 12th­ and 13th­Century Icelandic Orthography’. MA thesis. University of Iceland, 2021. https://skemman.is/handle/1946/39896

Electronic resources

Berlin, City Library (Staatsbibliothek), Einbanddatenbank, www.hist­einband.de

British Library. Database of bookbindings. Accessed September 12, 2023. www.bl.uk/catalogues/bookbindings

Catalogue of Icelandic manuscripts, handrit.is

National Library of Finland, www.doria.fi/handle/10024/113063

Norsk biografisk leksikon, nbl.snl.no

Norsk lokalhistorisk institutt, lokalhistoriewiki.no

National Archives, Sweden, Databas över medeltida pergamentomslag, sok.riksarkivet.se/MPO

The Finnish Literature Society, www.finlit.fi/sites/default/files/mediafiles/tutkimus/nationallibrarycoi6.pdf

77 Bibliography

3. The Hamar Lawbook*

In 1274, King Magnus Håkonsson Lagabætir (Lawmender; 1263–1280) issued a new national law book, the most important part of the work of law reform that his father Håkon IV Håkonsson (r. 1217–1263) had

* I wish to thank Beeke Stegmann and Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir for very helpful feedback on an early draft of this paper.

Figure 1: Ms.4° 317, open to 166v–167r, law amendments at the end of the Laws of the Land.

initiated. The Laws of the Land (Old Norse Landsl ǫg , Norw. Landslov) contained the general rules that were valid everywhere and particularly in the countryside. Some forty manuscripts preserve these laws, including the subject of this chapter, Oslo, National Library of Norway, Ms.4° 317 (Figure 1).1 Since we know that the manuscript was at the see of the bishop of Hamar in the Middle Ages, it is a particularly valuable witness to how law was used in medieval Norway.

In addition to the Laws of the Land , King Magnus also issued special compilations for special legal contexts, to complement the Laws of the Land . A lawbook for towns (Bæjarl ǫg ; Bylov) from 1276 reproduced much of the Laws of the Land , but it also contained special rules that were needed in the towns of Norway, for example, in relation to trade. 2 A particular compilation from the same years, the Hirðskrá (Law of the Retinue , Hirdskråen) set out the rules for the king’s vassals and became a kind of embryonic administrative law. 3 Finally, it was customary to set down special rules for the church, which in addition enjoyed its own sophisticated and international legal system known as the canon law.4

The oldest Norwegian, Icelandic and Swedish lawbooks all begin with a section devoted to ecclesiastical law, in Norway usually called Kristinréttr (Christian Law, Kristenrett). When these texts were created, the secular and ecclesiastical legal spheres were not entirely separate. It should therefore come as no surprise that in the middle of the thirteenth century, King Håkon Håkonsson issued Christian laws not on his own, but in collaboration with Archbishop Sigurd (died 1252) of Nidaros. King Håkon’s son King Magnus also composed such a Christian law. However, integrating this last of the king’s new laws into Norway’s legal system was far from straightforward.

1 Rindal and Spørck, eds., Kong Magnus Håkonsson Lagabøtes landslov

2 Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir, Nielsen, and Rindal, eds., Magnus Håkonsson Lagabøtes bylov og farmanslov.

3 Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir, ed., Kong Magnus Lagabøte Håkonssons Hirdskrå .

4 Winroth and Wei, eds., The Cambridge History of Medieval Canon Law


The problem of Norwegian Christian law after 1263

King Magnus’s Christian law was used much less than the king may have foreseen. In 1315, his son Håkon V Magnusson ruled that this law must not be used. Instead, ‘the one that was before’ should be followed. 5 Similar rulings were issued by other Norwegian kings, such as Håkon’s brother, Erik Magnusson, and his grandson, Magnus Eriksson. Some of these royal statutes stated more specifically what law ‘from before’ should be used, namely the ‘Christian law that the worthy Lord, King Håkon the Old, our forefather, and the Lord Sigurd, archbishop in Nidaros, stated and agreed should be valid’. 6 Earlier scholarship believes that the reason why the Christian law of King Magnus failed to be accepted was that Archbishop Jón (r. 1268–1282) would not allow the king to legislate about ecclesiastical matters, but there is no evidence of such a conflict between the king and the Church. King Magnus could hardly have expected to legislate unilaterally about church matters without the agreement of the Church and its leaders. 7

King Magnus worked out an ecclesiastical law which he intended to be applicable in the entire country, with minor variations, just as his Laws of the Land were. Today, his Christian law is preserved in only a single complete copy from 1566, spottily translated into Danish. In addition, two Old Norse fragments preserve about a third of its text. 8 The poor preservation of King Magnus’s Christian law suggests that it was never much used. The old, mid­thirteenth­ century Christian Law of King Håkon and Archbishop Sigurd (see further below) is better preserved, doubtless because it saw more use. That law had

5 Keyser et al., eds., Norges gamle love indtil 1387, 3:117: ‘en þan sem adr var’. All English translations are mine.

6 Keyser et al., eds., Norges gamle love indtil 1387, 3:153: ‘sa sæm vyrdulegr herra Hakon konongr gamle forfadre var ok herra Sighurdr erkibiskup i Nidarose skipado ok samþyktu at gangga skildi.’ See also pp. 17–18 and Diplomatarium Norvegicum , 3:29, n. 30.

7 For further discussion, see Winroth, ‘Magnus Lagabøter og kristenretten’.

8 Bjørg Dale Spørck identified King Magnus’s Christian law, which previous scholarship had misidentified, in a penetrating and exemplary study of relevant manuscripts: Spørck, ‘Kong Magnus Lagabøters kristenretter’.


been issued in different versions for the four different law provinces of Norway. The version for Gulathing is preserved in six complete medieval manuscripts, while the version for Borgarthing is found in a single copy. The other two are entirely lost. Thus, the manuscript tradition suggests that the Gulathing version of King Håkon’s law saw most use, much more than that of King Magnus. This must have been a consequence of the royal statutes ruling out use of the Christian law of King Magnus while prescribing that of his father, King Håkon. Still, the number of manuscripts is very low, especially if we compare it to the forty or so complete manuscripts that preserve the Icelandic Christian Law of Bishop Árni from 1275.9

In addition, older compilations of Christian law were also copied in the fourteenth century, and thus probably used in Norway until the end of the Middle Ages. This explains why, for example, the old Christian laws of the two legal provinces Eidsivathing and Borgarthing survive in late medieval manuscripts, often in combination with the Laws of the Land of King Magnus Lagabætir. 10 Perhaps the producers of these manuscripts thought that they were copying the Christian Law of King Håkon and Archbishop Sigurd , which Norwegian kings had ruled that they must use. If so, the sources available to them excuse their mistake. When we read medieval Christian laws in modern edition or translation today, they appear grouped under standardized titles, identifying what they are. Those standard titles are, however, inventions by modern scholars, while the Christian laws that medieval readers found in their manuscripts often had no titles at all. When titles did appear, they were not necessarily very informative. In Ms.4° 317, for example, what modern scholars call The Old Christian Law of Eidsiva thing is preceded by a heading ‘Here it is said about our old

9 Magnús Lyngdal Magnússon, ‘Kátt er þeim af kristinrétti’, 82–83; Haraldur Bernharðsson, Magnús Lyngdal Magnússon, and Már Jónsson, Járnsíða og Kristinréttur Árna Þorlákssonar, 39.

10 Halvorsen and Rindal, eds., De eldste østlandske kristenrettene . The situation is similar in Sweden, where copies of Magnus Eriksson’s national laws typically contain one or another kyrkobalk from an older local lawbook, see, e.g., the manuscript descriptions in Schlyter, ed., Sveriges gamla lagar, 10:I–LV.


Christian faith’.11 It is likely that this law had the same or a similar title in the exemplar copied by the scribe of this manuscript. A medieval reader who found such a heading in a manuscript would be forgiven for thinking that this might be the ‘old’ Christian law of King Håkon and Archbishop Sigurd prescribed by royal statutes.

Complicating things even more, Archbishop Jón also worked out a Christian Law of Archbishop Jón in the 1270s, the longest such text preserved from medieval Norway.12 This is extant in six medieval copies, the same number as King Håkon’s Gulathing text, suggesting that the archbishop’s work was used (approximately) equally often. Two medieval manuscripts suggest that King Magnus had approved this law, but this is unlikely.

Numerous Norwegian law manuscripts survive from the late Middle Ages, and many of them contain at least one of the Christian laws. Exactly which Christian law is contained in any individual manu script varies according to patterns that have not yet been explained. Table 1 shows the Christian laws that circulated in those two centuries and indicates the approximate number of pre­1500 manuscripts that preserve them today.13

11 Halvorsen and Rindal, eds., De eldste østlandske kristenrettene , 64: ‘Her sæigir vm gamlæan cristin dom uarn’.

12 Keyser et al., eds., Norges gamle love , 2:337–386. Translation in Spørck, ed., Nyere norske kristenretter (ca. 1260–1273), 101–146. The date 1273 usually ascribed to this law is not supported by good evidence.

13 Expressing this in the form of a table inevitably entails oversimplification. I have excluded, e.g, the so-called King Sverre’s Christian Law, in Keyser et al., eds., Norges gamle love , 1:409–434, which appears to be a compilation of chapters from several different Christian Laws. Similarly, the manuscript Perg. 35 4:o in the Royal Library, Stockholm, contains a Christian Law that is composed of the first 16 chapters of The Christian Law of Archbishop Jón , immediately followed, without any indication that a new text begins, by chapters from the Old Christian Law of Frostathing , copied by the same hand, see Keyser et al., eds., Norges gamle love , 4:673. The manuscripts of the Christian Laws of medieval Norway clearly will reward further study.


Table 1: Norwegian Christian Laws

Name used by me No.

Old Christian Law of Borgarthing 6

Old Christian Law of Eidsivathing 4

Old Christian Law of Frostathing 4

Old Christian Law of Gulathing 2

King Håkon’s and Archbishop Sigurd’s Christian Law for Gulathing 6

King Håkon’s and Archbishop Sigurd’s Christian Law for Borgarthing 1

King Magnus’ Christian Law 1 partial

Bishop Árni’s Christian Law for Iceland 40

Archbishop Jón’s Christian Law 6

Halvorsen and Rindal, eds., De eldste østlandske kristenrettene.

Halvorsen and Rindal, eds., De eldste østlandske kristenrettene.

Keyser et al., eds., Norges gamle love, 1:129–156.

Eithun, et al., eds., Den eldre Gulatingslova

Keyser et al., eds., Norges gamle love, 1:409–434.

Spørck, ed., ‘Kong Magnus Lagabøters kristenretter,’ T-1–T-20.

Spørck, ed., ‘Kong Magnus Lagabøters kristenretter,’ T-21–T-64.

Keyser et al., eds., Norges gamle love, 1:409–434.

Keyser et al., eds., Norges gamle love, 5:16–56.

If the general history of the Christian Laws of Norway in the thirteenth century is known, as just outlined, we still do not know much about the details. Notably, we are not well informed about which Christian Laws were used where after 1280. The secular rulers of Norway prescribed the use of the Christian Law from the middle of the thirteenth century, while individual users of law did not necessarily follow these statutes. In other words, the situation must have been bewildering for anyone trying to work out which laws were authoritative. We can learn more about which laws were used in

complete mss Edition

which combinations by studying the surviving manuscripts, including Ms.4° 317.14

Concerning the Christian Law of Archbishop Jón , for example, we find in the research literature claims that it was intended for use in all of Norway as well as claims that it was intended only for the diocese of Trondheim/Nidaros, which is coterminous with the law region of Frostathing. The argument for only local applicability is based on formulations in the text, which mentions specific Trondheim churches and the celebration of a local relic. 15 Such arguments are, however, balanced by the fact that the archbishop’s text also mentions that the diocese of Hamar employed special rules for tithes.16 Formulations in the text may give us evidence for what the author intended, but not about actual use.

What other evidence is there for the use of the different collections of Christian law? From charters and other evidence, we know of many judgments of relevant court cases, and these have been well studied,17 but it is hard to distinguish from such evidence which of the Christian Laws were used in court, since they are, in fact, quite similar in the main outline of their legal content. Unlike in the present day, medieval records of court decisions typically do not specify upon which laws they are based.

This chapter takes a different approach, focusing on an individual law manuscript in order to study how it was used, in accordance with methods that are often labeled ‘material philology’, focusing not only on text, but also on codicological, paleographical, and other aspects of the preserved manuscript as a material object. 18 Simply counting the preserved medieval copies of the various Christian laws,

14 All Norwegian legal manuscripts known in 1885 are described by Gustav Storm in volume 4 of Norges gamle love .

15 Spørck, Nyere norske kristenretter, 164.

16 In chapter 19, see Keyser et al., eds., Norges gamle love , 2:354; the relevant passage is missing from Spørck, Nyere norske kristenretter, 115.

17 Berg, ‘Kristenretspraksis i norsk seinmellomalder’; Riisøy, Stat og kirke .

18 E.g., Rohrbach, ‘Material Philology’.


as I did above, gives some rough and approximate hints about use, but more detailed examinations of individual manuscripts provide even further evidence.

The Hamar Lawbook

In this article, I shall study a law book which in the Middle Ages was used at the episcopal see of Hamar in eastern Norway, namely Ms.4° 317 (Figure 1).19 It contains one of the two medieval copies of the 1274 Norwegian Laws of the Land that belong to the National Library of Norway. In addition, the volume has several other substantial texts: a calendar, the longer version of the Old Christian Law of Eidsivathing , 20 the Christian Law of Archbishop Jón , 21 and thirteen royal statutes (rettarbøter). 22

Various minor bits and pieces of text appear here and there in the manuscript, which also contains a lot of marginal annotations. As several previous scholars have pointed out, it is quite clear that the volume once belonged to the Church of Hamar. The Laws of the Land appears in the variant for Eidsivathing, and the manuscript contains an early version of the Christian Law for the same legal province. Further, the addressee of the last two statutes is the Church of Hamar, and their texts appear in no other medieval manuscript. 23

In what follows, I shall first study the book as a material object,

19 There are many reasons for placing the medieval location and probably also the original production of Ms.4° 317 in Hamar. I will mention only a few, since further examples and references to relevant bibliography are available in Halvorsen, ‘Litt om endelsesvokalene i Eidsivatings kristenrett i OUB 317 4o’, 102–103. See also Rindal, Handskrifter av norske mellomalderlover ved Nasjonalbiblioteket , 5.2.1.

20 Edition after Ms.4° 317: Halvorsen and Rindal, eds., De eldste østlandske kristenrettene , 63–79.

21 Keyser et al., eds., Norges gamle love , 2:339–386, Ms.4° 317 has siglum E.

22 See Gustav Storm’s listing in Keyser et al., eds., Norges gamle love , 4:730–734.

23 Statutes by Kings Håkon Håkonsson and Magnus Håkonsson about tithes and other ecclesiastical rights in the diocese of Hamar (‘j hamars biskups d ǫ me’), edited in Keyser et al., eds., Norges gamle love , 1:462–463 and 2:86. The language (from the ‘south-east’ of Norway) of the main texts in the manuscript is consistent with such a provenance according to an examination by Ljubiša Rajić, see Rindal and Spørck, eds., Kong Magnus Håkonsson Lagabøtes landslov, 1:29.


especially since its unusually complex modern history means that we cannot be certain that every page currently in the volume actually belonged to the book residing in Hamar in the Middle Ages. Then, I shall turn to its contents and what it can tell us about the legal culture of the Church of Hamar in eastern Norway in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The selection of texts included in the volume tells us that at least the clergy of Hamar saw fit to have access to both the Old Christian Law of Eidsivathing and the Christian Law of Archbishop Jón in the fourteenth century. In addition, the evidence of the book’s use suggests that users paid more attention by far to the latter than to the former. In addition, they also used the Laws of the Land of King Magnus intensely, and they made sure to collect later statutory law.

Ms.4° 317 as a material object

The history and codicology of the volume is extremely complicated, and modern misbinding makes it particularly difficult to study. In the following, I shall analyze some codicological aspects of the manuscript, focusing in particular on five features that have not previously been closely studied. These features help us reconstruct the history of the manuscript:

1. the modern history of the manuscript, which was bound together with three other manuscripts in the early nineteenth century.

2. a set of medieval quire signatures.

3. two unusual sets of numerical sequences spelled out with letters in Old Norse in the fourteenth century, numbering some of the leaves.

4. the first quire of the early volume, which on the combined evidence of the quire signatures (2) and the numerical sequences (3), appears to be a very early addition to the volume.

5. a fourteenth­century marginal note indicating that the manuscript at that point contained eighty­four leaves. I shall attempt a reconstruction of what leaves the note referred to.

In summary, I shall outline what these features lead me to conclude is the most likely history of the volume.


The nineteenth-century history of the manuscript Today, the volume contains 85 medieval leaves, which, unexpectedly, are foliated from 89 to 173. The reason for this foliation is that before some point between 1834 and 1844, our manuscript appeared in the middle of a much larger volume that otherwise contained Swedish medieval law. That composite volume, consisting of 173 parchment leaves followed by 99 paper leaves, was foliated in two series before it was broken up before 1844. The other constituents of the book now reside in the Royal Library in Stockholm under three separate shelf marks. The following outlines the components of the composite book:

I. ff. 1–88: Provincial law of Uppland (parchment, 1300–1350): Stockholm, Royal Library, B 199. 24

II. ff. 89–173 (parchment, 1300–1350): Oslo, National Library of Norway, Ms.4° 137.

III. ff. 1–83: Swedish National law of Magnus Eriksson (paper, 1460–1480): Stockholm, Royal Library, B 125. 25

IV. ff. 84–99: The Church section (kyrkobalk) of the Provincial Law of Uppland (paper, 1475–1500): Stockholm, Royal Library, B 200. 26

The owner who separated the various parts from each other was the Swedish chamberlain and collector Bernhard Rosenblad (1796–1855), who allowed the editors of Norges gamle love , Rudolf Keyser and P.A. Munch, to borrow and collate the manuscript in 1837. 27 Rosenblad

24 The text of this manuscript was edited in Henning, Upplandslagen enligt Cod. Holm. B 199 och 1607 års utgåva . The manuscript is described there, II–IV, and in Schlyter, Sveriges gamla lagar, 3:IV–VI and 453. It was acquired by the Royal Library in 1854 from George Stephens, who had bought it from Georg John Robert Gordon, a British diplomat serving in Stockholm at the time. Gordon acquired the manuscript from Bernhard Rosenblad (see below). See also the manuscript description available on Manuscripta.se, https://www. manuscripta.se/ms/100334.

25 Described in Schlyter, Sveriges gamla lagar, 10:XXXIII–XXXIV. It was acquired by the Royal Library in 1845 by purchase from Gordon. See also https://www.manuscripta.se/ ms/100306.

26 Described in Schlyter, Sveriges gamla lagar, 3:XXXII–XXXIII. It was acquired by the Royal Library in 1845 by purchase from Gordon. See also https://www.manuscripta.se/ ms/100335.

27 Oslo, Nasjonalbiblioteket, Ms.4° 687. For more discussion, see Witting, this volume.


sold the Norwegian manuscript to the University Library of Christiania (Oslo) in 1844, which apparently paid 50 speciedaler for it. 28 He had bought the composite volume on 11 October 1834 from the legal historian Karl Schildener (1777–1843). 29 Schildener was the first editor of the medieval German translation of the Provincial Law of Gotland , so he was knowledgeable about medieval Scandinavian law. 30 He was a professor of law at the University of Greifswald, which was in Swedish Pomerania until 1814. 31 He had acquired at least one of the manuscripts of the composite volume from an older colleague at the same university, the Swedish­born classicist and librarian Jacob Wallenius (1761–1819). 32 In the parts of his autobiography (written in German) that have been published, Wallenius does not mention any medieval manuscripts, but he tells us that from childhood, he was a ‘friend of books’. 33

I suppose it was one of the two Greifswald professors who had

28 Keyser et al., eds., Norges gamle love , 4:734; Rindal, Handskrifter, 5.2.1; Witting, ‘Nasjonalbibliotekets landslovshåndskrifter og deres proveniens’, 54. About Rosenblad, see Kuschner, ‘Rosenblad, släkt’. A note by G.E. Klemming (1823–1893) on a flyleaf in B 199 notes the price paid by the University Library. I thank Dr. Patrik Åström at the Royal Library for sending me photos of the flyleaves of B 199.

29 Rosenblad noted the date of his purchase on a flyleaf in B 199. The price agreed was 4 louis d’or which Rosenblad paid with 54 Swedish riksdaler and 22 shilling banco , according to the same note. On the same flyleaf, Schildener’s note about the contents of the composite volume is glued in. He describes the Norwegian manuscript thus: ‘das zweyte grössere(?) Mscpt auf Pergament ist ein Exemplar des allgemeinen Norwegischen Gesetzbuch vor Christian IV. Vgl. dessen Vorrede von seinem Norske loubog’ (The second, larger parchment manuscript is an examplar of the general Norwegian law book before Christian IV. See his prologue in his Norwegian lawbook). I thank Lukas Rösli for help in interpreting Schildener’s difficult handwriting.

30 Schildener, Guta-Lagh, das ist Der Insel Gothland altes Rechtsbuch

31 Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie , 31:204–207.

32 Svenska män och kvinnor, 8:184–185; Wallenius, Einige Begebenheiten meines Lebens . I do not know whether Wallenius owned all four parts of Schildener’s manuscript, since his ownership is only indicated (by G.E. Klemming) on the flyleaves of B 199, without indication of whether he was talking of only that volume or the entire composite volume. That manuscript and Ms.4° 317 were certainly bound together when Carl Johan Schlyter described the composite volume in his 1834 edition of the Law of Uppland , see Schlyter, Sveriges gamla lagar, 3:IV–VI.

33 Wallenius, Einige Begebenheiten meines Lebens , 101.


put together the composite volume from four separate medieval manuscripts. This may also have been when the margins of the Norwegian manuscript were severely cropped with considerable loss of marginal annotations. Wallenius was born in Sweden, and I find it likely that it was he who brought the manuscripts to Germany. After coming to Oslo in 1844, the book has not had an altogether happy existence. When acquired, it was bound in a simple yellow paper binding. In the 1940s or 50s it was put into a nice leather binding, but unfortunately, several of the leaves were then misplaced, making the manuscript and its texts very difficult to study. The old foliation is just visible (albeit often very faintly) and should have guided the binder. 34

The medieval quire signatures

In 1885, Gustav Storm described the manuscript in detail. 35 He tells us that it was largely made up of regular quires of six or eight leaves, but his description does not tell us exactly which leaves were singletons, and it appears to contain at least one error. 36 I have found it impossible to establish all details of the current quire structure, since the volume is too tightly bound to distinguish singletons from bifolia. Several leaves must be singletons to explain their current placement (e.g., fos. 106 and 109). One bifolium, fos. 107–108, is bound backwards between fos. 125 and 128. It is highly desirable that the National Library rectify the binding and in the process document the quire structure.

34 A typewritten note dated 12 May 1976 that lies loose in the manuscript details the mistakes. The current erroneous sequence is: fos. 103, 126, 127, 106, 104, 105, 109, 116, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115, 110, 117, 118, 119, 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125, 108, 107.

35 Keyser et al., eds., Norges gamle love , 4:730–734.

36 Storm stated that fos. 92–99 consist of two singletons and a quire of six, from which its second leaf has been removed, Keyser et al., eds., Norges gamle love , 4:731. He is certainly correct that a leaf is missing between fos. 94 and 95, but then his math does not add up: the details he reports would produce a quire of seven leaves in addition to the two singletons. I think he mistakenly included fo. 99 in the quire. Fo. 99 does not contain any text connected to anything found on fos. 98 or 100, and my examination of the original convinces me that it is a singleton; I consider it an intruded leaf.


Large Roman numerals I–IX, which, though they appear medieval, I cannot date more exactly, are written in the bottom margin at the end of most of the quires that make up fos. 100–159. 37 These quires contain the Christian Law of Archbishop Jón and the Laws of the Land , which ends with the subsequent (tenth in this numbering, but now unnumbered) quire on fo. 167. Storm considered, probably because of these quire numbers, that fos. 100–167 made up the ‘original’ codex. The Old Christian Law of Eidsivathing and the calendar (appearing on fos. 92–98) would, thus, not have been included in that codex, but it is written in the same hand and with similar decoration as fos. 100–167, so it must have been produced in the same place in close chronological proximity to the ten quires.

Two medieval number sequences

In addition, a previously unnoticed medieval sequence of numbers confirms that the Eidsivathing law was bound with the ten quires as early as the fourteenth century. A medieval hand numbered at least some leaves in the bottom margin of their versos. Unexpectedly, the numbers are written out with letters in Old Norse (see Figure 2 for an example). These numbers – now often badly abraded and often cut away – are not consistently visible on every leaf, but enough of them are left to establish the sequence. They continue from one to twenty in one sequence apparently from fo. 92 through fo. 109 (with fo. 99 left out). Unexpectedly, when the numbers reach 20 with fo. 109, the same hand restarts the sequence with 1 on fo. 110. After 20, Old Norse numbers simply repeat earlier elements in new combinations (21: tuttugu ok eitt , just like ‘twenty­one’ in English). This suggests that the scribe who numbered the leaves was not primarily foliating the book but practicing number­writing in Old Norse. 38

37 I noted the following quire numbers: ‘I’ (fo. 105v), ‘II’ (fo. 111v), ‘III’ (fo. 117v), ‘V’ (fo. 129v), ‘VI’ (fo. 145v), ‘VII’ (fo. 145v), ‘..I’ (fo. 151v), ‘IX’ (fo. 159v). Some numbers are missing because of damage to the manuscript.

38 I am grateful to Beeke Stegmann, who suggested this conclusion to me.


The previous paragraph becomes clearer with the following table which registers visible numbers (in bold) and puts reconstructed numbers within parenthesis (letters within pointed brackets are not visible in the manuscript):

Table 2: Two medieval number sequences

Modern foliation Medieval numbering

92 (1)

93 (2)

94 (3)

missing (4)

95 (5)


Recto: Contents of Older Christian Law of Eidsivathing

Verso: Calendar January–February

Calendar March–June

Calendar July–October

[Recto: Calendar November–December

Verso: Beginning of regnal list?]

Older Christian Law of Eidsivathing

96 (6) Older Christian Law of Eidsivathing

Figure 2: Medieval page numbering on fol. 97v: ‘siau’ (seven).

97 7 ‘siau’

98 8 ‘atta’

missing (9)

missing (10)

100 (11)

101 (12)

102 13 ‘þrettan’

103 14 ‘fiortan’

10439 15 ‘fimtan’

105 (16)

106 17 ‘seyt<ian>’

107 18 ‘atian’

108 19 ‘nitian’

109 20 ‘tuttugu’

110 1 ‘eit’

111–117 (2–8)

Older Christian Law of Eidsivathing

Older Christian Law of Eidsivathing to ch. 33

[Continuation of Older Christian Law of Eidsivathing]

[End of Older Christian Law of Eidsivathing]

Christian Law of Archbishop Jón

Christian Law of Archbishop Jón

Christian Law of Archbishop Jón

Christian Law of Archbishop Jón

Christian Law of Archbishop Jón

Christian Law of Archbishop Jón

Christian Law of Archbishop Jón

Christian Law of Archbishop Jón

Christian Law of Archbishop Jón

Christian Law of Archbishop Jón

Christian Law of Archbishop Jón

Christian Law of Archbishop Jón

118–121 (9–12) Laws of the Land of Magnus Lagabætir

122 13 ‘þrettan’ Laws of the Land of Magnus Lagabætir

123 14 ‘fiortan’ Laws of the Land of Magnus Lagabætir

124 15 ‘fimtan’ Laws of the Land of Magnus Lagabætir

125 16 ‘sextan’ Laws of the Land of Magnus Lagabætir

126 17 ‘<s>autian’ Laws of the Land of Magnus Lagabætir

127 18 ‘atian’ Laws of the Land of Magnus Lagabætir

128 19 ‘nitian’ Laws of the Land of Magnus Lagabætir

39 Fo. 104 is currently placed after fo. 106 in Ms.4° 317.


The first quire, an early addition?

In my reconstruction, the calendar and the Older Christian Law of Eidsivathing were written on a quire of ten, followed by the Christian Law of Archbishop Jón on quires of six. The first quire in this reconstruction, fos. 92–98, from which three leaves today are missing, is complicated. A sketch explains my reconstruction (leaves still present are given their current folio numbers; missing leaves are marked with dotted lines; medieval numbering sequence translated into Arabic numerals on the second line with the numbers still visible in bold face):

The dashed line down the middle of the quire indicates the thread used in the binding, which on autopsy is clearly visible between fos. 95 and 96. That the reconstruction entails a quire of ten leaves is unexpected, since the rest of the volume mainly consists of more normal quires of six or eight leaves. I can, however, see no other way of reconciling what is visible in the current state of the manuscript and what Gustav Storm reported in 1885.

In any case, the previously discussed medieval number sequence strongly suggests that the Old Christian Law of Eidsivathing , the Christian Law of Archbishop Jón , and the Laws of the Land were bound together in that order when they were thus numbered. The quire signatures in Roman numerals, in contrast, seem to bear witness to a

92 93 94 95 96 97 98 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

volume that did not include the first quire, with the calendar and the Eidsivathing law. The most reasonable explanation for this is that the ten quires with signatures (fos. 100–167) were the originally produced book (as Storm believed), while the first quire (fos. 92–98) was added very soon afterwards, written by the same scribe and with identical decoration. The reason for adding the Older Christian Law of Eidsivathing might have been the royal statutes stipulating that the ‘old Christian Law’ should be used rather than that of Archbishop Jón.40

The lawbook of eighty-four leaves

Further evidence to the codicology of the volume is a note written in the bottom margin of fo. 170v, not noticed previously: ‘Hær er i þæssare logbok iiii blod ok attatigir’ (Here in this lawbook there are eightyfour leaves).41 The Old Norse language of the note as well as its paleography suggest it was written in the fourteenth century. Having studied the current quire structure, the medieval quire numbers and the numbering sequences, the contents, and the lacunae left by missing leaves, I suggest a tentative hypothesis of which 84 leaves the notice refers to, namely folios 92 to 171, except for fo. 99 (79 leaves) plus five leaves that are now lost. The following table indicates which 84 leaves are mentioned in the note, according to my reconstruction.

40 Keyser et al., eds., Norges gamle love , 3:117 and 3:53.

41 The hand, which has written a few other marginal notes, is probably identical to Storm’s hand g, which he dates to the middle of the fourteenth century, see Keyser et al., eds., Norges gamle love , 4:731.



92–98 + 3 lost leaves (1 after fo. 94; 2 after fo. 98)

Chapter list for the Old Christian Law of Eidsivathing (92r); Calendar (92v–94v); Old Christian Law of Eidsivathing (ending in ch. 33 on fo. 98v)

42 According to Gustav Storm, see Keyser et al., eds., Norges gamle love , 4:731. I see no reason to modify Storm’s conclusions on this point.

Folios Main scribal hand42 Medieval quire numbers Medieval number sequences Principal contents No. of leaves
The quires of the 84-leaf volume
e 1–10
10 100–105 e I 11–16 Christian Law of Archbishop Jón 6 106–111 e II 17–20, 1–2 “ 6 112–117 e III 3–8 “ 6 118–123 e 9–14 Laws of the Land of King Magnus Håkonsson 6 124–129 e V 15–20 “ 6 130–137 e VI “ 8 138–145 e VII “ 8 146–151
2 lost leaves
148 and 149) e “ 8 152–159 e IX “ 8 160–167 e + f Laws of the Land + Statute (fo. 167r–v, added by hand f) 8 168–171 f Statutes (Rettarbøter) 4 92–171 (except fo. 99)
lost leaves e + f 84
(between fos.
+ 5

According to Storm’s paleographical analysis, these 84 leaves (fos. 92–171) were written in the fourteenth century by two hands, which he labelled e and f. In the first half of the fourteenth century, the main scribe of the manuscript (e) first produced a manuscript of 70 leaves (fos. 100–167 + 2 now lost leaves; a third of fo. 167r and all of fo. 167v were left blank) and soon afterwards he added the first quire of 10 leaves (fos. 92–98 + 3 now lost leaves).

In around the middle of the fourteenth century, Scribe f then added eight royal statutes to the manuscript. This scribe first filled the empty space at the end of the Laws of the Land on both sides of the last leaf of the original 80 ­leaf book, fo. 167. Then he continued onto a newly added small quire of four leaves (fos. 168–171). It is on the penultimate verso (fo. 170v) of that quire and, thus, of the volume as it once was constituted that the note about 84 leaves appears. Its placement is typical for such a note: easy to find but protected from the wear and tear that particularly affect the last and first leaves of a book.

Later additions

In this reconstruction, the first three leaves of the present volume did not belong to the original volume that resided in Hamar in the late fourteenth century (fos. 89–90, containing parts of two royal statutes issued by King Håkon Magnusson and several notes, including some in Latin). Neither did folio 99, which carries only early modern writing. They were, as Storm suggested, later additions, possibly made as late as when the Greifswald professors owned and rebound the volume. The last two leaves of the present volume would, in contrast, have been added shortly after the note about 84 leaves and probably in the Middle Ages. At least their script is medieval. This addition made this a book with 86 leaves. They contain two early statutes that directly concern


the bishopric of Hamar, firmly situating the resulting volume there. 43 This is the Hamar Lawbook of my title.


This investigation of the extremely complex history of Ms.4° 317 aims to identify which parts of the volume can be securely determined to have resided in Hamar in the late Middle Ages. The following stages in its history may be distinguished:

1. First half of the 14th century: 44 Hand e first produced a manuscript of 70 leaves encompassing fos. 100–167 plus two now missing leaves between fos. 148 and 149. The leaves were gathered in ten regular quires of six or eight leaves, which were numbered on their last pages with Roman numerals I–X. Given the dialect of the scribe (Hand e), he probably worked in eastern Norway, most likely in Hamar itself. This book contained only the Christian Law of Archbishop Jón and the Laws of the Land of King Magnus Håkonsson, ending on fo. 167rb.

2. First half of the 14th century: The same Hand e added a first quire of ten leaves (fos. 92–98 plus three now missing leaves) containing a calendar and the Older Christian Law of Eidsivathing. This resulted in a volume of 80 leaves. This is likely to have happened shortly after step one, since the hand and decoration are identical. The first of two medieval numbering sequences in written­out Old Norse testify that the Eidsivathing law was bound together with Archbishop Jón’s Christian Law already in the fourteenth century.

43 A previously unnoted marginal note contributes a further argument for placing the book in Hamar. In the top right margin of fo. 106r, above chapter 19 of the Christian Law of Archbishop Jón : ‘Hamars sticht vndan tageth’ (the diocese of Hamar excepted). Chapter 19 contains rules for the payment of tithes and has an explicit exception for the diocese of Hamar, see Keyser et al., eds., Norges gamle love , 2:354.

44 Storm dates hand e to the period between 1318 and 1350, but I cannot see any reason to date it after 1318 specifically, see Keyser et al., eds., Norges gamle love , 4:733.


3. Middle of 14th century or slightly earlier: Hand f adds a small quire of four leaves (fos. 168–171) and writes eight statutes on fos. 167rb–171vb. The volume now contains 84 leaves.

4. Middle of the 14th century: Hand g adds the note about the book containing 84 leaves in the lower margin of fo. 170v.

5. Middle of the 14th century: Hand g adds a bifolium (fos. 172–173), finishes on fo. 172r the last statute of Hand f and adds another statute, 171vb–172vb. The scribe also adds two statutes about tithes in Hamar diocese and a note about spiritual kinship translated from Latin (see below) on fos. 172vb–173vb.45 This produced a volume of 86 leaves, which I call ‘The Hamar Lawbook’.

6. At some point close to 1800, Jacob Wallenius or Karl Schildener in Greifswald acquired the book. One of them bound it together with the three other books now in the Royal Library of Stockholm, producing a composite volume of 173 parchment and 99 paper leaves.

7. 1834: Bernhard Rosenblad bought the composite volume from Schildener, which he divided into its constituent parts.

8. 1844: Rosenblad sold Ms.4° 317 with 85 leaves to the University Library in Christiania.

9. It is unknown when fos. 89–91 and 99 were added to the volume and when the four missing leaves were lost, but it must have been before 1844. A plausible guess is that it happened when the composite volume was created in Pomerania, but it is also possible that Rosenblad added the leaves.

Legal Culture at Hamar

We turn now from the volume as a material object to its contents, or the book (i.e., fos. 92–98 and 100–173) as a witness to legal culture at the episcopal see of Hamar. Firstly, it is, interesting to see how an indi­

45 Storm mistakenly claims that the entire fo. 172v was written by hand g, but the last few lines of fo. 172v were in fact written by hand h, see Keyser et al., eds., Norges gamle love , 4:733.


vidual church navigated the confusion about Christian law that I described in the beginning of this chapter.

By 1280, several competing Christian law compilations existed in Norway and in the following decades, royal statutes prescribed that the ‘old’ Christian Law should be used, sometimes specified as that issued by King Håkon and Archbishop Sigurd. What Christian law did the Church of Hamar embrace in this climate of legal uncertainty?

As it happened, the church hedged its bets by including two laws, one old and one new. Interestingly, they did not include the officially prescribed Christian Law of King Håkon and Archbishop Sigurd . The old one that they included in their lawbook was the Old Christian Law of Eidsivathing predating the law reforms of the mid­thirteenth century. This was obviously the old Christian lawbook for the diocese of Hamar, which was approximately coterminous with the Eidsivathing law region. Whoever decided to include this text thought perhaps that they were following King Erik’s and Duke Håkon’s statute from 1290 ‘that the old Christendom’s section shall stand’. 46 The rubric before this Christian Law in Ms.4° 317 states that ‘Here it is said about our old Christian faith’, 47 and a marginal rubric states ‘Old Christian Law’, 48 both of which fit reasonably well with the words of the statute.

The new law in the volume was the Christian Law of Archbishop Jón , the most modern of all the Norwegian adaptations of canon law. The fact that this law appears in a book associated with the Church of Hamar tells us that it in fact was used also outside the diocese of Trondheim. I suspect this conclusion will be applied elsewhere as well if we study the provenance of the other five medieval manuscripts of this law. At least the manuscript that is today in Trondheim ( Trondheim,

46 King Erik Magnusson’s and Duke Håkon Magnusson’s statute from 14 May 1290, Keyser et al., eds., Norges gamle love , 3:17–18: ‘at forn kristinsdoms balkar skal standa.’ This statute is found on fo. 169r in Ms.4° 317.

47 Halvorsen and Rindal, eds., De eldste østlandske kristenrettene , 64: ‘Her sæigir vm gamlæn cristin dom uarn.’

48 Ms.4° 317, fo. 95r: ‘CRISTIN RETUR GAMLE ’.


NTNU, University Library, Gunnerus, XA HA Qv. 1) seems to have been used at the episcopal see of Oslo in the Middle Ages.49 Interestingly, the rubric to the archbishop’s Christian Law in the Hamar Lawbook suggests, probably incorrectly, that King Magnus Lagabætir had approved the law: ‘In the name of Jesus Christ begins here the lawbook that was compiled by Archbishop Jón with the agreement of King Magnus’. 50 On the face of it, the Hamar Lawbook seems, thus, in perfect harmony with royal power: one law text could plausibly be identified with the one preferred in royal statutes, the other claims approval by King Magnus.

Marginal notes

When we study the marginal annotations in our manuscript, it becomes even clearer that Christian Law of Archbishop Jón not only existed in Hamar but, crucially, it was also used there. In Ms.4° 317, the archbishop’s law is annotated about as much as the Laws of the Land , in contrast to the Old Christian Law of Eidsivathing , which carries rather fewer annotations. In the latter, it is mostly the rules about canonical incest that attracted marginal notes, 51 whereas the archbishop’s law has been annotated throughout. Many of the annotations of the Christian Law of Archbishop Jón and the Laws of the Land serve as finding aids, essentially marginal headings for what the text contains. Several different hands have entered such notations. Occasionally, we get a visual finding aid, for example the salmon or trout drawn below the chapter about fishing in the Laws of the Land at the bottom of fo. 153r. The chapter about compensation to be paid when horses bite each other has both a verbal and a pictorial finding aid in the bottom margin of fo. 152v (Figure 3).

49 Keyser et al., eds., Norges gamle love , 4:780–781.

50 Keyser et al., eds., Norges gamle love , 3:341n1: ‘J Namfne Jhesu Christi hæfer her logbook su sem samman setti Jon ærchibyskup med samþykt Magnus konongs’. One other manuscript of the archbishop’s Christian Law credits the king with having established (skipade) it.

51 E.g., ‘at reckne skylskap’ (to reckon kinship; fo. 98r).


Practically all the marginal annotations to the Laws of the Land that I have been able to read (for many are cropped and abraded) are in Old Norse. In the margins of Christian Law of Archbishop Jón , in contrast, some notes are in Latin, while others were written in Old Norse. We may look at fo. 108r as an example. The top margin includes the Latin heading ‘legittima jeiunia’ (Figure 4), meaning ‘lawful fasts.’ The bottom margin refers in Old Norse to ‘Fredagx faste,’ (Figure 5) Friday fast, one of those lawful fasts that are dealt with in the text at this point. On fo. 107r, the subject is Sundays and holidays: the top margin has, in Norse, ‘Sunædagx hælgh’ (Sunday’s holiness) while the bottom margin carries two Latin notes ‘Dies festiui’ (feast days) and ‘de(?) jeiuniis’ (about fasts). Both marginal notes refer to chapter 22 of Archbishop Jón’s Christian Law, the text of which begins: ‘Sunnudagh huærn skulu ver hæilagt halda’ (We should keep each Sunday holy). The chapter also recounts a number of other feast days in the year that should be similarly kept holy and some of them are also fast days, explaining the Latin notes. When the chapter notes what the punishment is for not keeping Sunday holy (a fine of three aurar to the bishop), a reader has drawn pointing hands both in the right and middle margins. Fines to the bishop were obviously of interest at the episcopal see of Hamar. A little further down, where the text specifies that anyone who has worked for three Sundays will become an outlaw and his wealth will go to the bishop, a

Figure 3: Two finding aids on fol. 152v – one verbal and one pictoral, depicting a spotted horse –about compensation to be paid when horses bite each other.

note in the right­hand margin reads, in Latin: ‘pena …’ (penalty …). 52

Unfortunately, the end of the annotation was lost when the page was cropped. On most pages, the outer margins are even more tightly cropped, so any marginal notes that once may have existed are entirely or mostly lost.

The marginal headings, whether they are images or texts in Old Norse or in Latin, serve to make the book much easier to use as a working copy. Additionally, the Latin annotations situate the book firmly in an international context where law was thought about and read not only in Old Norse, but also in Latin. Like other Scandinavian episcopal sees, the Church of Hamar would certainly have possessed the huge Latin works of the Corpus of Canon Law, including the commentaries produced mainly in Bologna. 53 Those books are full of Latin headings similar to those found in the margins of Ms.4° 317. One can, for example, find rules about tithes under the heading ‘de decimis’ both in Ms.4° 317 and in the Corpus iuris canonici , for example in Pope Gregory IX’s Liber extra 3.30, a section which carries the title ‘De decimis, primitiis et oblationibus’ (On tithes, first fruits, and offerings). 54

The Church of Hamar needed the large volumes of the general canon law, not only to administer the church in a lawful way, but also to decide cases in the bishop’s court. We tend to overlook courts run by each bishop in Scandinavia – which were surely very busy – since so little evidence survives about their activities. Those courts also employed the local canon law, which in Norway was set down in the vernacular in the various Christian laws.

The Christian laws of Scandinavia may be considered paraphrased and summarizing excerpts in Old Norse of the parts of international Latinate canon law that directly impinged on lay society. These rules had often been subject to local negotiations, such as those

52 Chapter 22 is edited in Keyser et al., eds., Norges gamle love , 2:357 and translated into modern Norwegian in Spørck, Nyere norske kristenretter, 117.

53 Winroth, ‘Kanonisk rätt’.

54 Friedberg, ed., Corpus iuris canonici , 2:555.


Figures 4 and 5: The Christian Law of Archbishop Jón, with marginal notes in Latin and Old Norse on fol. 108r: ‘legittima jeiunia’ (lawful fasts) in the upper margin (Fig. 4) and ‘Fredagx faste’ (Friday fast) in the bottom one (Fig. 5).


that resulted in the 1277 concordat (Sættargerð ) in Tønsberg between king and Church. The vernacular laws do not, however, contain those parts of general canon law that were purely intra­ecclesiastical, such as the law of ordination, church offices, benefices, hierarchy and monasticism, while they focus on subjects relevant to lay people, such as marriage, baptisms, funerals, fasting, tithes, and usury. The bishop of Hamar and his judicial assistants would have been used to dealing with law in Latin, so it is perfectly natural that they sometimes provided the vernacular laws in our manuscript with Latin headings, bearing witness to a legal culture where the movement between different linguistic registers was seamless.

Cardinal Goffredus in Old Norse translation Ms.4° 317 contains more texts that further highlight the connections between local and international legal culture. Nested between the two statutes directed to the Church of Hamar on fo. 173, we find a short passage about the prohibitions in canon law against people related through baptism marrying each other. The same passage has also been interpolated into the text of the Christian Law of Archbishop Jón in this manuscript and one other book. 55 In addition, it appears in what Bjørg Dale Spørck has identified as Magnus Lagabætir’s intended Christian law for Borgarthing in its single, incomplete medieval manuscript. 56 In other words, four different instances of this text have been identified in medieval Norwegian legal manuscripts, two of which are in Ms.4° 317. 57 What has never been noticed, however, is that the text is not an

55 Ms.4° 317, fo. 114ra–b. It is also found in Trondheim, Universitetsbiblioteket, Gunnerus, XA HA Qv. 1, see Keyser et al., Norges gamle love , 2:376n21.

56 XA HA Qv. 1, ed. Spørck, ‘Kong Magnus Lagabøters kristenretter’, T-26–27; Keyser et al., eds., Norges gamle love , 4:176. The text also appears in partial Danish translation in AM 77b 4°, the Gulathing version of the same law, see Spørck, ‘Kong Magnus lagabøters kristenretter,’ T-56. Jens Arup Seip discussed this text in the context of AM 77b 4o, attempting to identify its source, but he was unaware that it derives from Goffredus of Trano, see Seip, ‘Ennu en kristenrett fra gammelnorsk tid’, 620–621.

57 A derivative version is found in the statutes of Archbishop Arne from the late 1340s, see Keyser et al., eds., Norges gamle love , 3:297–298.


original Norwegian composition but a direct translation from Latin. What is probably the most useful summarizing handbook of the contents of canon law in the thirteenth century is the Summa titulorum that Cardinal Goffredus of Trano wrote in the 1240s. 58 Goffredus had a knack for quickly getting to all the important points, explaining the remarkable success of his book. Excerpts from it appear in many Scandinavian legal manuscripts, either in Norse translations or in the original Latin. 59 We also know of several complete manuscripts that resided and were used in Scandinavia in the Middle Ages. One of the most notable of these books is Uppsala, University Library, C 564. We know that this copy of Goffredus’ main work was in a Norse­speaking context, since it famously contains a book list that includes several Old Norse works, but also Latin works in theology and canon law. The list is usually, but probably incorrectly, ascribed to Bishop Árni Sigurðsson of Bergen.


Goffredus usefully summarizes which spiritual relations are created at baptism. Those relationships prevent the individuals involved from ever marrying each other. For example, a woman cannot marry the priest who baptized her, nor is she allowed to marry the son of her godmother, since by canon law, they would have been considered siblings (through spiritual kinship). The text found in Ms.4° 317 is a very close translation of the Latin original, excluding only the Latin abstract nouns for different kinds of kinship, for which it is difficult to find Old Norse counterparts. The presence of four examples of the Norwegian translation of this suggests dissatisfaction with Archbishop Jón’s briefer formulation of the same rules in chapter 50 of his Christian Law.

58 Goffredus, Summa perutilis .

59 Vadum, ‘Bruk av kanonistisk litteratur i Nidarosprovinsen ca. 1250–1340’, 390–392; Winroth, ‘Goffredus och Västgötalagen’.

60 Andersson-Schmitt, Hallberg, and Hedlund, Mittelalterliche Handschriften der Universitätsbibliothek Uppsala , 6:26–27; Johansson, ‘Queen Eufemia, the Norwegian Élite and the Background of the Eufemiavisor’, 141–144; Etheridge, ‘The Booklist of Bishop Arne Sigurdsson’.


Table 4: Goffredus translated in the Hamar Lawbook

Goffredus, Summa titulorum61

Ex cognatione spirituali que contrahitur in baptismo nouem propinquitates nascuntur. 63

Prima inter sacerdotem baptizantem et baptizatum, que est filiatio.

Secunda inter sacerdotem et patrem baptizati et hec est compaternitas.

Tertia inter eundem et matrem pueri et hec est commaternitas.

Quarta inter filios sacerdotis et baptizatum et hoc est fraternitas. ut xxx. q.j. omnes et q. iii. ita.

Ms.4° 317, fo. 173r–v62

Medall þessara mannæ værda guðziuiar i skirnd.

fyrst millim prestens er skirir. ok barns þærs er skirt værðr.

adrær guðziuiar millim prestens z fadur barsens. er skirt verdr.

Þridiu millim þesser er skririr z modor barnsens.

Translation of the Old Norse text

Spiritual kinship comes about through baptism between these people.

First, between the priest who baptizes and the child who is baptized.

Second, spiritual kin between the priest and the father of the child who is baptized.

Third, between the one who baptizes and the mother of the child.

Quinta inter baptizatum et suscipientem de baptismo. et hec est filiatio.

Sexta inter baptizatum et uxorem suscipientis et hic similiter est filiatio.

fiordæ millim barnæ prestæns z þess barns er hann skirir. ok þui viðr ơll þau born er þæir skira. ok oll þæira fæðgini. Ok ma prestens barn viðr engan þan likams lostæ drygia. er prestræn hefer skirt.

fimtu millim barnsens er skirizst ok þess er þui hællðr till skirðar.

Settu millim þess er skirð værðr ok kono þerss er þui hællðr till skirnær.

Fourth, between the children of the priest and the child he baptizes. And thus, they [the priests] stand in spiritual kinship with everyone they have baptized and their parents. And a child of the priest must not have bodily intercourse with anyone that the priest has baptized.

Fifth, between the child that is baptized and the one who holds it to baptism.

Sixth, between him who is baptized and the wife of him who receives him at baptism.

61 Goffredus, Summa perutilis et valde necessaria domini Goffredi de Trano super titulis decretal ium, fo. 181v.

62 Edited by Gustav Storm in Keyser et al., Norges gamle love , 4:733–764n1. I reproduce Storm’s text exactly (with one exception signaled below), including the z that he used to render the medieval abbreviation mark for ‘ok’ (and). The eighth item is missing in Ms.4° 317, fo. 173v, certainly because the scribe’s eye skipped from one instance of the phrase ‘millum þerss’ to another. I have supplied the missing text from the other instance of this text’s appearance in the manuscript, as printed in Keyser et al., eds., Norges gamle love, 2:376n21.

63 Translation: ‘Nine relationships are contracted from the spiritual kinship following upon baptisms.’


Septima inter baptizatum et filios suscipientis. et hoc est fraternitas.

Octaua inter suscipientem et patrem suscepti et hec est compaternitas

Nona inter suscipientem et matrem suscepti. et hec est commaternitas ut hec omnia probantur xxx. questione iii. per totum…

Siaundæ millum þærss er skirizst z barnæ þæira. sem þui halldæ till skirnær.

[viij. millum þess er barne hældr till skirnar ok fadur þess er skirdr uærdr.]

attendæ64 millum þerss er berne hælldr till skirnær. ok modor þerss er skirt er.

Seventh, between the one who is baptized and the children of those who receive the child at baptism.

[Eight, between her who receives the child at baptism and the father of the one who is baptized.]

[Ninth,] between him who receives the child at baptism and the mother of the one who is baptized.

Criticism of the law

The marginal annotations and inserted texts I have outlined report, summarize, or identify the law. There is little to tell us what the people who participated in the legal culture at Hamar actually thought about the law they applied and under which they lived. I have, however, found one comment critical of the law in the Hamar Lawbook. The subject that is commented upon is the rule in the Christian Law of Archbishop Jón , chapter 20, that the rector of each parish church is obliged to send around a cross before each feast day and each fast, to make sure that all the members of the parish observe the proper rules for each. 65 If the priest is negligent, he must pay a fine to the bishop. One of the medieval marginal annotators in Hamar did not like this law. He signaled his discontent in a marginal note at the bottom of folio 106v, exclaiming: ‘crudelis lex pro curatis’ (A law cruel to parish priests). We may wonder why the writer was so upset. Perhaps he was a negligent parish priest who had once been forced to pay the fine? I do not think we can do more than speculate, but it is at least refreshing to be getting, for once, something other than the official point of view from a lawbook.

64 Storm here prints ‘Niundæ’ instead of the manuscript’s clear reading ‘attendæ’.

65 Keyser et al., eds., Norges gamle love , 2:355–356.



This article has complicated the history of the Christian laws of Norway in the late Middle Ages. While royal power in 1290 and again in 1316 and 1327 legislated that the Christian Law of King Håkon and Archbishop Sigurd from c.1250 should be used to the exclusion of all other Christian Laws, the study of Ms.4° 317 demonstrates that the Church of Hamar, one of five episcopal sees on the Norwegian mainland, instead primarily used the Christian Law of Archbishop Jón , with subsidiary use of the Old Christian Law of Eidsivathing. In so doing, the users of this book surely were in good faith. They believed that King Magnus Lagabætir had approved the former, and they had reasons to believe that the latter was the law that royal statutes prescribed.

The marginal annotations demonstrate that the Hamar clergy worked intensely with this copy of the Laws of the Land and the Christian Law of Archbishop Jón , and when they engaged with the latter, they did so from a bilingual and internationally oriented viewpoint. They were notably interested in the rules against marriage among spiritual kin; this was the theme of the rare passage in the Old Christian Law of Eidsivathing that they annotated, and they added a pedagogic formulation of the relevant rules, translated from a Latin textbook. Did these rules cause particular challenges to the clergy of Hamar? I expect they may have. In a small­grained rural society, people would only have a limited number of families to choose from when finding marriage partners, and members of the same families would also be natural candidates for godparenthood at baptisms. That must have set up many clashes between the Church and secular society.

In this chapter, I also hope to have shown that close study of an individual law manuscript is rewarding. We will learn new and unexpected aspects of legal history when we examine further the written heritage of those who handled the law.



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4. Codex Hardenbergianus

– A Prachthandschrift from Medieval Norway

The vernacular Codex Hardenbergianus (GKS 1154 fol.), preserved at the Royal Library in Copenhagen and currently on long-term loan at the National Library of Norway in Oslo, can easily be titled the most splendid of all surviving medieval Norwegian law manuscripts. Apart from a well-written and well laid-out text, it features the most

Figure 1: Codex Hardenbergianus, open to fol. 15v–16r, the beginning of Mannhelgi (Human Inviolability).

embellished High Gothic-styled historiated book painting known from the whole corpus of medieval Scandinavian manuscripts. The book’s comparably large size (259 x 185 mm today) and few signs of wear indicate that at the time of production, it was very likely intended to be displayed rather than for daily use.1 On the basis of the fine finish, unusually large amount of space allotted to book painting and the less extensive textual content (relative to other law books), the oldest part of Codex Hardenbergianus can be classified as the only existing medieval Norwegian legal Prachthandschrift (luxury manuscript).

Similar to the European religious Prachthandschriften of the thirteenth century, the most striking aspect of legal Prachthandschriften of the fourteenth century is the visual, often religious-inspired entry leaves, as these commonly contain sizable high-quality illuminations that are filled with complex figurative elements known from Bible manuscripts or Books of Hours. 2 At the same time, the textual content of these codices is generally less complex, and their typeface is frequently large, in comparison with manuscripts that contain similar texts but which are less luxurious and of smaller size. Together with the visual element, it is this feature that distinguishes Prachthandschriften from more ordinary manuscripts. In this chapter, I will outline how Codex Hardenbergianus aligns with contemporary European design and production of Prachthandschriften , and to that end, present new investigations into visual links to illuminated manuscripts of the Middle High German customary law Sachsenspiegel and the Middle Low German town law of Lübeck, Lübisches Recht . I will also put forward a new suggestion for the initial patron of Codex Hardenbergianus: the wealthy lawman and sýslumaðr (bailiff) Ívarr

1 Drechsler, ‘The Production and Use of Norwegian Law Manuscripts 1280–1400’, 218.

2 Manuscripts primarily falling under this, and related, designations are lavishly illuminated liturgical books dated to the Early and High Middle Ages. A corpus of illuminated vernacular law manuscripts that is often considered similar to religious Prachthandschriften are Middle High German law manuscripts produced in Lüneburg at around 1400; see Seidel, ‘Vorzeigen und nachschlagen’, 307–328, with further references.


Andrésson. 3 The chapter will show that this codex is a valuable source of knowledge about the elite and their cultural connections in mid-fourteenth-century Norway.

Text, Scribe and Provenance of Codex Hardenbergianus GKS 1154 fol. is today classified as a composite manuscript that contains three individual units, 4 two of which are dated to the fourteenth century, while the third was written in the second quarter of the sixteenth century. Part I, usually considered the core of the manuscript, covers most of the first eight gatherings, i.e., ff. 1–60 of altogether 102 leaves (see Table 1), solely featuring the vernacular Landsl ǫg , the Norwegian Laws of the Land of 1274. 5 In terms of codicology, the production of a Landsl ǫg text in a defined gathering sequence is typical for well laid-out Norwegian manuscripts from the fourteenth century, and it follows set standards. 6 Nevertheless, the book’s curtailed version of the Landsl ǫg text (relative to most other manuscripts) is special and it remains unclear whether this shortening was intentional. Here, the Landsl ǫg includes the Prologue and all nine major sections of the law code (Old Norse b ǫlkr or bálkr, pl. bálkar), but not the concluding epilogue and law amendments (réttarbætr). 7 In terms of the text’s completeness, this reduction appears to have been intentional since the book painting has been added to all parts of the text. On the other hand, the remaining pre-ruled space in the eighth gathering (f. 59 v –60 r) would have provided sufficient space for both the epilogue and

3 When nothing else is stated, all manuscript dating is taken from the online database of the Dictionary of Old Norse Prose ; Rindal and Spørck, introduction to Kong Magnus Håkonsson Lagabøtes Landslov, 1:18–38; or Horn, ‘Hånd c og d i GKS 1154 fol.’, 41.

4 Storm, ‘Haandskriftbeskrivelse’, 393; Kålund, Katalog , 27; Rindal, ‘The Legislation’, 19.

5 The Landsl ǫg is a national law code based on the revision of a number of already renewed provincial laws promulgated at the legal assemblies of Norway in 1267–1274 and under the auspices of the Norwegian King Magnús VI Hákonarson (1263–1280). See e.g. Sunde, ‘Daughters of God’, with further references; Sunde, ‘Landslova av 1274’.

6 For an overview of the different textual and codicological features of medieval Norwegian law manuscripts until 1400, see Drechsler, ‘Production’.

7 For the Landsl ǫg text in Codex Hardenbergianus, see Flom, ed., The Old Norwegian General Law of the Gulathing .


réttarbætr, and the exclusion of these is very unusual for its time. 8 Either way, the first production unit of Codex Hardenbergianus was without doubt intended to feature the Landsl ǫg alone.9

As is typical for Norwegian law manuscripts from the fourteenth century, the text is well structured, with tables of contents at the beginning of most bálkar as well as eleven large, text-related historiated illuminations that introduce both the Prologue (Bréf Magnúss konungs , King Magnus’s letter) and each of the law sections (see Table 2). 10 Apart from the large size of the manuscript, the overall design of Codex Hardenbergianus generally follows the established standard of law manuscript production in the fourteenth century in Norway.11 Similar to many manuscripts that feature the Landsl ǫg , the text in Codex Hardenbergianus is written in a well laid-out single column. It consists of thirty-four lines throughout, on a wet ruling with a single-framed grid, with no deviations and few falling lines. Although most of the larger Landsl ǫg manuscripts are laid out in two columns, the use of a single column for a relatively large law manuscript such as Codex Hardenbergianus is known from twelfth- or thirteenth-century Prachhandschriften such as illuminated English or German Bible manuscripts.12 However, in comparison, both the size and mise-en-page of Codex Hardenbergianus have similarities with less luxurious Norwegian law manuscripts as well, such as the Landsl ǫg part of Uppsala,

8 39 manuscripts and 55 fragmented codices are known to belong to the medieval transmission of this Norwegian law code (Rindal and Spørck, introduction to Kong Magnus Håkonsson Lagabøtes Landslov, 18–38). To my knowledge, no other manuscript featuring the Landsl ǫg excludes the concluding réttarbætr. However, due to the large number of fragmented codices now featuring only sections of Landsl ǫg , it cannot be determined whether there once existed other Landsl ǫg texts similar to the one in Codex Hardenbergianus. For all other extant medieval redactions of the réttarbætr and the epilogue, see Rindal and Spørck, eds., Kong Magnus Håkonsson Lagabøtes Landslov, 2:987–1009.

9 For the term ‘manuscript production unit’, see Gumbert, ‘Codicological Units’, 17–42; Kwakkel, ‘Towards a Terminology’, 12–19.

10 For the content of all eleven large initials in Codex Hardenbergianus, see further Berg, ‘The Illuminations’.

11 Drechsler, ‘Production’, 184–188.

12 For examples, see Geddes, Der Albani-Psalter ; Engelhart, Der St. Marienthaler Psalter


University Library, De la Gardie 8 (1300–1350, see Figures 2–3).13 No close textual relations has been found so far between these two codices, and despite the large-sized illuminations and the considerably large script and reduced textual content, it appears less likely that the layout chosen for Codex Hardenbergianus provides strong evidence for an inspiration taken from other Prachthandschriften . Based on a number of regional specifications in two bálkar, 14 the redaction of the Landsl ǫg in Codex Hardenbergianus appears to

2 and Figure 3: Two Norwegian law manuscripts, Codex Hardenbergianus (left) and Uppsala, University Library, De la Gardie 8 (right), with text in one column.

13 The size of De la Gardie 8 is 260 x 195 mm (Gödel, Katalog , 4). Similar to Codex Hardenbergianus, De la Gardie 8 is a composite manuscript and consists of two independent units. The unit featuring the Landsl ǫg and the maritime law code Farmannal ǫg appears on ff. 1–57v of the book; see further Gödel, Katalog , 6. For the mise-en-page , script and text of the Landsl ǫg in De la Gardie 8, see Horn, ‘Lov og tekst i middelalderen’, 100–106, 276–278.

14 The Landsl ǫg are found in four regional redactions, see, e.g., Keyser and Munch, eds., Norges gamle Love indtil 1387, 2:III. For an overview of the variation between the redactions, see Horn, ‘Lov og tekst’, 251–254.


be more or less specific to the western Norwegian Gulathing,15 which was situated in Bergen from around 1310 onwards. 16 Although no close textual model has been established thus far, a number of textual variations suggest links to law manuscripts written in 1280–1350. According to Magnus Rindal, several of these manuscripts are associated with Gulathing, another two with Borgarthing, and two others with Frostathing. 17 Such textual variation is typical for Landsl ǫg -texts from the fourteenth century, and most manuscripts exhibit variation of this type. 18 Among other reasons, due to the textual models used for the manuscript and its regional use, it has been suggested that Codex Hardenbergianus was made at a wellestablished workshop in Bergen.19

The oldest unit of Codex Hardenbergianus was written by a single scribe throughout, assisted by a rubricator, who wrote most of the rubrics and may also have illuminated the manuscript. 20 Overall, the script has been considered a fairly conservative Gothic textual script with both Icelandic and Norwegian orthography and little use of abbreviations. Specifically Icelandic features in the orthography were described by Rindal as being caused by textual model(s), while the

15 With the establishment of Landsl ǫg , the juridical spaces of Norway were divided into four major law assemblies: (1) Gulathing covering the coastlines of Agder in the south and Sunnmøre in the north and, later, Hallingdal and Valdres, the Faroe Islands, Shetland Islands, Orkney Islands and possibly Greenland; (2) Borgarthing covered Vestfold, Østfold and Bohuslen, (3) Eiðsifathing Oppland, Hedmark and Romerike, and (4) Frostathing Trøndelag, Nordmøre, Jemtland, Herjedalen and Northern Norway. For a review of the establishment of these provincial law assembly places in Norway, see Strauch, Mittelalterliches Nordisches Recht , 108–139.

16 Helle, Gulatinget og Gulatingslova , 51.

17 Rindal, ‘Legislation’, 24.

18 Horn in ‘Lov og tekst i middelalderen’, 185, 213, sees some textual similarities with two manuscripts featuring redactions for Gulathing and Frostathing, respectively, 273–84.

19 Storm, ‘Haandskriftbeskrivelse’, 393; Halldór Hermannsson, Icelandic Illuminated Manuscripts , 24; Flom, Old Norwegian General Law, 16; Rindal, ‘The History of Old Norse Manuscripts II’, 802; Drechsler, Illuminated Manuscript Production , 185.

20 Stefán Karlsson, ‘Lovskriver i to lande’, 184.


scribe must have been Norwegian and produced the text in 1325–1350. 21 Conversely, Stefán Karlsson has seen the orthography as primarily Icelandic and he argues that the Norwegian orthographic features are caused by the textual models used rather than the geographical origin of the scribe. 22 He has further concluded that the scribe was identical to the one who wrote most parts of the Icelandic law manuscript Belgsdalsbók (Reykjavík, Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, AM 347 fol., 1350–1370) in two sessions prior to and after writing Codex Hardenbergianus. 23 He thus dates the production of GKS 1154 fol. more narrowly to 1350–1360, and suggests that the writing took place in Norway. 24 Between the two older production units of Belgsdalsbók, Stefán found that Norwegian orthography increased, 25 which, he argues, was caused by the interim visit of the scribe to the mainland. 26 The mise-en-page in the oldest units of both manuscripts share a number of similarities, including the use of wet ruling and tables of contents, both of which are otherwise rarely found in law manuscripts

21 Rindal ‘Legislation’, 21–23. Magnus Rindal argued that the orthography of the Landsl ǫg text in Codex Hardenbergianus does not feature any particular regional specification and may had been written either in Bergen or Oslo, see ‘Legislation’, 22–23.

22 Stefán Karlsson, ‘Lovskriver i to lande’, 166–184.

23 For the textual content of Belgsdalsbók, see Drechsler, Illuminated Manuscript Production , 133, and, for a theory on its earliest provenance, see Winroth, ‘Hólar and Belgsdalsbók’.

24 Stefán Karlsson, ‘Lovskriver i to lande’, 178. A dating of 1350 had been proposed by Storm in 1879; see Om Haandskrifter og Oversættelser, 5.

25 Jón Helgason, ed., The Arna-Magnæan Manuscript 674 A, 4to , xx; Stefán Karlsson, ed., Sagas of Icelandic Bishops , 57. Norwegianisms were part of the development of the Norwegian written language that started in the early thirteenth century; see also Stefán Karlsson, ‘Om norvagismer i islandske håndskrifter’, 96. Only few Icelandic scribes of medieval manuscripts and fragments containing Landsl ǫg have been recognised with certainty so far; see Rindal and Spørck, introduction to Kong Magnus Håkonsson Lagabøtes Landslov, 51–52.

26 The use of Norwegianisms was not new to the scribe when Codex Hardenbergianus was written. Even so, changes pointing towards a more Norwegian orthography appear frequently in Codex Hardenbergianus but are found even more numerously in the younger unit of Belgsdalsbók compared to the older one. See further Stefán Karlsson, ‘Lovskriver’, 174–78, 184.


from the Icelandic Middle Ages. 27 It is especially the structure, setting and use of Arabic numbers in the table of contents that makes Belgsdalsbók up-to-date by a European standard. 28 The Norwegian-Icelandic link worked in both directions, since a number of internationally inspired artworks used for the book painting of Codex Hardenbergianus appear in Icelandic book painting in the 1360s and 1370s, 29 shortly after the writing process was concluded, according to Stefán. At the same time, the book painting of the Norwegian codex is influenced by iconography used in Iceland prior to its production, among others for Belgsdalsbók. 30

The earliest provenance of Codex Hardenbergianus is largely unknown, though two (now erased) letters þ in the bottom margin of f. 60 r , 31 dated to 1400, 32 may indicate that its owner at that time was a bishop. In the following century, two texts were added to f. 1 r and f. 59 v –60 r. First, in the early fifteenth century, a section of the Old Swedish Revelations of St Birgitta (book 4, extract of vision 102) on the nine rules for judges was added on f. 1r. It is likely that this text attests to an ecclesiastical use of the first booklet at that time, perhaps at the Munkeliv Abbey in Bergen, which adhered to the Rule of St Birgitta

27 For other examples, see Rohrbach, ‘Construction, Organisation, Stabilisation’, 230, 249. Despite a similar number of lines (32), the missing wet ruling in the younger production unit of Belgsdalsbók, as well as the fact that in codicological terms, a clear separation between these two production phases is visible, showing that the younger production unit was not intended to be part of the initial production. This is further indicated in Belgsdalsbók’s table of contents, which only covers the texts featured in the oldest production unit of the codex. Yet, despite the changing layout, both the palaeographical details and, not least, the orthographic development as described by Stefán Karlsson in ‘Lovskriver i to lande’ is convincing. It is less likely that the Icelandic features in the script of Codex Hardenbergianus are primarily caused by the used exemplars, as argued by Rindal in ‘Legislation’, 21–23, since only one of the named manuscripts that share similar textual variations features possible Icelandic orthography. For this, see Rindal and Spørck, introduction to Kong Magnus Håkonsson Lagabøtes Landslov, 28–29.

28 Rohrbach, ‘Belgsdalsbók AM 347 fol.’.

29 Drechsler, ‘Production’, 184–98.

30 Drechsler, Illuminated Manuscript Production , 188.

31 Storm, ‘Haandskriftbeskrivelse’, 390.

32 Rindal, ‘History of Old Norse Manuscripts’, 805.


for most of the fifteenth century. 33 It is because of this Bridgettine text that Codex Hardenbergianus has been connected to Aslak Bolt, bishop of Bergen in 1408–1428 and a strong supporter of the establishment of the order at Munkeliv. 34 Bolt became Archbishop of Niðaróss in 1428 and it has been suggested that following his move to Trondheim, the oldest unit of Codex Hardenbergianus was taken to Trondheim at that time. 35 Shortly after, in 1460–1480, a réttarbót from King Christian I of Denmark (r. 1450–1481) was added after the Landsl ǫg on ff. 59v–60r18 by yet another scribe (c). Horn has argued, on a palaeographic basis, that the same hand or two very closely related hands simultaneously added the first réttarbót to the following production unit of Codex Hardenbergianus (Part II, see Table 1), proving, for her, that the two units were in Trondheim at the time of writing. In the sixteenth century, however, Codex Hardenbergianus returned to Bergen when the person for whom the codex is named, the Danish noblewoman Helvig Hardenberg (1540–1599), acquired Codex Hardenbergianus after she moved to Bergen in 1560 with her husband, Erik Rosenkrantz (1519–1575), the Danish nobleman and sheriff of Bergenhus. 36 Her signature (f. 15 r, f. 46 r) and two notes (f. 9 v, f. 10 r) are found in the first production unit.

Like the oldest unit, most of the second unit, which spans over four gatherings (9–12, on ff. 61–91), was written by a single scribe, but this happened slightly later, in 1375–1400. This booklet has a clear ecclesiastical focus as it contains a complete redaction of the Norwegian ecclesiastical law from 1273, Kristinréttr Jóns erkibyskups (Archbishop Jón’s ecclesiastical law), in addition to a redaction of the famous Sættargerð í Túnsberg (Concordat of Tønsberg) from 1277 and two statutes by the archbishops Páll and Árni of Niðaróss from 1336–1346

33 I.e., from the 1420s until 1462, and again from 1478/79; see Ommundsen, ‘Nonneseter i Bergen’, 550.

34 Adams, The Revelations of St Birgitta , 37–39.

35 Storm, ‘Haandskriftbeskrivelse’, 393; Adams, Displaced Texts , 15; Adams, The Revelations of St Birgitta , 252.

36 For further discussion, see the chapter by Randi Bjørshol Wærdahl in the present volume.


and 1346–1349, respectively. 37 Although this second unit contains a similar number of lines, the different mise-en-page , dating and colour of parchment undoubtedly indicate a different workshop, likely located in Trondheim. 38 In the second unit, the two-columned text is written on a dry-ruled grid and embellished with red Lombardic capitals only, apart from a two-coloured, puzzle-styled main initial at the beginning. Just like there are later additions made to the first production unit, so too, the second unit features a number of réttarbætr added by five scribes in the late fifteenth century and in the first half of the following century. If not made earlier, 39 it is likely that the second production unit was in use in or around Trondheim at least by that time, since a number of these réttarbætr indicate specific use in that part of Norway (see Table 1).

The third and final production unit of Codex Hardenbergianus consists of two gatherings (13–14, on ff. 92–102) written by a single scribe in the second quarter of the sixteenth century. It consists of eighteen réttarbætr dated to the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, as well as a paraphrased section of the older provincial and municipal laws for Frostathing and Trondheim, Frostuþingsl ǫg eldri and Bjarkeyjarréttr, initially dated to the late twelfth century or slightly later.40 Despite this, several references given in the réttarbætr indicate its usage in or around Bergen. 41 Nevertheless, it was only in the sixteenth century that the three parts were perhaps first bound together.42 Around 1550, Copenhagen, Royal Library, GKS 3669 8vo, containing Kristinréttr Jóns erkibyskups, was commissioned in Bergen

37 Jón Þorkelsson, ed., Diplomatarium Islandicum , 2:748, 836. The two statutes following the Sættargerð í Túnsberg are not separated from it by main initials and thus may be interpreted as being part of its textual structure. For more on ecclesiastical laws in Norway, see Anders Winroth’s chapter in this volume.

38 Storm, ‘Haandskriftbeskrivelse’, 389, Rindal, ‘Legislation’, 22–23.

39 Storm, ‘Haandskriftbeskrivelse’, 393.

40 Hagland and Sandnes, introduction to Frostatingslova , xxxii, with further references.

41 Storm, ‘Haandskriftbeskrivelse’, 393, Rindal, ‘Legislation’, 19.

42 Storm, ‘Haandskriftbeskrivelse’, 393. With some certainty, the present binding dates to the reign of King Christian VII of Denmark and Norway (1766–1808), see Rindal, ‘Legislation’, 19.


by its first Lutheran bishop, Gjeble Pederssøn (1490–1557), using GKS 1154 fol. as the exemplar. 43 Accordingly, it is very likely that Codex Hardenbergianus was in Bergen by that time, 44 and it was subsequently acquired by Helvig Hardenberg, perhaps as early as a decade later.

Whatever the case, the original intention – i.e., to use the first manuscript unit primarily for presentation purposes – had, by that time, developed into a more practical use of the featured Landsl ǫg text. This is evident not only by the way in which further texts were added to the oldest production unit, but also from the simple fact that it was combined with the other two units. Yet, there are few traces of marginal annotation or strong damage to the lavish book painting in the oldest production unit, 45 and no more than a few leaves have gone missing over time. 46 Today, Codex Hardenbergianus is one of the best-preserved Norwegian manuscripts from the Middle Ages. Apart from the luck of being stored well after Helvig Hardenberg owned it, 47 the fine condition of the codex is most likely a consequence of the quality and size of its book painting.

43 Storm, ‘Haandskriftbeskrivelse’, 393.

44 Horn, ‘Hånd c og d i GKS 1154 fol’, 46, 73.

45 Apart from several notes added to f. 1 r and the annotations by Helvig Hardenberg, only f. 22r features an added marginal note. This was likely added very shortly after the text was finished. See further Storm, ‘Haandskriftbeskrivelse’, 389; Rindal and Spørck, eds., Kong Magnus Håkonsson Lagabøtes Landslov, 1:399. The script is a mixture of Cursiva Antiquior and Gothic Cursiva script. According to Derolez, Palaeography , 134, Cursiva Antiquior was primarily used in between 1325 and 1400 in Scandinavia and in the mixed form, as in this example, in the later decades of the fourteenth century only. I would like to thank Tonje Waldersnes for making me aware of this.

46 According to Rindal in ‘Legislation’, 18, four leaves are missing from the oldest production unit: leaf 1 in the first gathering, leaf 4 and 5 in the fifth gathering (between ff. 34–35), and leaf 1 in the seventh gathering (although no text is missing, and it is likely that this lacuna was original).

47 It is likely that Codex Hardenbergianus came to Denmark with Helvig Hardenberg in 1568. It is mentioned in 1663–1670 in a catalogue of the Royal Library, where it was kept until 2018, when it was lent to the National Library of Norway; see Rindal, Handskrifter av norske mellomalderlover


The Book Painting of Codex Hardenbergianus

The illuminations of GKS 1154 fol. have long been recognised as a particularly fine example of Norwegian book painting.48 As was argued in the past, the illuminations appear to be of high quality and, at the same time, inspired by iconographic and stylistic models that were in circulation in Northern Europe during the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. 49 As such, Codex Hardenbergianus shares a number of stylistic traits with Norwegian altar frontals and East Anglian book painting from the first decades of the fourteenth century, 50 as well as pictorial models that likely originated from Icelandic, German and French illuminations from around the same time. 51

Such an international inspiration was new for Norwegian law manuscript production in the fourteenth century, since figural book painting appears only sparsely in western Scandinavian book painting before that time, and there are no known Norwegian examples of historiated book painting from before 1300. 52 It was only with the turn of the fourteenth century that the book painting culture of both Norway and Iceland advanced, albeit slowly. The new innovations that were made were based on inspirations taken from late twelfth and early thirteenth-century French and English Romanesque ornamentation styles, featuring palmette spirals, clubbed plumules, acanthus tendrils, as well as international Gothic fleuronnée and œufs-de-grenouille

48 For previous art historical research on Codex Hardenbergianus, see Fett, ‘Miniatyrer fra islandske haandskrifter’, 25–27; Fett, Norges malerkunst i middelalderen , 199; Matthías Þórðarson, ‘Islands middelalderkunst’, 340; Halldór Hermannsson, Icelandic Illuminated Manuscripts , 23–25; Halldór Hermannsson, ed., Illuminated Manuscripts of the Jónsbók , 9–10; Björn Th. Björnsson, Brotasilfur, 26–33; Berg, ‘Illuminations’; Bera Nordal, ‘Lögbókarhandritið’; Johansson, and Liepe, ‘Text and Images’; Drechsler, ‘The Illuminated Þjófabálkr ’, 13–14; Drechsler, Illuminated Manuscript Production , 184–194. Previous scholars suggested that the painter was Icelandic, but this was convincingly dismissed by Liepe in Studies in Icelandic Fourteenth-Century Book Painting , 142.

49 Johansson and Liepe, ‘Text and Images’, 147.

50 Morgan, ‘Dating, Style and Groupings’, 33, 36.

51 Drechsler, Illuminated Manuscript Production , 190–194.

52 There are only four examples from Iceland known to predate the fourteenth century; see Drechsler, ‘Illuminated Manuscript Production in Western Iceland’, 169.


ornamentation. 53 Most of these appear fully developed in Norway in 1300 in a number of law manuscripts written by the scribe and (likely) illuminator Þorgeirr Hákonarson. 54 As seen in both Codex Hardenbergianus and De la Gardie 8 (mentioned previously), the embellishment of Gothic-styled minor initials with fleuronnée and œufs-de-grenouille became standard in Norway in the fourteenth century. With these and other stylistic features, Gothic artworks were fully established in Norwegian book painting by the time Codex Hardenbergianus was produced in the 1350s.

The High Gothic figural elements of its book painting, the large size of the major initials, as well as the skilful embellishment of letters with gold leaf are features that make the manuscript a remarkable example of medieval Norwegian art. The use of gold is a particularly rare phenomenon in manuscripts from medieval Norway and Iceland. Considering both the style and the iconographic complexity of figural book painting in Norwegian law manuscripts produced in the first decades of the fourteenth century, 55 little speaks for the use of High Gothic figural book painting in Norway prior to the production of Codex Hardenbergianus. 56 This is based, among other things, on the

53 Drechsler, Illuminated Manuscript Production , 169–198. For an introduction to Romanesque and early Gothic book painting, see Alexander, Medieval Illuminators , 95–120.

54 Drechsler, ‘Production’, 239–240.

55 Other Norwegian law manuscripts from the fourteenth century that feature text-related legal iconography are the so-called Lundarbók (Lund, University Library, Mh 15, 1305–1320) and Stockholm, Royal Library, Isl. Perg. 4to 29 (1300–1350). On the former, see Drechsler, ‘Production and Content’, with further references. The iconographic content of the Landsl ǫg in Isl. Perg. 4to 29 consists of imagines clipeatae showing a king and a further figure, as well as figures swearing an oath.

56 The dating of the book painting of Codex Hardenbergianus has long been investigated. Due to a number of distinctive features in the clothing style, it has been argued that the manuscript was illuminated as early as 1330–1350; see Halldór Hermannsson, Icelandic Illuminated Manuscripts , 23; Liepe, Den medeltida kroppen , 153–54; Hohler, ‘The Frontals in Their Contemporary Society’, 70; Andersson, ‘Kläderna och människan’, 63. The basis for this is primarily found in exaggerated sleeve openings of tunics, a feature which appears in contemporary artworks, among others from Iceland; see Drechsler, Illuminated Manuscript Production , 187–188. However, considering the common practice of illuminating the book only after the text was finalised, and following the dating proposed by Stefán Karlsson in ‘Lovskriver’, 167, 179, it is likely that the book painting of Codex Hardenbergianus was not finished before 1360.


fact that sharing model books with painters responsible for other forms of art – first and foremost those responsible for the internationallyinspired Norwegian altar frontals (1250–1350) – seems not to have happened until the 1350s. 57 This is remarkable, since workshops responsible for each of these artworks were likely located close to each other in medieval Bergen.

A number of Icelandic law manuscripts produced in the fourteenth century are very luxurious, but of the Norwegian corpus, only Lundarbók (Book of Lund, i.e., Lund, University Library, Mh 15, 1305–1320) is comparable with Codex Hardenbergianus in terms of iconography. Apart from several imagines clipeatae (portraits on round shields) 58 showing Norwegian kings and rulers, the initials in Lundarbók feature a variety of figural scenes that mainly consist of two figures exhibiting gestures. These exemplify the legal procedures described in the Landsl ǫg sections, introduced by the respective initials. 59

Although they are stylistically more advanced, the same goes for most of the historiated book painting of Codex Hardenbergianus (see Table 2), such as the first initial on f. 1 v, at the start of Bréf Magnúss konung s (King Magnus’ Letter), the Prologue to the law (see Figure 4). Placed on a blue background, the large initial depicts a fairly standard royal form of iconographic reference to the symbolic act of royal legislation. 60 The initial shows the enthroned King Magnús Hákonarson (r. 1263–1280) clad in a long tunic and handing over the

57 See further Morgan, ‘Dating, Style and Groupings’. Stylistic features in architectural forms and voluminous clothing, facial types and the use of colours of Codex Hardenbergianus have been compared to altar frontals from Årdal (Bergen, University Museum, MA 128) and Øye (Oslo, Museum of Cultural History, C. 17806), which were probably made by the same workshop in Bergen in 1325; see Morgan, ‘Western Norwegian Panel Painting, 36.

58 Imagines clipeatae (sgl. imago clipeata), are known since Roman times and usually depict images of faces of famous people on round shields. Moreover, the use of imagines clipeatae with blessing or demanding gestures in legal contexts are well known from Romanesque law manuscripts.

59 Drechsler, ‘Production and Content’, 29–30.

60 For examples, see L’Engle, ‘Legal Iconography’, 75–104.


law code to a servant on the right. As has long been recognised, 61 the image is an adaptation of two earlier Icelandic illuminations from Belgsdalsbók, and the slightly earlier Icelandic law manuscript Svalbarðsbók (Reykjavík, Árna Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, AM 343 fol., 1330–1340, see Figure 5), placed at the start of Bréf Magnúss konungs in the Icelandic law code Jónsbók from 1281. 62 It is likely that an Icelandic sketchbook was brought with the scribe of Codex Hardenbergianus to Norway, where it was integrated into local patterns of legal iconography. However, posture, size and not least ornamental elements in the illumination of Codex Hardenbergianus undoubtedly show further development at the Norwegian workshop. 63 This proves that – similar to the textual compilation practices named above – the text-related book painting in the Norwegian and Icelandic law manuscripts was also further developed over time, both in content and quality and in between workshops. 64

It is the subsequent initial, not the text, that marks the introduction of the Landsl ǫg in Codex Hardenbergianus. This initial is found at the start of Þingfararb ǫlkr (section about going to assembly) on f. 2 v, the section of the Landsl ǫg in Codex Hardenbergianus that regulates the election of members to the Law Council at the

61 For previous studies, see Fett, ‘Miniatyrer’, 25–27; Matthías Þórðarson, ‘Islands middelalderkunst’, 340; Halldór Hermannsson, Icelandic Illuminated Manuscripts , 24–25; Berg, ‘Illuminations’, 25–28, 33; Bera Nordal, ‘Lögbókarhandritið’, 166–75; Johansson and Liepe, ‘Text and Images’; and Drechsler, Illuminated Manuscript Production , 188.

62 Iceland came under the control of the Norwegian kingdom and became tributary lands as of 1262–1264. King Magnús Hákonarson commissioned Jónsbók in 1280, and this became the regional law for Iceland in 1281.

63 Johansson and Liepe, ‘Text and Images’, 146.

64 An example for further content development are the two crooked birds depicted below the two figures in the initial. Sunde in ‘Lov, rett og rette dommar’, 368, has interpreted the birds as symbols of chaos that are brought under control by the royal power. Although this is not described in the text, similar iconographic features related to the form and function of the depicted throne bench are found in a number of illuminated Icelandic law manuscripts; see Drechsler, ‘Cultural Syncretism and Interpicturality’, 10–11.

Figure 4: Codex Hardenbergianus, illumination at the beginning of the Laws of the Land’s prologue. Figure 5: Detail from Svalbarðsbók, f. 1v.

Gulathing. 65 According to Bréf Magnúss konungs, this section comes ‘now as before prior to the beginning of the book’, 66 because, it is stated, of the importance of the ordered arrangement of the law assembly. 67 It adds that Kristindómsb ǫlkr (the Christianity section) is the actual start of the law code, where the separation of ecclesiastical and royal powers is defined, and royal order of inheritance is delineated, and that it is ‘loyalty to the Church and its representatives [that] is the light and guidance for all justice’. 68 The unity of both these powers in a medieval Christian commonwealth forms the major topic in the next two initials.

In iconographic terms, the initial at the start of Þingfararb ǫlkr on f. 2v is undoubtedly a combination of both ecclesiastical and secular topics (see Figure 6). The large initial shows Christ in Majesty. Christ with his two hands giving blessing is directly reflected in the introduced text, which starts with an invocation asking for the ‘peace and blessing of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Mary, St Olav and all holy men for

65 Apart from the iconographic imagery and sheer size of the illumination, the simple selection of the background colour also shows that it is with Þingfararb ǫlkr that the law code begins, not with the Prologue, as this is the only initial in Codex Hardenbergianus that has not a golden but a blue background. See Berg, ‘Illuminations’, 26.

66 ‘Þingfarar bolkr er nu sem fyr at anduerðu rítaðr fyr en upp hefe sealfa bokena’ (f. 1 v30–31). (The section about going to assembly is now, as in the beginning, written at the start, before the book itself begins.) All translations are my own unless otherwise stated.

67 ‘Þi at aðr ber at skipat se þingít. ok nefndir skoðaðar ok laugrettu menn kosner ok eíðar fluttír. ok siðsemdom lyst. at þuí betr uerði bokinn e lyt siðan ok domonom lítt. sem þingít er bet r stillt ok siðat’ (ff. 1 v31–2r3). (For it is suitable that the assembly should be set first and delegations viewed, men of the Law Council chosen, and oaths taken, and proper conduct announced. Because the book and judgements will be better listened to when the assembly is better ordered and tempered.)

68 ‘Fyrstí lutr bokarínnar er krístíns doms bokr’ (the book’s first part is the section about Christianity); ‘k ir kíu lyðni. ok hennar formann a uera lysin g ok leiðtoga till allra rettenda’ (f. 2r3–6). The mentioning of Kristindómsb ǫlkr being the first part of the law book undoubtedly derives from the older provincial law for the Gulathing, where the Kristindómsb ǫlkr is placed first and includes, among other sections, Þingfararb ǫlkr. Its only complete manuscript Copenhagen, Royal Library, E don. var. 137 4to (Codex Rantzovianus) is dated to 1250; see Hødnebø and Rindal, eds., Den eldre Gulatingsloven


the men at Gulathing’. 69 As with the previous initial, the general iconography of this one, too, is inspired by related initials in the two Icelandic law manuscripts Svalbarðsbók and Belgsdalsbók (and others), where an Icelandic version of the iconography of Christ in Majesty is similarly placed at the start of Þingfararb ǫlkr in the Icelandic Jónsbók . 70 The initial in Codex Hardenbergianus, however, appears to be more abstract and defines the iconography in both secular and ecclesiastical terms as the Doctrine of the Two Swords, a version of the Last Judgement. This is indicated by the two swords coming from the mouth of Christ, which refer to Luke 22:38, where the two governments of regnum and sacerdotium , the spiritual and secular sections of the Christian commonwealth, are first mentioned. 71 The doctrine was famously described by Pope Galasius I (†496), and further developed by Pope Bonifacius VIII (1230–1303) in his bull on the papal supremacy (Unam sanctam) in the early fourteenth century. In Scandinavian art history, this is an iconographic topic known from mainly medieval Church art. 72 As in other examples, the two swords in the initial in Codex Hardenbergianus refer to the two flanked and kneeling figures below Christ, king and bishop, which personify the two spheres of government in medieval Norway: the Kingdom and the Church. In Codex Hardenbergianus, the division of secular and ecclesiastical law regulations is visually referred to again in the following initial on f. 6 r, where Kristindómsb ǫlkr is introduced (see Figure 7). In this initial, the king and the

69 ‘Friðr ok blezan uars her ra ihu xpi arnaðar orð uarar fru sancte Maríe ok híns helgha Olafs konu ngs ok allra heílagra mann a se með ollum oss gula þíngs m ǫnnu m nu ok íafnan’ (f. 2 v9–15). (May the peace and blessing of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the intercession of St Mary and the Holy King Óláfr and all holy men be with all of us men from Gulathing now and forever.)

70 Elsa Guðjónsson has argued that in various depictions of God in Majesty in Icelandic illuminations, both hands of God are raised, which is unusual in comparison to other examples of the same iconography from the Continent, see ‘Man ledte ... og fandt’, 16–21. This feature is also found in various Icelandic depictions of Christ in Majesty, see Drechsler, Illuminated Manuscript Production , 76.

71 It is possible that the figure standing in the Gothic architectural framework above the initial was intended to represent Luke the Apostle; see Drechsler, Illuminated Manuscript Production , 189.

72 Johansson and Liepe, ‘Text and Images’, 133, with further references.

Figure 6: Illumination at the beginning of Þingfararbǫlkr, fol. 2v.

bishop are shown standing and embellished with respective iconographic features. 73 It is this particular section that explains in most detail the separation of the two parts of a medieval Christian commonwealth. As with the previous illuminations, it is likely that the same iconographic model was also used in the Icelandic Belgsdalsbók. 74 Accordingly, both text and image are intertwined in the initial in Codex Hardenbergianus (and Belgsdalsbók) and clearly show the familiarity of the compiler with both secular and ecclesiastical politics of the time.

Other elements in the illumination on f. 2v are less closely related to the textual content and resemble typical elements of Gothic marginalia that derive from French or English biblical manuscripts of the late thirteenth or early fourteenth century. The two mounted knights in the lower margins likely refer to a related image from a Bible manuscript from late thirteenth-century Paris (see Figure 8), while the hunting scene above the text block may refer to similar scenes known from thirteenth and early fourteenth-century English artworks. 75 Similar iconographic models were used for the ornamentation of the margins, as well as grylli figures (likely) adapted from East Anglian manuscripts from the early fourteenth century. Stylistic influence from England originates from a group of illuminators active in the first decade of the fourteenth century in East Anglia, the so-called Fenland group. 76 This group was responsible for three richly illuminated psalters produced at the Benedictine monasteries of Peterborough and Ramsey in 1300–1318. 77 The general design of the lower margins in Codex Hardenbergianus recalls manuscripts of the

73 The depicted king on f. 6 v holds a sword, similar to a figure on f. 57r, at the beginning of Þjófab ǫlkr, which defines the treatment and punishment of thieves. While the depicted sword on f. 6 v undoubtedly refers to the sword of the king, the sword on f. 57r refers to the executioner’s sword. See also Sunde, ‘Lagmannen og Landslova’, 193.

74 Drechsler, Illuminated Manuscript Production , 189.

75 Drechsler, Illuminated Manuscript Production , 191, 217.

76 Morgan, ‘Dating, Style and Groupings’, 36.

77 Sandler, ed., Gothic Manuscripts , 1:27–28, 2:45–49.


Fenland group, as exemplified in several marginal paintings in the Ramsey Psalter (Lavanttal, Abbey of St. Paul Library, XXV/2.19 & New York, Morgan Library and Museum, MS M.302). Stylistic influence from a second group of English manuscripts is also present in Codex Hardenbergianus, namely the Tickhill Psalter group, which shares several pictorial similarities with the Fenland group. 78 These manuscripts were illuminated by a group of artists active contemporaneously to and after the Fenland group (1300–1350). Somewhat specific to the Tickhill Psalter group is the depiction of a gryllus figure with an aged, long-bearded face, which appears in the PabenhamClifford Hours (Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, MS 242) and the Bardolf-Vaux Psalter (London, Lambeth Palace Library, MS 233). Both were illuminated by book painters closely associated with each other and date from 1300–1310. 79 Such faces appear in the margins of major initials in Codex Hardenbergianus as well (f. 6 r, f. 9 v). 80

In the broader context of illuminated law manuscripts written outside of Norway during the same century, similar approaches to the monumental use of the iconography of the Last Judgement are found. This is particularly true for Germany, whose Hanseatic merchants were in strong economic contact with especially Bergen in this period. 81 General features in the layout, such as the usage of a single column or tables of contents, were frequently used for illuminated manuscripts of the thirteenth-century Middle High German customary law Sachsenspiegel or the thirteenth-century Middle Low German town law of Lübeck, Lübisches Recht . Moreover, it is especially the use of the iconography of the Last Judgement that appears several times in German scriptoria prior to the production of Codex Hardenbergianus. Two illuminated manuscripts of the Sachsenspiegel from around the same time show, like Codex Hardenbergianus, a bishop

78 Egbert, The Tickhill Psalter, 121–123.

79 Egbert, The Tickhill Psalter, 93; Sandler, ed., Gothic Manuscripts , 1:35–36.

80 Drechsler, Illuminated Manuscript Production , 196–197.

81 Nedkvitne, The German Hansa and Bergen 1100–1600

Figure 7: Illumination at the beginning of Kristindómsbǫlkr, fol. 6r.
Figure 8: Fighting knights in a Bible manuscript from Paris, copied in 1290.

In contrast to the Sachsenspiegel manuscripts discussed previously, the monumental appearance of the iconography in Codex Hardenbergianus is a combination of several motifs. An indication of this is the placement of the king and bishop beneath Christ, which follows a different tradition than the examples from the German Sachsenspiegel . The placement of figures beneath the Last Judgement or other monumental iconographic images is otherwise found mainly in Bibles and hymnbooks from the early 1300s, where these figures often portray the patrons of the manuscripts. 85 Considering the size of the main initials in Codex Hardenbergianus and their placement within the text columns, it is likely that this unusual placement of images may have been inspired by biblical manuscripts (see Figure 8).

As this analysis has demonstrated, apart from the main bulk of the legal iconographic models not related to Christian imagery, both

82 Drechsler, Illuminated Manuscript Production , 191.

83 For an example, see Lück, Der Sachsenspiegel , 116–117.

84 This manuscript was previously Ledreborg 13 fol.

85 It is a tradition that places patrons or other important people directly under the main iconography at the beginning of a codex. One of the best-known examples is the East Anglian Ormesby Psalter (Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Douce 366), dated to the first decades of the fourteenth century; see further Law-Turner, The Ormesby Psalter

135 and a king beneath Christ in Majesty, who has the two swords coming out of his mouth. 82 In the Dresden Sachsenspiegel codex (Dresden, Saxon State and University Library, Mscr.Dresd.M.32, 1350), the doctrine of the two swords is mirrored both in text and image. It is placed at the beginning of the law code (Landrecht I:1), directly after the prologue (see Figure 9). 83 As for the Lübisches Recht , an example is found in a copy of the town law produced in Lübeck in 1348 (Copenhagen, Royal Library, NKS 120 fol.). 84 Although the iconological background of the motif in this example follows established traditions of the Christological image, the placement of the iconography at the start of the largely secular law code hints at similar intentions of using the iconography of Christ in Majesty at the beginning of a vernacular law code.

Figure 9: A Sachsenspiegel manuscript from c.1350, depicting the Doctrine of the Two Swords.

the size of the initials and the monumental poses of the figures in Codex Hardenbergianus clearly had different inspirations and models than older Norwegian or Icelandic law manuscripts. In this regard, the workshop responsible for the book painting of Codex Hardenbergianus contained a wealth of both domestic and foreign model books, and it employed highly skilled craftsmen with profound knowledge of legal and ecclesiastical imagery of their time. Without doubt, this workshop was situated at a place that provided a large network of craftsmen related to manuscript production and, not least, international contacts.

Initial Use

Although the considerably large size of the script in Codex Hardenbergianus may indicate a different usage, the overall manuscript layout follows the same traditions in the use of mise-en-page and tables of contents as other Norwegian law manuscripts from the fourteenth century. Yet, both the large scale of the book painting and the curtailed text of the Landsl ǫg classify the manuscript as a unique Norwegian Prachthandschrift of its time. The selection of the experienced Icelandic scribe for both Codex Hardenbergianus and Belgsdalsbók may be due to the grave situation the Norwegian priesthood found itself in after the arrival of the Black Death in 1349, when the number of churchmen – and thus scribes – was severely reduced. 86 But the scribe may also have had an active role in the selection of textual models used for the composition of the Landsl ǫg in Codex Hardenbergianus, since the textual models of the Jónsbók text in Belgsdalsbók stem equally

86 With the arrival of the Great Plague in 1349, the production of manuscripts was greatly reduced in Norway, which may have resulted in the import of Icelandic manuscripts during the latter half of the fourteenth century in particular. See Storm, Haandskrifter og Oversættelser, 11–12; Ólafur Halldórsson, ‘Flutningur handrita milli Íslands og Noregs’, 49; Stefán Karlsson, ‘Islandsk bogeksport til Norge’. This was some fifty years before the plague arrived in Iceland for the first time, in 1402–1404. On the Great Plague in Norway and Iceland, see Benedictow, ‘Svartedauen i Norge’; Gunnar Karlsson and Helgi Skúli Kjartansson, ‘Plágunar miklu á Íslandi’, 74.


from several other manuscripts. 87 The scribe undoubtely worked in well-equipped scriptoria with libraries both in Iceland and Norway. This is also mirrored in the book painting as the illumination of the oldest part of Codex Hardenbergianus appears to be unusual in both Norwegian and Icelandic contexts in its time. It was without doubt produced by a well-trained illuminator. As mentioned previously, it has been suggested that the illuminator was also the scribe for several of the rubrics, but this remains conjecture. Although the likelihood that the writing of the rubrics was shared between the main scribe and the rubricator, as suggested by Stefán Karlsson, 88 the theory that the second rubricator was the same as the illuminator is nowhere supported in the manuscript directly. What can be seen without doubt, however, is a detailed understanding of the text proper, which has led the illuminator to compose and further develop such complex images as the ones found at the beginning of Þingfararb ǫlkr. The sharing of iconographic motifs with the Icelandic law manuscripts of Svalbarðsbók and especially Belgsdalsbók may be explained by the possibility that the main scribe of both Codex Hardenbergianus and Belgsdalsbók was the same person, who potentially brought a model book with him to Norway. At the same time, the organisation of the text, as mirrored in the featured tables of contents, may signal a similarity in terms of how the texts of both Belgsdalsbók and Codex Hardenbergianus are to be understood. According to the textual content of Belgsdalsbók, the Icelandic manuscript starts with a (now defective) redaction of the Icelandic ecclesiastical law Kristinréttr Árna Þorlákssonar (Bishop Árni Þorláksson’s Christian Law) from 1275 on the first folio leaves (ff. 1r –4 r). The text is then followed by a complete table of contents of all texts in the oldest production unit of the manuscript (including the previous Christian law). Only a few leaves later, on f. 8r, does the following main text Jónsbók start. As indicated in Table 2, Codex Hardenbergianus does not feature a table of contents for either

87 Ólafur Halldórsson, ed., Jónsbók , xlii.

88 Stefán Karlsson, ‘Lovskriver’, 184.


Bréf Magnúss konungs or for Þingfararb ǫlkr. It is only with the following Kristindómsb ǫlkr that a table of contents begins to be used in the manuscript. 89 The indication given in the Prologue that Landsl ǫg is supposed to start with Kristindómsb ǫlkr may indicate that both Bréf Magnúss konungs and Þingfararb ǫlkr are intended to provide a prelude to the law code that, textually speaking, starts with Kristindómsb ǫlkr. 90 That is also the case with Kristinréttr Árna Þorlákssonar in Belgsdalsbók – which may also have been added to Belgsdalsbók to enable the initial owner to use the manuscript more effectively.91 Although such a use was less likely for the initial commissioner of Codex Hardenbergianus, the lack of a table of contents at the start of Þingfararb ǫlkr may hint towards a symbolic and visual intention that is not mirrored in any of the other medieval Norwegian manuscripts that contain the Landsl ǫg. Who that commissioner was remains unknown and scholars have hitherto only speculated. Gustav Storm and Flom assumed that the manuscript was ordered by Þorsteinn Eiríksson, 92 Bishop of Bergen in 1343–1349 and, prior to that, priest at the Diocese of Niðaróss. 93 A more likely candidate would be Gisbrikt Erlendsson, who served as Bishop of Bergen in 1350–1369. The possibility of a clerical patron being responsible for

89 The only b ǫlkr of the Landsl ǫg text in Codex Hardenbergianus that does not feature an individual table of contents is Erfðatal , which defines the rules on inheritance. As this law also includes a first section on marriage, it is in Codex Hardenbergianus, similar to how these bálkar appear in the Norwegian Lundarbók and some manuscripts of the Icelandic Jónsbók , divided into two separate sections where each section is introduced with large, individual initials. It may be due to this separation that tables of contents were left out in this b ǫlkr.

90 For a discussion on the modes of use of the Prologue in Codex Hardenbergianus in relation to other medieval (and Early Modern) redactions and translations of Landsl ǫg , see Leslie-Jacobsen, ‘The Parergon’, 20.

91 According to Winroth, it is likely that Belgsdalsbók was written for the Norwegian Jón Eiríksson, who became bishop of Hólar in 1357, see ‘Hólar and Belgsdalsbók’, 156–157. Some of the textual content of the manuscript does indeed suggest specific ecclesiastical use, for instance Kristinréttr Árna Þorlákssonar, a redaction of the earlier, twelfth-century Icelandic Church law section Kristinna laga þáttr of Grágás – the older Icelandic law of the Commonwealth – as well as another Church laws and statutes. For this, see Drechsler, Illuminated Manuscript Production , 133.

92 Storm, ‘Haandskriftbeskrivelse’, 393; Flom, Old Norwegian General Law, 15–16.

93 Imsen, ‘Nidarosnettverket’, 65.


the order of Codex Hardenbergianus cannot be ruled out entirely, but the lack of ecclesiastical texts in the oldest production unit – primarily Kristinréttr Jóns erkibyskups from 1273, 94 or more regional ecclesiastical texts, such as the Bergen-specific ecclesiastical procedural law Ordo iudicarius from 1245–1298 95 – does not speak for ecclesiastical use as the initial intention.96

In a North German context, the use of the iconography of the Last Judgement for Prachthandschriften seems to have mostly attracted secular clients at the time when Codex Hardenbergianus was produced, as is evident from illuminated codices of Middle High German town laws.97 Additionally, the dominant role that king figures play in other initials of the manuscript makes it more likely that a secular client was responsible for its commission.98 Such a client likely belonged to the highest aristocracy in Norway, potentially a lawman or sheriff. The doctrine of the two swords was well known to the Norwegian aristocracy, not only due to the references given in both Bréf Magnúss konungs and Kristindómsb ǫlkr of Landsl ǫg but also through lengthy passages in the influential mid-thirteenthcentury vernacular educational text Konungs skuggsjá (King’s Mirror) and, not least, the court law Hirðskrá (Law of the Retinue) from the 1270s.

If it is accepted that the oldest part of the manuscript was

94 On this and other ecclesiastical laws, see further Winroth, this volume.

95 Vadum, ‘Bruk av kanonisk litteratur’, 89–95, 98.

96 The only medieval Norwegian law manuscript that was very likely produced at a monastery is the largely unilluminated codex Copenhagen, Arnamagnæan Institute, AM 309 fol. (1300–1400); see further Drechsler, ‘Production’, 213–216, with further references.

97 For examples from Lübeck and Hamburg, see Oliver, ‘The Decoration of the Bardewik Codex’, 212–213.

98 At the beginning of Mannhelgi (Human inviolability) on f. 14 r, a crowned and seated figure with a demanding gesture hands over a charter with an attached seal to another figure to the right. The scene is unique in a Scandinavian context since other fourteenth-century manuscripts containing the Icelandic Jónsbók usually illuminated this section with a killing scene, see Drechsler, Illuminated Manuscript Production , 77; Drechsler, ‘Jón Halldórsson and Law Manuscripts’, 138. In the corresponding section of Landsl ǫg in the Norwegian Lundarbók from 1305–1320, two people are depicted who seem to be arguing, see Drechsler, ‘Production and Content’, 37.


produced in Bergen, and in light of the dating as argued for by Stefán Karlsson (discussed previously), I propose a new candidate for the commission of Codex Hardenbergianus, the nobleman Ívarr Andrésson. Ívarr was lawman of Gulathing in 1338,99 and likely until 1342.100 In 1348, he is named as sýslumaðr of Bergen, where he reported a murder case and the subsequent legal procedure to King Magnús Eiríksson of Norway and Sweden (1316–1374) in a charter (Bergen, University Library, Dipl. 34; see Figure 10).101 It is not unlikely that the charter was written by Ívarr himself. Ívarr probably remained sýslumaðr of Bergen during the 1350s,102 the time when Codex Hardenbergianus was presumably produced, since no other sýslumaðr is named in the following decade and the title may have been included in the function as a member of the Council of the Realm, for which he is named in a document dated to 1353.103 In 1338, Ívarr became a citizen of Bergen when he bought the part of the plot Fatten at Breida Street (Breiðalmenningr) from the Bishop of Bergen, Hákon Erlingsson, in exchange for land in Hardanger.104 Apart from a central part of Bryggen in Bergen, Ívarr owned land both in Hardanger and Sogn.105 Considering these historical circumstances, Ívarr Andrésson is a likely candidate to commission a Prachthandschrift such as Codex Hardenbergianus. There is no

99 DN, 1:202–3 (nr. 253).

100 A lawman for Bergen with the name Ívarr is last named in a document dated to 1342, see DN, 21:54–55 (nr. 68).

101 For the text of this charter, see DN, 2:243–44 (nr. 295), and the MARCUS database at the University of Bergen, https://marcus.uib.no/instance/charter/ubb-diplom-0034.html. Helle has suggested that it was shortly before that Ívarr took over the duties as sysselmaðr for Bergen from his predecessor, Eindriði Ívarsson, who is named as sysselmaðr in a document from Bergen dated to 1347, see ‘Syslemanns- og fehirdeinstitusjonen’, 28. In 1351, Eindriði is named in a further document as sysselmaðr for Stavanger and thus must have moved to Aust-Agder in the meantime, see DN, 4:259–60 (nr. 323); DN, 3:228–29 (nr. 275).

102 Helle, ‘Syslemanns- og fehirdeinstitusjonen’, 27–28.

103 Helle, ‘Syslemanns- og fehirdeinstitusjonen’, 28; DN, 2:260–61 (nr. 319). Helle suggested that in 1338, Ívarr became a húsbóndi (lord) and knight when he bought land in Bergen, see Bergen bys historie , 1:510. However, to my knowledge, this is not attested in the respective and other charters mentioning his name.

104 DN, 10:35 (nr. 33).

105 DN, 3:362 (nr. 483); DN, 10:35 (nr. 33); DN, 12:75–76 (nr. 98).


Figure 10: A charter from 1348 connected to Ívarr Andrésson.

doubt he was able to provide sufficient finances for its costly and likely local production in the 1350s.106

A marginal note added to f. 22 r indicates that the manuscript was used by a lawman shortly after it was finished (see Figure 11).107 The text is written next to the twentieth paragraph of Mannhelgi , the section that regulates personal rights and the maintenance of peace. Written in Gothic cursive script108 similar to the charter from 1348, additional regulations for the role of the representatives of the king in the case of homicide are described. This particular section is found in the margins of a number of Landsl ǫg manuscripts dated to

106 In chapter nine of the section on town rules (Bœjarskipan) in Bœjarl ǫg Bj ǫrgvinjar, the town law of Bergen from 1276, it is stated that pentarar (sg. pentari , ‘painters’) and other craftsmen such as goldsmiths were located at Øvregaten just above the Bryggen harbour. If the proposition that Codex Hardenbergianus was produced in Bergen and for Ívarr Andrésson is accepted, a direct contact between client and (at least) the involved illuminator and goldsmith is highly likely. For the production of illuminated manuscripts in Bergen up to 1400, see Drechsler, ‘International Aspects’.

107 Storm, ‘Haandskriftbeskrivelse’, 389, Rindal and Spørck, eds., Kong Magnus Håkonsson Lagabøtes Landslov, 1:399.

108 Derolez, The Palaeography of Gothic Manuscript Books , 142–154.

Figure 11: A marginal note on fol. 22r.

the early fourteenth century, 109 which explains why it was added to Codex Hardenbergianus. However, unlike the other manuscripts where this section was added, the textual models for Codex Hardenbergianus did not feature this passage, even though it had been in circulation for several decades at the time of its production. Nevertheless, as no further notes from that time are found in the manuscript, it seems that the text was considered necessary for the manuscript ’s initial owner. Altogether, although it remains conjectural whether this text was written by Ívarr himself, since no close palaeographical similarities to the charter can be established, 110 the additional text on f. 22r nonetheless demonstrates an early use of Codex Hardenbergianus by someone with legal training. Who the scribe of that text was we may never know. However, both text and image of the oldest production unit in Codex Hardenbergianus undoubtedly reflect not only the international cultural-historical background of its production, but also the interest of its client in a particularly costly bearer of the most important vernacular law of medieval Norway.


This chapter has offered new perspectives on the undoubtedly most costly and most beautiful law manuscript of medieval Norway, Codex Hardenbergianus. Firstly, the chapter has provided historiographic overviews over previous philological and art historical research, and secondly, proposed new ideas on its initial use as legal Prachthandschrift , which was likely ordered by the noblemen Ívarr Andrésson in the 1350s. Furthermore, the chapter has presented new evidence for the international influences on both the book design and book

109 Rindal and Spørck, eds., Kong Magnus Håkonsson Lagabøtes Landslov, 1:399.

110 By comparison, the script in the margins of f. 22r in Codex Hardenbergianus features similarities with both the Antiquior version of the Gothic Cursiva script and the normal Gothic Cursiva script. This is found for instance in the use of two-compartment a (Antiquior) and in the letters s and r (Cursiva). In addition, individual features such as the front downward ascender of the ‘ok ’ abbreviation and, generally, longer, lower and more spiky ascenders of h, s, and f differ the script in the margins of f. 22r in Codex Hardenbergianus from the script in Bergen, Dipl. 34. For the Cursiva Antiquior and the Gothic Cursiva scripts, see Derolez, Palaeography , 133–154.


painting, which mainly stemmed from model books and Church art such as altar frontals produced in Norway, Iceland, Germany and East Anglia in the early fourteenth century.



Manuscripts and Archival Sources

Bergen, University Museum, the Historical Museum

MA 128 (Årdal I)

Bergen, University Library, Special Collections

Dipl. 34

Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum

MS 242 (Pabenham-Clifford Hours)

Copenhagen, Arnamagnæan Institute

AM 302 fol.

AM 304 fol.

AM 305 fol.

AM 309 fol.

AM 322 fol.

AM 56 4to

AM 60 4to

AM 69 4to

AM 71 4to

AM 78 4to

Copenhagen, Royal Library

E don. var. 137 4to (Codex Rantzovianus)

GKS 1154 fol. (Codex Hardenbergianus)

GKS 3669 8vo

NKS 120 fol. (Previously Ledreborg 13)

NKS 1640 4to

Dresden, Saxon State and University Library (Sächsische Landesbibliothek –Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek)


Lavanttal, Abbey of St Paul Library (St. Paul Stiftsbibliothek)

XXV/2.19 (Ramsey Psalter)

London, Lambeth Palace Library

MS 233 (Bardolf-Vaux Psalter)


Lund, University Library

Mh 15 (Lundarbók)

New York, Morgan Library and Museum

MS M.302 (Ramsey Psalter)

Oxford, Bodleian Library

MS Douce 366 (Ormesby Psalter)

Paris, National Library

MS Lat 10435

Reykjavík, Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies

AM 343 fol. (Svalbarðsbók)

AM 347 fol. (Belgsdalsbók)

Stockholm, National Library of Sweden

Isl. Perg. 4to 28

Isl. Perg. 4to 29

Isl. Perg. 4to 32

Uppsala, University Library

De la Gardie 8

Oslo, National Library of Norway

Ms.4° 1

Oslo, Museum of Cultural History, Collection of Antiquities (Kulturhistorisk Museum, Oldsakssamlingen)

C. 17806 (Øye)

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Stefán Karlsson . ‘Om norvagismer i islandske håndskrifter’. Maal og Minne (1978, no. 3–4): 87–101.

Stefán Karlsson . ‘Islandsk bogeksport til Norge i middelalderen’. Maal og Minne (1979, no. 1–2): 1–17.

Stefán Karlsson . ‘Lovskriver i to lande: Codex Hardenbergensis og Codex Belgsdalensis’. In Festskrift til Alfred Jakobsen, edited by Jan Ragnar Hagland et al., 166–184. Trondheim: Tapir, 1987.

Storm, Gustav . Om Haandskrifter og Oversættelser af Magnus Lagabøters Love. Christiania Videnskabsselskabs Forhandlinger 14. Christiania: Jacob Dybwad, 1979.

Bibliography 152

Strauch, Dieter . Mittelalterliches Nordisches Recht bis ca. 1500: Eine Quellenkunde. 2nd rev. ed. Ergänzungsbände zum Reallexikon der germanischen Altertumskunde 97. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2016.

Sunde, Jørn Øyrehagen . ‘Lov, rett og rette dommar – lovgjevingsarbeidet under kong Magnus Lagabøte på 1270-talet’. Jussens Venner 37.6 (2002): 360–377.

Sunde, Jørn Øyrehagen . ‘Daughters of God and Counsellors of the Judges of Men: Changes in the Legal Culture of the Norwegian Realm in the High Middle Ages’. In New Approaches to Early Law in Scandinavia, edited by Stefan Brink and Lisa Collinson, 131–183. Acta Scandinavica 3. Turnhout: Brepols, 2014.

Sunde, Jørn Øyrehagen . ‘Lagmannen og Landslova – Lagmannen i norsk mellomalderretshistorie frå slutten av 1100-tallet til 1400’. In Lov og lovgivning i middelalderen: Nye studier av Magnus Lagabøtes landslov, edited by Anna Catharina Horn and Karen Arup Seip, 164–211. Oslo: Nasjonalbiblioteket, 2020.

Sunde, Jørn Øyrehagen . ‘Landslova av 1274 mellom historisk brot og kontinuitet’. Historisk tidsskrift 101.4 (2022): 271–285.

Vadum, Kristoffer . ‘Bruk av kanonistisk litteratur i Nidarosprovinsen ca. 1250–1340’. PhD diss., Faculty of Humanities, University of Oslo, 2015.

Winroth, Anders . ‘Hólar and Belgsdalsbók’. Gripla 32 (2021): 151–164.

Bibliography 153

Table 1: Textual Content and Codicological Structure of Codex Hardenbergianus.

Gathering Production Unit Content

St Birgitta’s Revelations, nr. 102, book 4 (extract)

1-8 (ff. 1–60) I

9-12 (ff. 61–91) II


Réttarbót Kristjáns I. (1453, related to Trondheim)113

Réttarbót Kristjáns I. (1458, Skara)

Réttarbót Kristjáns I. (1455, Kalfsund)

Kristinréttr Jóns erkibiskups (ff. 62va10–77va21); Sættargerð í Túnsberg (1277) (ff. 77va–81rb19); Skipan Páls erkibiskups (1336–1346) (ff. 81rb20–84vb23); Skipan Árna erkibiskups (1346–1349) (ff. 84vb24–88vb)

Réttarbót Hákonar Magnússonar (1310, Frostathing) (f. 89r1–27);

Réttarbót Hákonar Magnússonar (1313, Avaldsnes) (f. 89r28–46)

Réttarbót Kristjáns I. (1478, related to Trondheim) (ff. 89v–90r7)

Confirmation of Kristján I. (1458, Skara) (f. 90r7–26); Confirmation of Hans I. (1483, Trondheim) (f. 90v)

Réttarbót Hanss konungs (1491, Oslo)

111 The names of scribes are taken from Storm, ‘Haandskriftbeskrivelse’, 389–390.

112 For the dating of f. 1 r, see Adams, Displaced Texts , 16. Rindal has dated the addition on f. 1 r to 1450–1500, see ‘Legislation’, 20.

113 Regional references are taken from Storm, ‘Haandskriftbeskrivelse’, 390–393; Horn, ‘Hånd c og d i GKS 1154 fol’, 44.

114 Keyser and Munch have dated the addition on f. 89r to the late fifteenth century, see Keyser and Munch, eds., Norges gamle Love indtil 1387, 88, 105:III.



Scribe 111 Date

Scribe a (f. 1r1–21)


Scribe b (ff. 1v–59r) 1350–1360

Scribe c (ff. 59v1–60r18) 1460–1480

Scribe c (d?) (f. 61r)

Scribe e (f. 61v) 1450–1500

Scribe f (ff. 62ra–88vb) 1375–1400

Scribe g (f. 89r)

Scribe e (ff. 89v–90r7)

Scribe h (ff. 90r7–90v)

Scribe i (f. 91r)



13-14 (92–102) III

Réttarbót Kristjáns II. (1521, Copenhagen) (f. 92r); Réttarbót Elísabetar (1521, related to Bergen) (f. 92v20–38); Réttarbót Magnúss Eiríkssonar (1348, Oslo) (f. 93r1–20); Réttarbót Magnúss Eiríkssonar ok Hákonar Magnússonar (1364, Bergen) (f. 93r21–v7); Frostuþingslǫg eldri XIV, 11 / Bjargeyjarréttr 149 (paraphrased) (1250?) (f. 93v8–23); Réttarbót Hákonar Magnússonar (1303) (ff. 93v24–94r27); Réttarbót Hákonar Magnússonar (1308/1309) (f. 94r28–v); Réttarbót Kristjáns II. (1512, Vardberg) (f. 95r27–39); Réttarbót Hákonar Magnússonar (1318, Tønsberg) (f. 95v1–30); Réttarbót Eiríks (1421, Copenhagen) (ff. 95v31–96r18); Réttarbót Filippar (1425, Vadstena) (f. 96r19–36); Réttarbót Kristjáns I. (1478, related to Tønsberg) (f. 96v1–33); Réttarbót Eiríks Magnússonar (1280, Gulathing) (ff. 96v34–98v9); Réttarbót Eiríks Magnússonar (1295) (ff. 98v10–99r2, related to Bergen); Réttarbót Hákonar Magnússonar (1313, Trondheim) (f. 99r3–v30); Réttarbót Hákonar Magnússonar (1303, Tønsberg) (ff. 99v31–100r20); Réttarbót Hákonar Magnússonar (1309, Tønsberg) (f. 100r21–42); Réttarbót Hákonar Magnússonar (1307, Oslo) (f. 100v).


Scribe k (ff. 92r–102v)



Table 2: Size, Placement and Content of Major Initials and Tables of Contents in Codex Hardenbergianus.

Section Content

Bréf Magnúss konungs (ff. 1v–2v15)

Þingfararbǫlkr (ff. 2v16–5v27)

Kristindómsbǫlkr (ff. 5v28–f.9v10)

Landvarnarbǫlkr (ff. 9v11–ff. 13v)

Mannhelgi (ff. 14r–24r7)

Erfðatal (ff. 24r8–31v28)

Prologue by King Magnús Hákonarson

On the election of delegates at local law assemblies

On ecclesiastical and royal powers, as well as royal lineage

On the regulations of the levy in times of war

On personal rights and the maintenance of peace

On marriage and inheritance

On inheritance of land

Landabrigðabǫlkr (ff. 31v29–34v)

Landsleigubǫlkr (ff. 35r–50v15)

Kaupabǫlkr (ff. 50v16–56v29)

Þjófabǫlkr (ff. 56v30–59r)

On tenancy

On domestic and foreign trade

On the treatment and punishment of thieves

Table of Contents


F. 1v1–19: King and Servant

F. 2v16–22: Last Judgement

Ff. 5v28–6r4

F. 9v11–22

F. 14r1–31

Ff. 31v29–32r11

F. 35r1–22

Ff. 50v16–51r10

Ff. 56v30–57r12

F. 6r5–21: King and Bishop

F. 9r21–32: Three knights on a battleship

F. 15v1–18: King hands out a charter with attached seal

F. 24r8–25: Wedding ceremony (Kvennagiptingar) f. 26r21–34: Handover of inheritance (Erfðatal)

F. 32r12–29: Two figures share inheritance

F. 35r18–32: Two figures shake hands

F. 51r1–15: Two figures engage in trade

F. 57r7–22: Prosecution of a thief

Bibliography 158 Tables

5. Token of love or expression of female agency?

Helvig Hardenberg and Codex Hardenbergianus

Randi Bjørshol Wærdahl

Ex libris

Codex Hardenbergianus, catalogued as GKS 1154 fol., is an Old Norse compilation manuscript consisting of a richly illuminated version of the Gulathing redaction of King Magnús Hákonarson’s Laws of the Land (Landsl ǫg) from 1274, dated to c. 1350–60, along with younger

Figure 1: Codex Hardenbergianus, open to fol. 16v–17r, chapters 3–8 of Mannhelgi (Human Inviolability).


manuscripts of royal amendments and ecclesiastical law and statutes.1 Codex Hardenbergianus is named after the Danish noblewoman Helvig Hardenberg (1540–1599). Four ex libris (i.e., declarations of ownership) in Helvig’s own hand confirm that she at least owned GKS 1154 I, the Laws of the Land manuscript. On folio 1r, Helvig has simply written that denne bog hører meg (this book belongs [to] me). On folio 10r, she presents herself as hellewiig hardennbergh , specifying that she has written this in her own hand, mynn egenn hand , while 15r and 46r contains full ex libris, with Helvig stating that this book belongs to her, Helvig Hardenberg (Figure 2). 2

Apart from identifying Helvig’s ownership of 1154 I, neither the codex itself nor any other extant source allow us to establish when or how 1154 I, and, possibly, the two other parts of the codex, came into Helvig’s possession. 3 Still, the predominant hypothesis concerning the source of Helvig’s ownership of the Laws of the Land manuscript does not originate in female agency, but in male generosity. According to the scholars studying 1154 I and its provenience, Helvig Hardenberg most likely received it from her husband, Erik Rosenkrantz (1519–1575). This ‘gift hypothesis’ is substantiated by Rosenkrantz’s stay in Bergen, Norway in the 1560s, his interest in history, and the general fashion for collecting manuscripts and other historical artefacts among Danish nobles and officials. 4 The understanding of Helvig’s ownership as the result of her husband’s generosity relies on the internal premise that a Danish noblewoman would not have

1 Rindal, introduction to King Magnus Håkonsson’s Laws , 9, 19; Stefán Karlsson, ‘Lovskriver’, 179. Cf. Horn, ‘Hånd c og d’, 44. For further discussion about the manuscript, see Drechsler’s chapter in this volume.

2 denne bog hører meg hellewiig hardennbergh tthiill (this book belongs to me, Helvig Hardenberg), and thenne bog hører hellewiig hardennberg tthiil (this book belongs to Helvig Hardenberg), respectively (all my translations). See e.g., Rindal, introduction to King Magnus Håkonsson’s Laws , 19, 20. Digital images of GKS 1154 fol. are available at the Royal Library of Denmark’s website, http://www5.kb.dk/permalink/2006/manus/3/dan .

3 Horn, ‘Hånd c og d’, 45.

4 Rindal, introduction to King Magnus Håkonsson’s Laws , 20; Rindal, ‘9. The History of Old Nordic Manuscripts II’, 805; Rindal, Handskrifter, 56; Louis-Jensen, ‘Helvig Hardenberg’, 379.

Figure 2: Codex Hardenbergianus, fol. 15r. Helvig Hardenberg’s ex libris reads: denne bog hører meg hellewiig hardennbergh tthiill (this book belongs to me, Helvig Hardenberg).

acquired an Old Norse copy of the Laws of the Land herself. Today, it can be argued that the gift hypothesis represents a dated perception of noblewomen as passive and without agency, which does not reflect the principal findings in recent historical research on late medieval and early modern noblewomen in Scandinavia. 5

Helvig has not been an object of extensive research in her own right, but in ‘Adelige kvinder og livet på Arreskov i renæssancen’ (Noblewomen and life at Arreskov in the Renaissance), published in 2006, Lars Bisgaard gives an account of the lives of Sophie Lykke, Helvig’s mother, and Helvig herself at Arreskov Manor, their main residence. 6 However, Bisgaard does not mention Helvig’s ownership of Codex Hardenbergianus. Helvig is included in Arnold Heise’s detailed account of the Rosenkrantz family history, ‘Bidrag til Familien Rosenkrantz’s Historie idet 16. Aarhundredes sidste Halvdel’7 (Contribution to the History of the Rosenkrantz Family in the last half of the Sixteenth Century), published in 1886–1887, and in dedicated studies of the nobility’s cultural environment in Denmark. 8 Both Bisgaard and Heise base their examinations of Helvig on the scattered information found in various Danish records, but extracts from and analysis of documental sources concerning Helvig are primarily found in Heise’s Rosenkrantz family history, which, in contrast to Bisgaard, includes aspects of the widowed Helvig’s management of vast estates in Norway.9

5 See, e.g., Jacobsen, Magtens kvinder, ‘Formal and Informal Power’, ‘Køn og magt’; Lahtinen, Anpassning, förhandling, motstånd ; Wærdahl, ‘Tingets muligheter og begrensninger’, ‘Manndtz Nature’, ‘The Opportunity to Profit’, ‘Why did Ingerd Ottesdotter’; Cederbom, Married Women ; Pedersen, Propertied Women’s Economic Agency . These works contain bibliographies of Nordic research on noblewomen. See below for references to research on literacy and literary interest amongst Danish noblewomen, and ‘learned women’ in Scandinavia and female Danish landowners.

6 Bisgaard, ‘Adelige kvinder’.

7 Heise, ‘Bidrag til.’ Cf. A. Heise, ‘Erik Ottesen Rosenkrantz’.

8 E.g., the excellent Lundgreen-Nielsen and Ruus, eds., Svøbt i mår. Dansk folkevisekultur in four volumes. See bibliography for authors and details.

9 Some records are available in printed editions and collections, e.g., Danske Domme 1375–1662. De private domssamlinger ; Rasmussen Søkilde and Jørgensen, Hillerslev og Østerhæsinge Sogne med Arreskov og Gjelskov i ældre og nyere Tid (1881). Cf. Bisgaard, ‘Adelige kvinder’, 45–46 for a detailed overview.


One of the most interesting sources shedding light on Helvig’s life is Absalon Pedersson Beyer’s journal, Liber Capituli Bergensis , which contains details of Helvig’s life in Bergen together with her husband in the 1560s. Beyer (1528–1575) was a Norwegian cleric and scholar who served as chaplain for Helvig and her husband, and with whom Helvig corresponded after she returned to Denmark.10 According to Bisgaard, Liber Capituli Bergensis contains the text of the only surviving letter by Helvig (in quotation). 11 Documents concerning Helvig’s and her husband’s economic relationship with Norway are published in Diplomatarium Norvegicum (DN), a collection of transcribed documental sources from and about medieval Norway, and in the royal copy books for Norway, published as Norske Rigs-Registranter (NRR). As far as I can ascertain, Helvig’s ownership of manuscripts is not mentioned in any documental sources.

For my analysis in the following chapter, documental sources have only been used when available in published source editions. As the aim of this chapter is not to present a full portrait of Helvig and her life, I chose to rely on the nineteenth­century historian Arnold Heise’s detailed, although old­fashioned, account of the Rosenkrantz family for biographical information and detailed accounts of some aspects of Helvig’s life, as well as Bisgaard’s brief examination. It is therefore important to emphasise that although this study offers an interpretation of Helvig’s ownership of the codex that reflects Danish noblewomen’s interest in collecting manuscripts, as well as Helvig’s own experiences as an active landowner, it is partly based on secondary sources. Hence, the outcome should be regarded as a proposition, and yet, a proposition originating in the idea that to identify female agency, it is necessary to focus on a woman’s actions and abilities rather than the assumed limitations of her gender.

I will now explore two hypotheses in addition to the gift hypothesis, to substantiate that Helvig Hardenberg was much more

10 Nicolaysen, ed., Liber Capituli Bergensis .

11 Bisgaard, ‘Adelige kvinder’, 38–39.


than a passive receiver of marital gifts. Based on an examination of the social environment to which she belonged in Bergen and Denmark, and of her active management of one of the largest collections of Norwegian estates following her husband’s passing, I propose that Helvig had an independent interest in Old Norse law manuscripts and in Norwegian law in general. Thus, I argue, it is likely that she could have obtained 1154 I herself.

Token of love

Helvig Hardenberg was born on 28 March 1540, at Hvedholm Manor, near Faaborg on Fyn, Denmark. Her father, Jakob Hardenberg (d. 1542), was a member of the Danish Council of the Realm (Rigsrådet), the Danish elite’s principal political institution, but he died when Helvig was two years old. Her mother, Sofie Lykke (d. 1570), did not remarry, but managed the family’s estates and business pursuits, as well as the interests of her three daughters.12 Noble children were not raised in their parents’ household but fostered by family members and friends.13 Helvig likely spent part of her youth at Malmø Castle where her paternal uncle and guardian, Eiler Hardenberg (d. 1565), oversaw the household of the future King Frederik II (r. 1559–1588).14 It is likely that Helvig met her future husband, Erik Rosenkrantz, in Malmø, as he was close to her uncle and also served the prince. Erik Rosenkrantz spent most of his youth abroad and in Norway where he and his siblings inherited some of the country’s largest collections of landed estates, which all went to Erik following a division of the Rosenkrantz siblings’ inheritance in 1547.15

Erik Rosenkrantz pursued a career in royal service, and in the 1550s served as the king’s lensmann at Varberg Castle in Halland, then

12 Heise, ‘Bidrag til’, 78.

13 Holst, ‘Kvindedyd og kvindedød’, 296.

14 Bisgaard; ‘Adelige kvinder’, 33–37, and Christensen, ‘Sofie Lykke’, about Sofie Lykke.

15 Heise, ‘Bidrag til’, 72–76. Erik Rosenkrantz’s life and career is covered in detail in Heise, ‘Bidrag til’, 73–146.


a part of Denmark. 16 Helvig married him in 1558, and she likely spent her first years as a married woman, and welcomed her firstborn, a daughter, at Varberg Castle. Norway had been subordinated under the Danish crown in 1537, and, in 1559, King Frederik II appointed Rosenkrantz as lensmann to Bergen Castle in Norway. The appointment provided Rosenkrantz with powers equal to that of a governor in northern and western Norway. Despite his private economic interests in Norway, initially Rosenkrantz did not want to go to Bergen. In a preserved copy of an account where he lists reasons for remaining in Denmark, Rosenkrantz mentions wanting to be close to family and friends, and he states that although he had formerly visited Norway to take care of his property, now left in the care of his men, he could not stand the country.17 The king was, however, persistent. He admitted Rosenkrantz to the prestigious Council of the Realm, whose councillors were prominent noblemen and leading prelates who benefitted immensely from the political, economic, and social privileges this membership entailed. Eiler Hardenberg and

16 A lensmann was a holder of a royal fief, a len , in medieval Scandinavia, and served as the highest-ranking royal official with authority to manage the fiscal and judicial, as well as the military areas of royal government regionally. Some lensmenn (pl.) governed larger castle fiefs or districts, for instance Varberg Castle and Bergen Castle, for Erik Rosenkrantz. In Denmark, the nobility used family names, but patronymics were still used too, while in Norway and Sweden patronymics were more common. Married noblewomen retained their family name in marriage and as widows in sixteenth-century Denmark, although as widows, they were often referred to as their husbands’ widows.

17 A copy of Rosenkrantz’ account of the contents of this letter is rendered in its entirety in Nicolaysen, ed., Norske Magasin , 1:480–481. Cf. Heise, ‘Bidrag til’, 86.

Figure 3: Portrait of Helvig Hardenberg.

Holger Rosenkrantz (1517–1575), Erik’s powerful elder brother, were involved in negotiations that ended with Rosenkrantz accepting the position, and the couple subsequently moved to Bergen.

Having left their daughter in the care of Helvig’s paternal aunt, the couple arrived in Bergen in July 1560 together with Helvig’s mother.18 Helvig’s eight­year stay in Bergen was typical for a young married noblewoman, as it included five childbirths. 19 Noble wives received gifts from their husbands at the birth of their children and for their churching – both occasions for celebration. 20 We find information about marital gifts in, for example, wills and testaments. Wives (and daughters) often received valuable jewellery. 21 From Norway, we have several examples of medieval manuscripts containing editions of the Laws of the Land being inherited, owned, and gifted by women. Copenhagen, Arnamagnæan Institute, AM 56 4to was owned and later gifted by Anna Kruckow (d. c.1607) to her second husband. 22 It is not known how the manuscript came to be in Anna’s possession, but it could be part of her inheritance – in Iceland, valuable manuscripts were gifted to and inherited by women. 23 Amongst her paternal ancestors were councillors of the Norwegian realm and others belonging to the social stratum who we would expect to own a copy of the Laws of the Land . 24 The manuscript later passed to Anna’s son, Hans Teiste (d. 1591), who was lagmann 25 (a royal judge and legal expert) in

18 Heise, ‘Bidrag til’, 87. Sofie Lykke was given a small len in southern Norway by King Frederik II as a means of ending a complicated situation that began with King Christian III forfeiting her estates for economic disloyalty and ended with Sofie suing her three sons-in-law for withheld annuity. See Christensen, ‘Sofie Lykke’. Cf. Heise, ‘Bidrag til’, 79–84, for a colourful and dated account of Sofie’s actions.

19 Heise, ‘Bidrag til’, 132–133. Two of the children passed away in infancy during their stay.

20 Heise, ‘Bidrag til’, 135.

21 Seip, ‘Jordegods og gyldne kjeder’.

22 Rindal and Spørck, eds., Kong Magnus Håkonsson Lagabøtes landslov, 21.

23 Arthur, ‘The Importance of Marital’; Guðrún Ingólfsdóttir, Á hverju .

24 Sollied, ‘Nogen oplysninger om’, 19–30, mentions owners of Old Norse Laws of the Land manuscripts.

25 Sg. lagmann , pl. lagmenn , in Norwegian.


Stavanger, before it came into Danish ownership. Another Laws of the Land manuscript, Stockholm, National Library, perg. 34 4°, originally owned by the lagmann of Skien, was inherited by his son­in­law, whose widow, in turn, gave it to her son­in­law. 26 Thus, we see that Old Norse law manuscripts passed through the hands of elite women in the sixteenth century.

Norwegian lagmenn and others able to understand Old Norse would still use Old Norse editions of the Norwegian law codes in the sixteenth century, while Danish officials generally relied on translations from the first half of the century. 27 Several manuscripts containing Norwegian law codes and amendments in Old Norse and translation are linked to Erik Rosenkrantz and the men who served him. Two of his men are listed as consecutive owners of Copenhagen, Arnamagnæan Institute, AM 82 4°, a translation of the Laws of the Land , which was sold in 1558, before Rosenkrantz came to Bergen. 28 Rosenkrantz himself commissioned a translation of Bergen’s town laws in 1562, decorated with his coat of arms and ex libris, as well as a statute by King Hákon Magnússon.


Furthermore, Rosenkrantz’s interest in Norwegian law codes could have been more than a professional one. In Bergen, he was in touch with the Bergen humanists, a group of learned men led by Absalon Pedersson Beyer. 30 Erik Rosenkrantz was certainly a man of his time. He encouraged Beyer and his peers in their study of Norwegian history, geography, and literature. 31 Inspired by the Renaissance movement, it became fashionable to collect old manuscripts amongst the members of the secular elite in Scandinavia. Numerous Old Norse medieval manuscripts – containing copies of one or several law codes –

26 Rindal and Spørck, eds., Kong Magnus Håkonsson Lagabøtes landslov, 28.

27 Rindal and Spørck, eds., Kong Magnus Håkonsson Lagabøtes landslov, 54, 84–85. See also the chapter by Anna Catharina Horn, this volume.

28 Rindal and Spørck, eds., Kong Magnus Håkonsson Lagabøtes landslov, 42.

29 Heise, ‘Bidrag til’, 103; Storm, Om Haandskrifter, I.3; II.5, 7, 13.

30 Fossen, ‘Absalon Pedersson Beyer’.

31 Fossen, Borgerskapets by , 726, 697; Heise, ‘Bidrag til’, 95.


were purchased by or given to Danes who served the king in Norway. 32 It is not unlikely that Erik Rosenkrantz collected Old Norse manuscripts like his peers in Denmark. He knew the local lagmenn and others who may have owned or had knowledge of old manuscripts, and he had opportunity to acquire them in Norway. He could have purchased or been gifted the whole, bound codex, or its separate parts. 33

Based on the above, it is definitely a workable hypothesis that Helvig received GKS 1154 I as a gift from her husband. The manuscript is richly decorated and would have been a fashionable gift in the social circles to which Helvig and her husband belonged. However, recent findings concerning the level of literacy, literary interest, and scholarly activity amongst noblewomen in Denmark and Scandinavia in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as well as the discovery that these women also collected books, manuscripts, and historical artefacts, necessitates a new approach to Helvig’s ownership.

Learned women

Danish noblewomen of Helvig’s generation and consecutive ones could read and write, sometimes in multiple languages. 34 They were interested in literature and kept song books in which they collected ballads and wrote each other greetings and compliments for entertainment. 35 They also collected manuscripts, artefacts, and books, and set up libraries that were renowned and admired in their own lifetime. Their collections reveal their agency, and the breadth of their interest, for instance in history and historical artefacts. Anne Krabbe (1552–1618) is

32 Rindal and Spørck, eds., Kong Magnus Håkonsson Lagabøtes landslov, 54.

33 There are no ex libris in GKS 1154 fol. II and III, which indicates that all the manuscripts that comprise the preserved codex had yet not been bound together at the time Helvig marked her ownership, and that not all sections of the manuscript had belonged to Helvig originally. According to Rindal, introduction to King Magnus Håkonsson’s Laws , 20, the three parts may have been bound together to form one manuscript around 1550, at the earliest. Horn, ‘Hånd c og d’, 71–74, suggests that GKS 1154 fol. I and II may have been bound together or at least been kept together c. 1460–80.

34 Bjørn, ‘… Ganske venligen tilskrevet’, 347–351.

35 See, e.g., Fredriksen, ‘En adelsdame’, about Anne Krabbe, and Holst, ‘Som solen’, about Karen Gyldenstjerne.


perhaps the best example from Helvig’s generation. Krabbe and her husband shared an interest in literature and collected manuscripts. At her home, Krabbe had a library and an art collection, and a runestone in her garden. A collection of her manuscripts has survived, and it provides insight into the written material produced, kept, and collected by a Danish noblewoman. Krabbe’s extant copy book contains verdicts, wills, gift letters, and historical comments. She also had a medical book, manuscripts with rhymes, and a song book. 36

Anne Krabbe’s activities as a collector earned her the contemporary epithet ‘learned woman’. 37 There were about 200 women in the Nordic region that were referred to as ‘learned’, ‘miracles’, or ‘muses’ between 1500 and 1800, although few before 1700. The majority were noblewomen, and they enjoyed the respect and support of learned men. These women pursued intellectual interests inspired by Renaissance humanism. They knew languages, including Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, which were deemed necessary to participate in scholarly debates within the humanist disciplines. 38 The best example from Denmark is Birgitte Thott (1610–1662), who translated Seneca’s prose works and wrote a moral treatise of philosophical ethics in the Christian new stoic tradition a couple of generations after Helvig’s passing. Thott was also interested in libraries and collected manuscripts. 39

We know of two Old Norse manuscripts containing law codes and amendments in Helvig’s ownership. In addition to Codex Hardenbergianus, she owned Copenhagen, Arnamagnæan Institute, AM 309 fol., a compilation manuscript dated to 1300–1325, containing the Eidsivathing redaction of the Laws of the Land and Oslo Town Laws (bylov), as well as several law amendments. 40 On folio 87r of AM

36 Fredriksen, ‘En adelsdame’, 347–348.

37 Fredriksen, ‘En adelsdame’, 347.

38 Alenius, ‘Nordens lærde fruentimmer’, 54–59, ‘Håndskrifterne til Birgitte’, 1–29, ‘Otto Sperling’, 187–212.

39 Alenius, ‘Håndkrifterne til Birgitte’, 10, which also contains a bibliography about Danish research on learned women.

40 NgL, 4:483–488.


30 fol. we find Helvig’s ex libris, denne bog hører meg hellewiig harden bergis tthiill med retthe (this book rightly belongs to me Helvig Hardenberg), written in her own hand, that is, the same hand as the ex libris in GKS 1154 fol. 41 Thus, Helvig clearly owned the manuscript at the time she wrote the ex libris. However, in this case, the manuscript itself provides the answer to the ownership question. An indistinct note of what is likely Erik Rosenkrantz’s ownership, Anno domini Mdliiij … logbogh … Ericus Ros … Otte … (anno domini 1554 … ‘lawbook’ … Erik Ros … Otte …), and a drawing of both the Rosenkrantz and the Hardenberg coats of arms, with the heading ERK [Erik Rosen Krans] and HHB [Hellevig Harden Berg], are found on the manuscript’s sixteenth­century binding (also found on Rosenkrantz tower

41 NgL, 4:488. Digital images of this manuscript, including Helvig’s ex libris and a drawing of her and Erik Rosenkrantz’s coats of arms are available on https://sprogsamlinger.ku.dk/q. php?p=ds/hjem/mapper/27866

Figure 4: Arms of alliance on Rosenkrantz tower in Bergen, with Erik Rosenkrantz’s and Helvig Hardenberg’s coats of arms.

in Bergen, see Figure 4).42 Although more research is needed, it seems that AM 309 fol. originally belonged to Erik Rosenkrantz, perhaps from 1554, when it was bound, and that Helvig received it at a later date, either as a gift or, more likely, from her husband’s estate. 43 Helvig’s use of med retthe (rightfully), certainly indicates a transfer of ownership from husband to wife.

Two manuscripts do not equal a collection, but they confirm that Helvig took an interest in law manuscripts, at the very least, and that she had access to and likely inherited her husband’s manuscript collection, or parts of it. That Helvig took an active interest in the contents of manuscripts, too, can be discerned from a note she made in the margin of King Magnús’ Laws of the Land in Codex Hardenbergianus. On folio 9v, the Landvarnarb ǫlkr (the ‘defence section’) begins with an illumination depicting three men equipped for war standing on the prow of a ship. 44 The man in front carries an axe and is now understood as a depiction of an ordinary soldier. However, at the left of the illuminated initial, Helvig has written sanctthe oluff med synn barde (St Olaf with his boat). She apparently identified the man to be the Norwegian king saint Óláfr Haraldsson (d. 1030). St Olaf is often portrayed with an axe, which was his foremost symbol. According to Danish literary scholar Jonna Louis­Jensen, Helvig might have associated the illumination with the Danish ballad about St Olaf’s væddefart (sailing race), where it says that Sant Oluff sætte seg i fremmer Staffn (St Olaf sat down at the front of the prow). 45 According to Louis­Jensen, Helvig’s misunderstanding indicates that she did not conduct in­depth studies of the manuscript’s contents, and that she preferred writing to

42 NgL, 4:488.

43 Gustav Storm identifies Erik Rosenkrantz as the owner of AM 309 fol. (Storm, Om Haandskrifter, I.3), while Magnus Rindal concludes that it was solely owned by Helvig, see AM 309 fol. og Eidsivatings-redaksjonen , 7; see also Rindal and Spørck, eds., introduction to Kong Magnus Håkonsson Lagabøtes landslov, 20.

44 GKS 1154 fol., 9v.

45 Louis-Jensen, ’Helvig Hardenberg’, 380–381. My translation from Louis-Jensen’s Danish.


reading. 46 The latter assumption seems odd, as noblewomen would have had scribes to do most of their writing, and, besides, Danes generally did not read Old Norse in the latter half of the sixteenth century. 47 Moreover, as we shall see, Helvig was an active landowner. She would therefore have spent a fair amount of time reading documents of various types, ledgers, and private letters, as well as expressing herself in writing.

Although Helvig has never been identified as one of the ‘learned women’, she engaged in activities that would have been considered scholarly by sixteenth­century standards, which included reading and writing in addition to manuscript collection. We shall now see that Helvig made use of the written word in a way that identifies her as woman of influence as well as education.

While in Bergen, Helvig’s social life included close and familiar contact with Absalon Pedersson Beyer and other members of the Bergen humanist group. Beyer’s diary offers an insight into Helvig’s social life in Bergen. Local scholars, nobles, burghers, clerics, and German merchants gathered at her home for weddings, baptisms, and dinners. She was a popular godmother, and one of Beyer’s daughters was named in her honour. Beyer’s wife, Anne Pedersdotter (d. 1590), was present when Helvig gave birth, and accompanied her at a churching, as well as to the bath house. Beyer was godfather to one of Helvig’s children and he baptised another.48 In the diary, neither Helvig nor other women are mentioned in connection with the learned pursuits described by Beyer. The diary does, however, confirm that she stayed in touch with Beyer and other people in Norway after she returned to Denmark in 1568. Here, Beyer quotes a long extract from a letter he received from Helvig in 1571. In the letter, she expresses anger at a Norwegian lagmann who had had the husband of one of her wetnurses in Bergen executed, and,

46 Louis-Jensen, ‘Helvig Hardenberg’, 381.

47 Cf. Anna Horn’s chapter, this volume.

48 Nicolaysen, ed., Liber Capituli Bergensis , e.g., 8, 14, 32, 94, 107, 127, 128, 150, and 152, about Helvig. Cf. Heise, ‘Bidrag til’, 132; Fossen, Borgerskapets by , 772. The widowed Anne Pedersdotter was tried and burned for witchcraft in 1590, see Hagen, ‘Anne Pedersdotter’.


by that, left his widow in a difficult situation. Helvig asks Beyer to show her letter to the lagmann in question. 49 It is apparent that Helvig tried to secure the interests of the widow, who had turned to her for assistance. 50 This type of intercession was not an uncommon service from noblewomen (or queens). While Helvig was still in Bergen, a convicted thief wanted to avoid execution by offering Helvig land if she could fri hans liff (free his life). 51 Additionally, this intercession on behalf of a former servant is an excellent example of the agency and informal power exerted by noblewomen and the role they played in social networks. It also demonstrates that their influence was common knowledge amongst ordinary people. 52

Together with her husband and members of their close and extended families, Helvig frequented King Frederik II and Queen Sophia’s (1557–1631) court. 53 Amongst their close relatives and friends were some of the leading women at court, for instance her sister­inlaw, Karen Gyldenstjerne (1544–1613), married to Erik Rosenkrantz’s brother, Holger. Gyldenstjerne’s winter quarters in Copenhagen were the centre for the nobility’s social life in the latter half of the century. Helvig visited her sister­in­law in her town house in the early 1580s and entered three ballads into Gyldenstjerne’s songbook, preserved in the manuscript Copenhagen, Royal Library, NKS 816 4to, known as Langebeks kvart (Langebek’s quarto). Helvig’s entries are categorised as Nos. 81, 82 and 83. 54 Below song number 82, which is in Danish, Helvig has written a note in German: Was mein Gott will, das geesche allezeit (Whatever my God wills, it [will] always happen) in M e h , short for med egen hand (with [my] own hand). 55 Langebeks kvart was meant for entertainment. It contains 167 ballads as well as compliments

49 See further the chapter by Már Jónsson in this volume.

50 Nicolaysen, ed., Liber Capituli Bergensis , 231. Cf. Nicolaysen, ed., Norske Magasin , 1:416.

51 Nicolaysen, ed., Liber Capituli Bergensis , 64.

52 Cf. Norrhem, Kvinnor vid maktens

53 Nicolaysen, ed., Liber Capituli Bergensis , 231. Cf. Heise, ‘Bidrag til’, 142–143.

54 Holst, ‘Som solen’, 9–11, 114.

55 Holzapfel, ‘Langbeks kvart’, 48.


and other greetings written by friends and family when they visited. 56 Although it is not a product of academic achievement, the book still illustrates the level of education amongst Danish noblewomen of Helvig’s generation and provides insight into Helvig’s literacy and literary interests as well.

While nothing in the primary sources points to Helvig being considered a ‘learned woman’ in the same way as Anne Krabbe, she undoubtedly took an independent interest in law manuscripts, which is an indication of a collector’s approach, comparable to other women in the nobility at the time. While she likely inherited AM 309 fol. from her husband, she may have acquired GKS 1154 I herself, or, alternatively, someone other than her husband, who knew she appreciated law manuscripts, gifted it to her. That Helvig possibly had an independent interest in Norwegian law manuscripts is strengthened by my examination of a third hypothesis, which establishes that Helvig’s relationship with Norwegian law went far beyond owning and enjoying Old Norse law manuscripts and their contents.

A functional relationship with Norwegian law Helvig returned with her family to Denmark and Fyn in 1568, where her husband became lensmann in Odense stift (diocese). In Fyn, the couple resided at Arreskov Manor, part of Helvig’s inheritance, close to Faaborg. 57 The marital demographics of the nobility led to young wives often becoming young widows. Although the sources might leave the impression that widows only became active landowners following their husbands’ passing, they did not acquire the skills and knowledge required to manage large estates ‘overnight’. In addition to their responsibilities within the household and the family, noblewomen were often involved in managing their own and their family’s estates and business interests. Scandinavian noble wives sometimes functioned as their husbands’ deputies, overseeing and carrying out complicated

56 Holst, ‘Som solen’, 26.

57 Heise, ‘Bidrag til’, 142, 146. Bisgaard, ‘Adelige kvinder’, 39–40.


transfers of property, and even defending castles in their husbands’ absence. 58 Like other Danish noblewomen, Helvig was probably well­prepared to take over as head of household and lead the management of the family estates in Denmark and Norway when her husband passed away in 1575, when she was 35. 59

While Helvig like her mother before her did not remarry, young noble widows generally did, in line with their families’ political and economic strategies. 60 Moreover, widowhood could make women vulnerable, especially if they lacked close male relatives. 61 However, although it has not been widely studied for Scandinavia, financially secure widows who took an active interest in the management of the family estates and business interests did not necessarily remarry, provided that they had fathers, sons, sons­in­law and/or other male relatives that could assist and protect them, and/or that they were of or approaching middle age. 62 Helvig’s position and control of the family estates was likely the result of economic arrangements and planning undertaken by the couple before Erik Rosenkrantz’s passing. 63

Helvig dedicated her widowhood to securing her children good marriages and expanding her own and her late husband’s landed property, which all came under her control and management because the children were minors when Rosenkrantz died. 64 She likely had a life grant on the couple’s landed property in Denmark, a common arrangement in the sixteenth century. 65 The widowed

58 See, e.g., Bjørn, ‘Ganske venligen’, 348–351; Poulsen, ‘Den kvindelige godsejer’, 26; Wærdahl, ‘The opportunity’, 90–92, 97, ‘Why did Ingerd Ottesdotter’, 98–100, 104-109, ‘Manndtz Nature vdj hindis hiertte’, 95–111; Jørkov, ‘At blive ved’, 210–212, 221–222. Pedersen, Propertied Women’s Economic , discusses wives’ economic agency in depth.

59 Poulsen, ‘Den kvindelige godsejer’, 26, 30–31.

60 Jacobsen, ‘Formal and Informal’ and ‘Køn og magt i dansk senmiddelalder’.

61 Poulsen, ‘Den kvindelige godsejer’; Raeder, ‘Hellre hustru’, 65–88.

62 See, e.g., Raeder, ‘Hellre hustru’, 65–87.

63 Cf. below and Christensen, ‘Herremandsliv’; Jensen, ‘Arv og godssamling’.

64 Heise, ‘Bidrag til’, 147.

65 Heise, ‘Bidrag til’, 147, ‘Erik Ottesen Rosenkrantz’; Christensen, ‘Herremandsliv’, 40–42; Jensen, ‘Arv og godssamling’, 464. About the Norwegian estates, see below.


Helvig actively managed the large family estates in Denmark and Norway. She claimed and secured even more landed property in Denmark through legal processes and became one of the wealthiest noblewomen in Denmark. 66 She continued to develop and expand Arreskov Manor, even recruiting an Italian master builder to assist her, and she also founded a hospital for the poor. 67 Helvig brought processes concerning property – initiated by her husband – to a successful end by using her influence at court. Moreover, she involved herself in the affairs of the church, confronting and quarrelling, successfully, with the Bishop of Odense over several issues, i.e., a priest’s suitability for office, the best candidate to manage the hospital she founded, and about a deal she had made with a priest that affected parish organisation.


These activities suggest a busy and assertive woman who did not shy away from claiming her rights in court or interfering in ecclesiastical matters. However, although Helvig appeared as an independent and confident widow, she still relied on assistance from her family. Helvig’s mother, Sofie Lykke, managed the family estates and financial interests with little success following her husband’s passing. In her numerous difficulties with the crown, Lykke profited from the assistance of an abundance of powerful male relatives: her brother and legal guardian, as well as her sons­in­law, were all required to assist her, according to the social norms of the time, and her sons­in­law managed to save the remnants of the large estate she had taken over when her husband passed away. 69 Although Helvig had no brother to assist her, she had her paternal uncle Eiler Hardenberg, who was her legal guardian, and thus obliged to represent her interests, her son, her sons­in­law, as well as her brother­ and sister­in­law, Jørgen (1523–1596)

66 DD, 3:352; 5:172–175; 6:282. Heise, ‘Erik Ottesen Rosenkrantz’; Søkilde og Jørgensen, Hillerslev og Østerhæsinge, 92, 121–123; Bisgaard, ‘Adelige kvinder’, 40–41.

67 Smed, ‘Jeg byggede.’ Cf. Heise, ‘Bidrag til’, 146, 148.

68 Heise, ‘Bidrag til’, 144, 147–148; Bisgaard, ‘Adelige kvinder’, 41–42.

69 Christensen, ‘Sofie Lykke’; Bisgaard, ‘Adelige kvinder’, 33–37; Poulsen, ‘Den kvindelige godsejer’, 31–32; Wærdahl, ‘Why did Ingerd Ottesdotter’, 108.


In addition to her responsibilities in Denmark, Helvig managed one of the largest collections of landed property in Norway and made sure land rent and income from fisheries, fishing stations, and trade from Northern and Mid­Norway, and even from the Faroe Islands, was collected.73 She did, for instance, receive permission from the king for a man from Bergen to sail to the Faroes on her behalf to collect her land rent there. There were some complications, but Helvig made use of her contacts in government to achieve a favourable outcome. 74 Likewise, in 1588, King Christian IV’s councillors acted upon a request from Helvig and ordered that she should receive a compensation of crown lands for land she (and her husband) had lost in Bergen in 1562. 75 While she travelled extensively in Denmark, we have no indication of Helvig ever returning to Norway. 76 The day­to­day management of her interests in Norway were handled by her local representatives, whom she had likely ‘inherited’ from her husband. However, not only did Helvig take over the management of her husband’s property and economic interests in

70 See Jacobsen, ‘Køn og magt’, about legal guardianship.

71 Heise, ‘Bidrag til’, 152.

72 Heise, ‘Bidrag til’, 149–151.

73 See Heise, ‘Bidrag til’ and ‘Erik Ottesen Rosenkrantz’, about Erik Rosenkrantz’s Norwegian inheritance. The Faroe Islands were a tributary land under the Norwegian crown and therefore Norwegian law applied.

74 NRR, 2:363–364, 371; NRR, 3:289.

75 NRR, 3:10.

76 Bisgaard, ‘Adelige kvinder’, 42. There are examples of other Danish noblewomen travelling to Norway to secure their economic interests. Poulsen, ‘Den kvindelige godsejer’, 28–29.

177 and Anne Rosenkrantz (1522–1589). 70 Jørgen Rosenkrantz was the legal guardian of Helvig’s children, and together with his sister Anne he played a central part in the arrangement of the children’s marriages and wedding celebrations. Helvig’s sons­in­law assisted and supported her in legal disputes and with other matters, one of them even after his wife passed away and his remarriage. 71 Furthermore, Helvig and her family enjoyed King Frederik II’s and King Christian IV’s (r. 1588–1648) favour. King Frederik II was even the godfather of one of her granddaughters. 72

Norway, she also took over her husband’s relationship with Norwegian law and special Norwegian regulations.

Even if Helvig stayed in Denmark, leaving the daily management of her economic interests in Norway to her representatives there, and had employees at hand who knew Norwegian law, she would still have had more than a superficial knowledge of the laws and regulations that governed property ownership and management in Norway. To succeed as a landowner, knowledge of the law was a requirement. 77 Helvig likely had a library readily at hand, which probably contained Norwegian law codes and amendments in several versions and translation for regular use, in addition to her own Old Norse codices. A relatively large proportion of Danish nobles owned and managed landed property and other resources outside Denmark, and they also dealt with several sets of law codes and legal cultures in Denmark. Since Erik Rosenkrantz’s father, Otte Holgersen Rosenkrantz (d. 1525), came into his maternal inheritance in Norway, his branch of the Rosenkrantz family had used King Magnús’ Laws of the Land and royal amendments to secure and manage their interests there. Erik Rosenkrantz and his siblings inherited their father’s estates in Norway, but also his future claim to one of the largest collections of Norwegian estates, that of his great­aunt Ingerd Erlendsdotter (1440–1526), when he died in 1525. 78 Their uncle and his agents represented the siblings’ interests in Norway in the 1520s and ­30s. 79 Erik Rosenkrantz increasingly took over responsibilities for the Norwegian estates in the 1540s, from which point he probably also had a practical relationship with Norwegian law. In 1542, he personally conducted an exchange of property with a local farmer in Valdres, Norway, on behalf of himself and his co­heirs, with local dignitaries as witnesses. 80 Although Rosenkrantz’s men took care of

77 Bisgaard, ‘Adelige kvinder’, 40; Poulsen, ‘Den kvindelige godsejer’, 30.

78 Heise, ‘Bidrag til’, 74-75.

79 E.g., DN, 6:749.

80 DN, 10:714.


his Norwegian interests when he was in Denmark, 81 he also dealt with his own interests directly from there. 82 Erik Rosenkrantz’s familiarity with Norwegian law before he took the position as lensmann in Bergen in 1559 is perhaps evident by AM 309 fol., which was perhaps bound for him in 1554. This is also apparent from his role as a judge in panels of prominent men in Bergen and Oslo in the late 1540s, concerning the marital finances of Görvel Fadersdotter (d. 1605), a Swede married and widowed in Denmark, who was one of the greatest landowners in Norway. 83 On both occasions, the judges based their statements on Norwegian law. Rosenkrantz also dealt with matters concerning his part in a fishing station that was illegally withheld from him in Norway while in Denmark. 84 Again, these were matters that required insight into special Norwegian regulations.

Lengthy legal processes concerning property and inheritance were common within noble families in the sixteenth century. 85 The importance of Norwegian law to Helvig and her immediate family is apparent from their disagreement on the division of Erik Rosenkrantz’s estate. In 1591, the government council (regjeringsrådet) requested a statement from a court of lagmenn (overlagting), due to be held in Oslo, regarding a disagreement between Helvig, on the one side, and her sons­in­law (on behalf of their wives) and son, on the other, about the inheritance and division of Erik Rosenkrantz’s estate. While Helvig wanted to keep half of Rosenkrantz’s Norwegian estate, her son and sons­in­law based their legal case on the provisions found in King Hákon Magnússon’s amendments from 1306 and 1313 concerning joint property, and the Norske Lov (Norwegian law), that is, King Magnús

81 Heise, ‘Bidrag til’, 77.

82 DN, 2:no. 1149.

83 DN, 12:no. 615; DN, 3:no. 1165.

84 NRR, 1:125.

85 Jensen, ‘Arv og godssamling’, 464–467; Bjørn, ‘… Ganske venligen’, 335.


Hákonarson’s Laws of the Land ’s section about allodial rights. 86 The statement from the court of lagmenn in 1591 is lost, but the matter was not fully resolved until after Helvig’s passing in 1599. At that point, her heirs contacted the king’s governor in Norway and the court of lagmenn for yet another clarification concerning the division of Erik Rosenkrantz and Helvig Hardenberg’s inherited and purchased property in Norway according to Norwegian law. In June 1600, the court of lagmenn gave the following statement: Even though the couple had not arranged for joint property of the Norwegian variety (helmingsfélag) when they married, as they were married in Denmark, this still came into effect when they had children, which was in accordance with King Hákon Magnússon’s amendments. The statement continues with a detailed account of how the Norwegian estates should be divided. 87 The disagreement within the family and the lagmenn’s statement from 1600 confirm the role that King Magnús Hákonarson’s Laws of the Land and its amendments played in the lives and prosperity of a large family group within the Danish nobility for generations. Throughout the 1570s, ­80s, and ­ 90s, Helvig was primarily an active and highly successful landowner and estate manager. To Helvig, who controlled and managed one of the largest collections of landed property and economic rights in Norway, Norwegian law codes and statutes were likely much more than incomprehensible texts in beautiful Old Norse manuscripts. Consequently, we cannot disregard the possibility that this functional relationship with Norwegian law may have led to an independent interest in Old Norse law manuscripts on Helvig’s part, not necessary connected to her

86 The transcript of the request in the chancery’s copy book, NRR, 3:225, refers to King Hákon Magnússon’s amendments (Rætterbøder), in plural, about ‘Helmissfeldt’, or helmingsfelag , the Norwegian variety of joint property, i.e., the amendments from 1306 and 1313, published in NgL, 3:no. 36 (1313) and no. 57 (1306). See Rindal and Spørck, eds., Kong Magnus Håkonsson Lagabøtes landslov, 2:543–567. Interestingly, they fail to mention a recess from Bergen 1557, by which helmingsfélag became customary in Norway provided the surviving spouse divided the property with their common children; see Pedersen, Propertied Women’s Economic , 74–76.

87 Heise, ‘Bidrag til’, 157–158.


husband’s generosity or their stay in Bergen. After all, like her husband, Helvig spent decades managing landed property and upholding her economic rights in Norway.


An expression of female agency

When dealing with women of Helvig’s stature, it is always advisable to look beyond obvious and accepted interpretations and focus on the lived life and experiences of the woman in question. Although the scarcity of sources is a challenge, the glimpses provided by the written and physical remnants of her life confirm that Helvig lived her life much like other women of the Danish high nobility. She married young, had several children, became a young widow, and spent the last decades of her life securing the welfare of her children and managing her own and the family’s estates and business interests. She knew her rights, especially regarding property ownership and management, and she seems to have been a woman who wielded a great deal of formal power in Fyn and in Odense diocese in her capacity as landowner. Helvig was not a ‘learned woman’, but she had received a formal education and was part of a social scene where humanist pursuits like manuscript collecting were enjoyed, and learning appreciated, even for women.

I have already stated that the understanding of Helvig’s ownership of GKS 1154 I as the result of her husband’s generosity relies on the internal premise that a Danish noblewoman would not have acquired an Old Norse copy of the Laws of the Land herself. Even a superficial examination of Helvig’s personal history reveals that Helvig was neither passive nor lacking in agency. She actively and successfully managed one of the largest collections of estates in Norway for decades while at the same time becoming one of the wealthiest women in Denmark through her competent, and, probably forceful, pursuit of family inheritance claims, and her continuous development of Arreskov. Her letter to Absalon Pedersson Beyer about her wet nurse’s husband, and her quarrels with the Bishop of Odense, indicate that she was a capable and powerful widow who stood her ground. Hence, it is hardly surprising that her husband’s heirs’ attempt to gain control of their Norwegian inheritance was futile while Helvig was still alive.


In addition to the influence from the social environment she was part of, the experience of controlling and managing Norwegian property would have been a likely source of a special interest in Old Norse law manuscripts. She continued to stay in touch with Beyer and perhaps other friends in Bergen, and could have acquired the codex, or at least its Laws of the Land section, herself, through them or in Denmark. It could also have been a gift from someone other than her husband – someone who knew she was familiar with Norwegian law and took an interest in it. Thus, the ownership of GKS 1154 I, and perhaps, all of Codex Hardenbergianus, may well have originated in Helvig’s, and not her husband’s, agency. It was not necessarily a token of love acquired and gifted by a resourceful and well­connected husband, but an expression of the interests, resources, connections, and agency of an active and successful woman – a beautiful relic of Helvig’s decades as a manager of Norwegian estates and her close relationship with Norwegian law.

Helvig Hardenberg lived to be 59. She died on 14 July 1599, in Odense, where she was inspecting the preparations for her son’s wedding. 88 Her body was transferred to Arreskov, and she is buried next to her husband in Øster Hæsinge Church, where the couple’s gravestone is on display (see figure 5). 89 A carved wood relief of Helvig is still at Arreskov, and a contemporary painted portrait is found at Gavnø castle. Codex Hardenbergianus is now on long­term loan to the National Library in Oslo.

88 Søkilde og Jørgensen, Hillerslev og Østerhæsinge , 123.

89 Heise, ‘Bidrag til’, 156. A copy of the gravestone is found in the Rosenkrantz tower in Bergen, where the couple’s coats of arms are displayed on one of the walls.

Figure 5: A replica of Erik Rosenkrantz and Helvig Hardenberg’s gravestone at the Rosenkrantz tower in Bergen.



Copenhagen, Royal Library

GKS 1154 fol. (Codex Hardenbergianus) http://www5.kb.dk/permalink/2006/manus/3/dan.

NKS 816 4to (Langebeks kvart)

Copenhagen, Arnamagnæan Institute

AM 309 fol.

AM 56 4to

AM 82 4to

Stockholm, National Library

Isl. Perg. 34 4°

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6. The Sixteenth-Century Translations of the 1274 Landslǫg – an Introductory Approach

During the sixteenth century, the 1274 Landsl ǫg (Laws of the Land , Norw. Magnus Lagabøtes Landslov) were translated into Danish. The increasing number of Danish officials who were sent from the Danish King to occupy the higher positions in Norwegian society could not understand the Old Norse language of the Landsl ǫg , and an immense

Figure 1: A selection of sixteenth-century manuscripts with the Laws of the Land held at the National Library of Norway.


number of translations were produced. Today, there are more than a hundred extant manuscripts from the sixteenth century which contain a translation of the Landsl ǫg of 1274. One of the more intriguing issues concerning these laws is the variety of versions that were made: there are several different versions of the Danish translations, there are some copies of Old Norse versions, and some manuscripts contain both – a Danish translation and an Old Norse copy in parallel columns. The National Library of Norway in Oslo (hereafter NB) has exemplars of all these versions in their collection, for example Ms.4° 314, Ms.4° 553, and Ms.fol. 5 respectively (see Figure 1). Some of these will be discussed in this chapter.

Gustav Storm (1845–1903) was one of the first scholars who endeavoured to systematise and organise the legal manuscripts from the Middle Ages. In his 1885 ‘Haandskriftbeskrivelse’ (Manuscript Description, i.e., a detailed catalogue of Old Norse legal manuscripts), he distinguished between two categories of Danish translations. He called the first category a sædvanlig (customary, common, or most frequent) translation, and the other a selvstændig (independent) translation.1 Storm never explained the distinctions between the two categories further, except to observe that the independent translations each seem to have been separately translated directly from Old Norse manuscripts, which were also sometimes identified by Storm. 2 The customary translations, on the other hand, are something else – they are translations that share common features to such an extent that they can be classified into one single category, with certain textual similarities that set them apart as a group from the independent translations. This chapter is a first attempt to explore the differences between these two categories.

1 Storm, ‘Haandskriftbeskrivelse’.

2 For example, when discussing NB Ms.fol 530, he notes: ‘Landsloven i selvstændig Oversættelse efter en Frostathingslov’ (The Landsl ǫg in an individual translation from a Frostathing law) (Storm, ‘Haandskriftbeskrivelse’, 722), in NB Ms.4° 377: ‘Landsloven (Gulathingsloven) i selvstændig Oversættelse efter et tabt Haandskrift’ (The Landsl ǫg in an independent translation from a lost manuscript) (ibid , 734), and in NB Ms.4° 553: ‘Landsloven, oversat af Hans Jakobsen Loe efter Codex Tunsbergensis’ (The Landsl ǫg , translated by Hans Jakobsen Loe from Codex Tunsbergensis) (ibid , 741).


Moreover, when librarian Mette Refslund Witting at the National Library of Norway in Oslo recently investigated the provenance of the translations kept at the library, she uncovered two manuscripts that had not been available when Gustav Storm compiled his catalogue in 1885. One of these, Ms.8° 296, was part of the royal library at the Royal Palace in Oslo in the nineteenth century and given to the Norwegian state following the dissolution of the union with Sweden in 1905. The second, Ms.8° 3121, was in private ownership until 1979, when it was acquired by the Oslo University Library. 3 As a result, these manuscripts have not yet been classified as either customary or independent. The purpose of this chapter is therefore twofold: First, it is important to get an idea of what distinguishes the two notions customary and independent by comparing a part of the text in the two versions to each other, and second, to apply the findings to the two recently uncovered manuscripts at the National Library in order to determine the category to which they belong.

Background and former research on the translations from the sixteenth century

During the sixteenth century, Norway experienced significant political and cultural transformations. Previously, in the early fourteenth century, the royal administration moved abroad, first to Kalmar, Sweden, and later, after Christian I’s (r. 1450–1481) ascension to the throne in 1450, to Copenhagen. From then on, Danish officials, and even some German ones, were primarily appointed to positions within the Norwegian administration, and letters and legal amendments from the royal administration were written in Danish. In 1537, alongside the dispute between the Archbishop of Nidaros and the Danish King, Norway was declared a province of Denmark, and it was no longer a sovereign state.

In the sixteenth century, a number of Old Norse texts were translated in Norway. These translations were driven by different

3 Witting, ‘Nasjonalbibliotekets landslovhåndskrifter og deres proveniens’, 59–60.


interests. On the one hand, the so-called Bergen Humanists – a group of learned, high-ranking officials and clergymen – sponsored translations of texts of historical interest, such as the kings’ sagas commonly referred to as Heimskringla , and Hirðskrá , the law of the king’s retinue from the 1270s (though long out of use by that time). 4 These translations obviously served a different function than those of the Landsl ǫg , which filled an urgent gap for those who needed to access the country’s laws. Throughout the sixteenth century, the Danish kings frequently demanded a new, authoritative translation of the Landsl ǫg , and the many surviving manuscripts with different versions of this text reveal a keen interest around the country in translating the law. 5 It is also clear that the kings’ requests for an authoritative law code were not completely met, and it was not until 1604, when Christian IV (r. 1588–1648) introduced the Norske Lov (Norwegian Law) in print, that the task was fully accomplished. 6

In 1879, Storm published a pioneering study on the surviving legal manuscripts, spanning both the Middle Ages and the sixteenth century. 7 As he began his examination of the sixteenth-century manuscripts, most of them containing Danish translations of the Landsl ǫg , Storm soon realised that there were two main categories of translations. 8 The larger category contained what he then denoted as den almindeligste (the most common) translation. Moreover, within this category, he identified two versions, an ‘old’ version, and a ‘new’ version. The former comprised only two manuscripts, while the latter contained more than seventy. The only difference, according to Storm,

4 For an overview of these translations and their patrons, see, e.g., Rasmussen, ‘Translation and Cultural Influence in Norway’, 166–193.

5 For more information on the impetus behind the translations, see, e.g., a recent summary in Witting, Nasjonalbibliotekets landslovhåndskrifter’, 37–39.

6 For more details, see Storm, Om Haandskrifter og Oversettelser ; Vinje, Den norske landsloven i svensk målform , 18–37; Horn, ‘Form og formål: Landsloven som brobygger i norsk historie’, 69–71.

7 Storm, Om Haandskrifter og Oversettelser av Magnus Lagabøters Love (On the Manuscripts and Translations of Magnus the Lawmender’s Laws).

8 Storm, Om Haandskrifter, 22.


was that the older version began with a translation of the original thirteenth-century Landsl ǫg prologue. The translations within the second group featured a new prologue, composed in the sixteenth century, the content of which was, to a large extent, copied from the Jyske lov (Code of Jutland).9 Jyske lov was issued by the Danish King Valdemar (r. 1202–1241) in 1241 and remained in force until 1683, when it was replaced by the new Danish Code, introduced by King Christian V (r. 1670–1699). Storm also argued that those responsible for translating the most common version of the Landsl ǫg had drawn on an Old Norse law code originating from the southeastern part of Norway. This was based on specific references to Borgarthing and the absence of a proper list of representatives who should attend the assembly. 10 The absence of such a list is a distinct feature of the Old Norse manuscripts associated with Borgarthing.

Storm also observed that together with the common translation of the Landsl ǫg , translations of a specific set of legal amendments (réttarbǿtr) dating from the late thirteenth to early sixteenth century had been added in the manuscripts, together with a list of the former Danish kings. Notably, no réttarbǿtr enacted by King Christian II (1481–1559) had been added, and his name was omitted from the list of kings. King Christian II was deposed by his uncle Frederik (1471–1533) in 1523, and later, in 1531, he was imprisoned for the rest of his life. Storm therefore suggested that the translation of the Landsl ǫg must have been carried out after 1523, when Christian II was deposed, as he is not mentioned in the manuscripts.11

Another noteworthy aspect of the manuscripts within the second group is that the Credo in the Kristindómsb ǫlkr (the section on ecclesiastical and royal powers) no longer contained the Catholic notions of Purgatory and obligations to confessions. According to Storm, this indicates that the translation had been revised after the

9 Storm, Om Haandskrifter, 22.

10 Storm, Om Haandskrifter, 27–28.

11 Storm, Om Haandskrifter, 27.


Reformation, and that the older version must have been made before the Reformation, that is, before 1537.12 And, as the earliest manuscript containing the revised version is dated 1543, the revision must have been done between 1537 and 1543.13

Regarding the originator of the most common translation, Storm addresses two particular manuscripts. In the first one, Oslo, Deichman Library, 33 4to, dated 1567, a note had been added by the scribe, stating that the text was a copy of a translation made by ‘Anders Sybiørnson, fordum lagman i Osloo’ (Anders Sæbjørnsson, former lawman in Oslo). From references in letters from that period, it is certain that Anders Sæbjørnsson was the lawman in Oslo after Christian II’s deposition in 1523. He is last mentioned in 1527, and in January 1529, a new lawman was appointed by the King. It is most likely that Anders Sæbjørnsson passed away during 1528. This narrows the time of the translation down to five years, between 1523 and 1528. However, in another manuscript, Linköping, City Library, J7, dated to around 1564, Storm found another note stating that the translation was made by four lawmen on the commission of Erik Gyldenstjerne, the Danish official (høvedsmann) at Akershus Castle in Oslo from 1532 to 1536. 14 These years do not correspond with the information in Deichman 33 4to. Storm suggests that Anders Sæbjørnsson might not have passed away in 1528 after all, but that he could have retired and become head of the committee of four lawmen responsible for the translation between 1532 and 1536.15

Other approaches to systematise the recension of the Danish translations of the Landsl ǫg have been endeavoured. For example, the law historian Knut Robberstad observed that the number of chapters in one of the thematic sections of the Landsl ǫg , the Landvarnarb ǫlkr (the section on land defence), varies significantly among the extant

12 Storm, Om Haandskrifter, 27.

13 Vinje, Den norske landsloven i svensk målform , 23.

14 J7 is listed as Gymnasii bibliothek, B.72 in Storm, ‘Haandskriftbeskrivelse’, 706.

15 Storm, Om Haandskrifter, 29. See also Vinje, Den norske landsloven , 18–33, for a thorough review of the scholarly discussion on the matter.


manuscripts. In some, there are around 20–22 chapters, while others have only half that number, about 10–11 chapters. Robberstad categorised the manuscripts into two groups, Group A and Group B, based on the number of chapters in the Landvarnarb ǫlkr. He attributes Group A to Anders Sæbjørnsson alone, and Group B to the group of four lawmen.16

Furthermore, in the new prologue that was added to the revised version of the Landsl ǫg after the Reformation, the Landsl ǫg was referred to as the law of ‘King Oluf’ (Olaf the Saint) instead of King Magnus the Lawmender. Still, some of the common translations retain the old prologue, while others contain both the old and the new versions, which do not correlate to Storm’s categorisation of these translations into two groups – one containing the ‘old’ version, and the other the ‘new’ version. To complicate matters further, a third prologue was composed by an otherwise unknown individual, Matthias Scavenius. In most cases, this prologue is written in conjunction with the new prologue. A comprehensive overview of the translations and their prologues is provided by Helen F. Leslie-Jacobsen in her recent article where she discusses the prologues in the sixteenth-century translations.17

Even Storm may have realised that the recension of the translations was more complicated than what he had previously argued. As mentioned previously, in 1885, only six years after Storm’s 1879 study on the Landsl ǫg manuscripts, he published ‘Haandskriftbeskrivelse’ (Manuscript Description) as part of Volume 4 of Norges gamle Love indtil 1387, which he also edited.18 The manuscript descriptions printed there are clearly based on his previous 1879 study. However, in the largest group of translations, the distinction between the older and later translations is no longer specified; they are all categorised as sædvanlige (common, customary) translations, while the smaller group

16 Robberstad, Rettssoga , 215–232.

17 Leslie-Jacobsen, ‘The Parergon and the Transformation of the Prologues’.

18 For more discussion about Norges gamle Love , see Witting’s chapter in this volume.


of manuscripts is categorised as selvstændige (independent) translations. Storm does not provide the reader with any further explanations regarding these terms or the specific attributes that define each category. We can only guess from the context that the independent translations have had a medieval manuscript as an exemplar.19 Today, there are approximately 130 extant manuscripts of the Landsl ǫg translation that were produced before 1604, when King Christian IV enacted his printed Norske Lov. 20 The manuscripts are now housed in collections and libraries in Sweden, Denmark, Scotland, France, and Norway. Twenty-five of these manuscripts are held at the National Library in Oslo. According to Storm’s categorisation, two of them are independent translations, twenty are customary, and one is both – a translation and an Old Norse version in parallel columns. We may suppose that they were written on commission from the many Danish officials and judges who were appointed to positions in Norway during the sixteenth century. The large number of copies suggests that not only judges obtained a version of the law, but also others, perhaps men of the Church, bailiffs, and other civil servants, whose identities are kept in the dark. Although many of the scribes of these manuscripts are anonymous, at least three books were written by known legal officials who presumably copied them for their own use. Ms.4° 553 was copied by Hans Jacobsson Loe (1528–1581), a l ǫgmaðr (royal legal official) in the Norwegian town of Tønsberg, while Ms.fol. 5 and Ms.4° 507 from the late sixteenth century were copied by the l ǫgmaðr Martin Nilssøn in Stavanger. 21 Two other law books at the National Library originate in an aristocratic environment: Ms.fol. 230, was copied in 1585 for Henrik Knudsen Gyldenstierne, lensherre (holder of a royal fief) in Båhus in 1576 to 1592, and Ms.fol. 370 was

19 See note 2.

20 See the list in Kong Magnus Håkonsson Lagabøtes landslov, eds. Rindal and Spørck.

21 Storm, ‘Haandskriftbeskrivelse’, 713, 735.


copied in Bergen by several scribes, also likely for a lensherre . 22 These books and a few others are relatively large and much effort has been put into their layout – they have red and/or enlarged rubrics, tables of contents and prominent initials. On the other hand, many other of these manuscripts are smaller, plainer and more utilitarian. Most sixteenth-century law books are paper manuscripts but a small handful are made of vellum.

Some of the manuscripts contain information about later owners, who, interestingly, have kept them in their libraries after the printed Norske Lov of 1604 was enacted by King Christian IV. This reveals an interest in collecting old manuscripts during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries – a continuation of a sixteenth-century fashion among educated aristocrats. 23 This interest includes the two manuscripts which are not categorised yet, because they were not publicly known at the time when Storm worked on the manuscripts. It is therefore of particular interest to determine the category of translation to which these two manuscripts belong.


In the following study, three brief textual analyses will be presented, using a paragraph from the first chapter of the Þingfararb ǫlkr as the point of departure. This first section of the Landsl ǫg proper (after the prologue) deals with overall issues and procedures concerning the organisation of the legal assembly ( þing), and on how to present a case in the court of law (l ǫgrétta). 24 As I outlined previously, the altered

22 Storm, ‘Haandskriftbeskrivelse’, 715, 722. Ms.fol. 370 does not contain the Landsl ǫg , but it is a voluminous law book with a great deal of royal statutes from the fourteenth century onwards.

23 See Witting, ‘Nasjonabibliotekets landslovhåndskrifter’ and Storm ‘Haandskriftbeskrivelse’ for more details on these owner notes, and Randi Bjørshol Wærdahl’s chapter in this volume for more discussion about sixteenth-century interest in and collecting of old manuscripts.

24 In all the translations, both the customary and independent ones, the first chapter of the Þingfararb ǫlkr begins with the same introduction: a prayer to Lord Jesus Christ. In the following analysis, this introduction will be excluded, and the examination will be directed towards the subsequent paragraph.


political situation after 1537 (when Norway was considered a province of Denmark) meant that the legal authority was to some extent conveyed from the local assemblies to the Danish officials. Given the structural changes to the country’s political and legislative systems, this section likely became subject to negotiations regarding procedural matters. Consequently, this is an interesting part of the law text to analyse. Firstly, I will examine two manuscripts, namely NB Ms.4° 553 and NB Ms.4° 377, which, as identified by Storm, contain independent (selvstændige) translations of the Landsl ǫg. This means that the texts in each of them have been translated directly from an Old Norse manuscript of the Landsl ǫg. It is therefore appropriate to compare with one of the old, medieval manuscripts, and I have chosen Stockholm, Royal Library, Perg. 34 4to (hereafter, Holm perg. 34 4to). This manuscript, dating back to 1276–1300, is regarded as one of the earliest extant manuscripts containing the Landsl ǫg , and Gustav Storm argues that besides being one of the earliest, this manuscript seems to be one of the closest to the original text. 25 Consequently, it has been chosen as the main manuscript in the critical edition by Magnus Rindal and Bjørg Dale Spørck from 2018, as well as in a 2020 digitised edition by myself and Robert Paulsen rendered on facsimile, diplomatic and normalised levels, available in the electronic database Menota (Medieval Nordic Text Archive). 26 Secondly, I will analyse the same part of the text in two manuscripts, NB Ms.4° 58 and NB Ms.4° 314, which, according to Storm, contain the customary translations. These selections have been made without any preconceived bias from the twenty manuscripts at the National Library containing the customary translation. It is reasonable to expect that the texts in these two manuscripts will display a degree of similarity to an extent that it is possible to conclude that they derive from a common source, and as such they will differ from the independent versions. Finally, attention will be turned to the two, to Storm’s unknown

25 Storm, Om Haandskrifter og Oversettelser, 16. 26 Accessible at https://clarino.uib.no/menota/catalogue.


manuscripts that were uncovered by Witting in 2020, namely Ms.8° 296 and Ms.8° 3121. Hopefully, the result of the first two studies will provide us with insights to decide whether these two texts can be classified as customary or independent translations.

How can we determine the extent to which the translations are similar or distinct? Within a manuscript culture, where each manuscript is copied by hand, word by word, letter by letter, there will always be differences, whether regarding spelling variations, choice of synonyms or alterations in word order. Phrases may be added or omitted. For example, in Holm perg. 34 4to, 29r, in chapter 19 of the section called Mannhelgi (Human inviolability), the scribe has written: ‘En konongr a her a firir sar hvært eða steins hogg eða lurks hogg eða øxarhamars hogg ok kapstøyting .vííí ærtogar ok xííí. mærkr.’ (And here, for each wound, blow with a club or blow with a stone, blow with the back of an axe or plunging into water, the king receives eight ørtogar and thirteen marks of silver). 27 In another manuscript, Copenhagen, Arnamagnæan Institute, AM 60 4to, chosen by the editors Rudolf Keyser and P.A. Munch as the base manuscript for their 1848 edition of the Landsl ǫg , the text reads: ‘a konungr firir sar huert eða steins hogh eða kafstøyting .viij. ertogar oc .xiij. merkr silfrs.’ (The king shall, for each wound, or each blow with a stone or plunging into water, receive 8 ørtuger and 13 marks of silver). 28 The differences in spelling between the two manuscripts are evident, and moreover, Holm perg. 34 4to offers a more extensive list of options for the types of wounds for which the king should receive fines. In the following examination, I will abstain from discussing spelling variations. The use of synonyms, on the other hand, and the inclusion or omitting of phrases may reflect different interpretations and understandings of the text’s content, and similarities in the text may signify a shared origin. The focus of my investigation will therefore be on these features.

27 Trans. Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir, based on King Magnus the Lawmender’s Laws of the Land, trans. Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir, 40–41.

28 Keyser and Munch, eds., Norges gamle Love , 2:64. Transl. Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir.


Analysis of the independent translations in Ms.4° 553 and Ms.4° 377

Only two manuscripts containing a direct translation from an Old Norse medieval manuscript are preserved at the National Library. The first is Ms.4° 553 (Figure 2) which represents a translation dating from around 1570 made by Hans Jacobsson Loe (mentioned previously). According to Storm, Loe used the composite law codex Copenhagen, Royal Library, NKS 1642 4to, also called Codex

Figure 2: The first chapter of the Þingfararbǫlkr in Ms.4° 553, fol. 1r. The paragraph under investigation in this chapter begins at the end of the third line.

Figure 3: The first chapter of the Þingfararbǫlkr in Ms.4° 377, fol. 7r. The paragraph discussed in this chapter begins in the third line of the first chapter. Note that the first line of the chapter is written in red ink but continues with black in the second line.

Tunsbergensis, as his source text. 29 This manuscript belongs to the Borgarthing-group of Landsl ǫg manuscripts, as Tønsberg was located in the province of Borgarthing. There is no prologue at the beginning 29 Storm, ‘Haandskriftbeskrivelse’, 741.


of the law text, and the translated law text starts directly in the first chapter of the Þingfararb ǫlkr (the chapter under investigation here). The text, including the rubrics, is written in a regular textualis script with black ink. There are lots of notes in the margins throughout the manuscript, and it seems that the book has been well used by its owner.

The second manuscript that contains an independent translation is Ms.4° 377 (Figure 3), dated 1601. According to a note in the manuscript, it is translated by a certain Albert Albertzøn, a person not known in other sources. The translation is preceded by the old prologue from the thirteenth-century Landsl ǫg – which is expected, given that an Old Norse manuscript served as the exemplar. This manuscript is now lost. 30 The text is written in a small gothic cursive with black ink. The prologue and the chapters in the Þingfararb ǫlkr have large, well composed initials and rubrics written in red ink. The rest of the Landsl ǫg sections are written in black ink, including the initials and the rubrics. There are no marginalia in the manuscript.

The second paragraph in the first chapter of the Þingfararb ǫlkr pertains to the organisation of the legal assembly – the þing. In Table 1, the text from the two chosen manuscripts Ms.4° 553 and Ms.4° 377, both classified by Storm as ‘independent’ (selvstændige) translations, is presented. The reference text from Holm perg. 34 4to is presented in the left column.

30 Storm, ‘Haandskriftbeskrivelse’, 734.


Table 1: Transcriptions of two paragraphs from the Þingfararbǫlkr in the three manuscripts, from the left, Holm perg. 34 4to, Ms.4° 553, and Ms.4° 377.

Holm perg. 34 4to

En ver skulum logþingi vart eiga . a. xíí. manaðom huerium a frosto a þingstað rettom botolfs uoku æptan

þar skulu aller finnazt nauðsynia laust þeir sem til þings ero nemder

En Barrun eða umboðs maðr. konongs skulu nemt hafa a miðfostu þingi suo marga menn or hueriu fylki

Ms.4° 553

Ennd wij skulle holde wort lagting paa rette tingstæd huert aar sanctj peders affthenn

Der skulle vj alle findis forfaldeløst som til tings ere neffnd.

Ms.4° 377

End wi skulle holde vort louting en gang huert aar paa sancte Botolffs afften i Gulløenn paa vor rette tingstad

da skulle wi alle findis vten loulig forefald, saa mange som ere neffndt, steffndt oc hallid til rette.

End forleningsmend, ombotzmend skulle haffue neffnd paa midfaste ting saa mange mend aff huerte fylcke

sem her vattar j nesta capitulo eptir eða þeira loglegr vmboðs maðr

som gamel sedwane haffuer werit eller deris rette ombodzmend

End kongens frimend eller adelsmend, eller kongens ombudsmend skulle haffue til neffnt paa midfastetinge saa mange loutingsmend som skulle drage til loutinget aff huert fylke eller fougderj

som formeldis i neste effter fylgendir capittel

The Old Norse text in Holm perg. 34 4to is as follows, translated into English:

And we shall hold our general assembly every twelve months at Frosta at the proper assembly site, on the eve of St Botolph’s day. Everyone appointed to attend the assembly who has no necessity is to meet there.

A baron or the king’s lawful representative shall, at the mid-Lent assembly, have nominated as many people from each county ( fylki ) as outlined here in the following chapter – or their lawful representative. 31

31 Trans. Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir, based on King Magnus the Lawmender’s Laws of the Land, trans. Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir, 93.


The first paragraph contains information about the time and place for the assembly, as well as the obligation of the assembly member to attend nauðsynia laust (without necessity) – absence is only accepted for valid reasons. The Danish translation in Ms.4° 553 closely follows the Old Norse text, with the exception that the place of the assembly (Frosta) is omitted, and the time of the assembly is different, changing from the eve of St Botolf’s day (June 16) in Holm perg. 34 4to to the eve of St Peter’s day (June 28) in Ms.4° 553. In the exemplar of Ms.4° 553, Codex Tunsbergensis, the time is also the eve of St Peter’s Day, which is expected, since, according to Storm, Codex Tunsbergensis was used as the exemplar for Ms.4° 553.

The order of the information is altered in the translation. The Old Norse version in Holm perg. 34 4to presents the sequence as follows: 1) Every 12 months, 2) At Frosta on the right thing place, 3) The eve of St Botolf’s day. The translation in Ms.4° 553 presents it as: 1) The right thing place, 2) Every year, 3) The eve of St Peter’s Day. Interestingly, the exemplar of Ms.4° 553, Codex Tunsbergensis, reads differently: ‘En ver skulum logþingi vart eiga a .xii. manadom huarium a borg aþingstod rettom a petars uaku eftan’. This corresponds to the order of information in Holm perg. 34 4to, except for the difference in place and time. This could imply that Codex Tunsbergensis is not the exemplar of Ms.4° 553 after all, but another Old Norse manuscript from the province of Borgarthing.

In Ms.4° 377, the translation is slightly longer compared to Ms.4° 553, and the order of information is altered – time and place have switched positions compared to Holm perg. 34 4to. The translator has also elaborated on the information, for example, when Ms.4° 553 translates the Old Norse ‘a. xíí. Manaðom’ into ‘huert aar’ (every year), Ms.4° 377 reads ‘en gang huert aar’ (once every year). The translator also extends the description of those who are appointed (ON: ‘ero nemder’, Ms.4° 553: ‘ere neffnd’) to those who ‘are appointed, summoned, and declared as the right ones’. According to the variant apparatus of the Rindal & Spørck edition, none of the Old Norse manuscripts of the Landsl ǫg contain these additions, which suggests that the translator himself has added them.


The second paragraph concerns the duties of the officials, such as barons, or bailiffs, to appoint members to the assembly. The title ‘baron’ was introduced to the Norwegian nobility by King Magnús VI Hákonarson (the Lawmender, r. 1263–1280), probably in 1277, but it was abolished by his son, King Hákon Magnússon (r. 1299–1319) only a few decades later. The title is used only in a few of the Old Norse manuscripts, and the term lendr maðr (man of fiefdom) is the most common one, also used in Codex Tunsbergensis. The translator of Ms.4° 553 chooses to use the term forleningsmend , which is close to the original meaning. The rest of the text follows Holm perg. 34 4to rather closely, except for one distinct variant. Instead of referring to the number of members to the assembly mentioned in the next chapter, he only refers to old customs: the officials shall appoint as many members as they always have done, according to old customs. As mentioned above, this is a distinct feature related to the manuscripts of the Borgarthing group.

The translation in Ms.4° 377 is elaborated further even within this paragraph. The term barrun is translated as both ‘frimend eller adelsmend’ (free men or noblemen), which could encompass both barrun and lendr maðr. Furthermore, the Norwegian term for a geographical area, fylki , is translated to ‘fylke eller fougderi’. Both adelsmenn and fougderi are Danish terms, implying that the translator took into consideration that the intended readers of his translation would be Danes and that they might have had problems understanding the Norwegian terms. Still, by including the Old Norse term fylki it seems that he also considered Norwegian lawmen as possible readers of the manuscript. Finally, when referring to the number of men who should be appointed to the assembly, Ms.4° 377 points to the information on this in the next chapter, in the same way as in Holm perg. 34 4to.

In summary, the analysis of the two independent translations indicates that the translators adhere rather closely to the Old Norse version found in Holm perg. 34 4to. The exceptions involve altering of the order of the information, and more elaboration, particularly in Ms.4° 377. This manuscript introduces alternative Danish terms aimed at clarifying the meaning for its intended Danish readers, alongside Norwegian terms. Consequently, each translation is the


result of individual choices made by the translator, who sought to maintain a connection with the original medieval manuscript from which he translated, regardless of the contemporaneous translations being produced, i.e., the customary translations. A more accurate translation of the term selvstændig would then be ‘individual’, referring to the individual person who undertook the task of translating that medieval manuscript.

Figure 4: The first chapter of the Þingfararbǫlkr in Ms.4° 58, fol. 1r. The paragraph discussed in this chapter begins at the fifth line after the rubric.

Figure 5: The first chapter of the Þingfararbǫlkr in Ms.4° 314, fol. 3r. The paragraph under investigation begins at the fourth line after the rubric.

Analysis of the customary translations in Ms.4° 58 and Ms.4° 314

The investigation in this section will comprise the two translations

Ms.4° 58 and Ms.4° 314, by Storm categorised as sædvanlige – customary, or common. The translation in Ms.4° 553, discussed above, will serve as the reference text for comparison (see Table 2).

Ms.4° 58 is dated to around 1560 and is written by an anonymous scribe. This translation features the new prologue, although the first sheets of the manuscript are missing, but the last lines of the prologue can be seen on top of the page (Figure 4). The Credo is missing, and the section on land defence (the Landvarnarb ǫlkr) includes 11 chapters


in this manuscript. The text is written in gothic cursive on paper with black ink. This also includes the rubrics. Notes are written in the margins throughout the book, which leaves the impression that it has been used excessively by its owner.

Ms.4° 314 (Figure 5) is dated to the late sixteenth century and, similarly, by an anonymous scribe. This translation includes the old prologue, and the Landvarnarb ǫlkr is composed of 10 chapters. The text is written in gothic cursive on paper with black ink, even the rubrics. There is a table of contents in the beginning of every section. Only a few notes, or doodles, are written in the manuscript, and it appears not to have been used much.

Table 2: Transcription of two paragraphs from the Þingfararbǫlkr in the three translations in, from the left, Ms.4° 553, Ms.4° 58, and Ms.4° 314.

Ms.4° 553

Ennd wij skulle holde wort lagting paa rette tingstæd huert aar sanctj peders affthenn

Der skulle vj alle findis forfaldeløst som til tings ere neffnd.

Ms.4° 58

Saa er thett skickett, att alle Norgis mend skulle enn thidt huert aar holle itt moode som kallis lagting,

till thett ting skulle alle menndt komme vten forfalldt, bode kongis oc bispenns ombodis mennd.

Ms.4° 314

Er thett saa skikidt at alle Norigis mend skulle en thiidt huert aar holde itt mode som kaldis laugting,

till thett thing skulle alle mend komme som till thett thing ere neffndr udin all forefaldt baade kongins och bispens ombudzmend, lensmend och alle neffnder mennd, eller dissis Lauglig ombudzmen.

End forleningsmend, ombotzmend skulle haffue neffnd paa midfaste ting saa mange mend aff huerte fylcke som gamel sedwane haffuer werit eller deris rette ombodzmend

Item schall och huer lensmandt ij sitt lenn neffne saa mange menndt till lagting som Norgis gamell sedwane weritt haffuer.

Item skall huer lensmandt udi sitt leen neffne saa mange mend till laugting som gammill Norgis Sedvaane weritt haffer

What first strikes the eye is the distinct variation in the length of the translations. Even the two customary translations are not the same length. This is partly caused by differences in orthography, with a more extensive use of double consonants in Ms.4° 314.


Another reason seems to be that the first sentence is composed rather differently in Ms.4° 58 and Ms.4° 314 than in the reference text in Ms.4° 553. It is no longer wij (we), but Norgis mend (the men of Norway) who are to meet at the assembly. The shift from first person plural to third person plural suggests a new distance between the lawmaker – the Danish King – and the members of the assembly. Furthermore, the text does not state exactly when the assembly is to be held, only ‘enn thidt huert aar’ (some time every year), and nothing about where . Interestingly, in Ms.4° 58, it is specified that the meeting kalles lagting (is called lagting ). Lagting (legal assembly) is a Norwegian term unfamiliar to the Danish readers, so the translation provides an explanation. Consequently, in the next sentence, the word ting can be used without further explanations: ‘till thett ting’ (to that assembly).

According to the text in Ms.4° 58, all men should attend the assembly, both the king’s and the bishop’s attorneys. This last phrase is new in the customary translation – in the independent translations the members of the assembly are not specified, other than ‘all of us’ (Ms.4° 553: vj alle).

In the opening phrase of Ms.4° 314, the word order is slightly altered (Ms.4° 58: ‘Saa er thett’; Ms.4° 314: ‘Er thett saa’), but the remainder of the sentence closely mirrors Ms.4° 58. Towards the end of the first paragraph, two additions are made. The first is an addition to those men ‘som till thett thing ere neffndr’ (who are appointed to attend that assembly). While this is omitted in Ms.4° 58, it is present in Ms.4° 553. The next addition concerns the same aspect. After having mentioned ‘baade kongins och bispens ombudzmend’ (both the king’s and the bishop’s attorneys), Ms.4° 314 continues with ‘lensmend och alle neffnder mennd, eller dissis Lauglig ombudzmen’ (men of fiefdom, all appointed men or their legal attorneys).

The second paragraph is fairly similar in the two customary versions, and closely follows the text in Ms.4° 553. However, it diverges in replacing the Norwegian term fylke in Ms.4° 553 with leen (fief) in the customary translation. Moreover, the customary translation does not specify when the men should be appointed.


It should be noted that the customary translation refers to ‘old customs’ concerning the number of men who are to be appointed to the assembly. This suggests that the customary translations are based on an Old Norse exemplar from the southeastern parts of Norway, as argued by Storm (see above).

In summary, there appears to be less variation between the two customary translations in Ms.4° 58 and Ms.4° 314 than between either of them and the individual translation in Ms.4° 553, except for the additions mentioned above in terms of synonym usage and word order. This observation also holds true when considering the individual version in Ms.4° 377, except that the additions found in the latter are absent in the customary translations. In this regard, the two customary translations are more similar when compared to each other than the two individual ones when they are compared side by side. The omission of specific time and place details suggests that the intention behind the customary translation has been to create a more generalised legal framework applicable to the entire country. The use of Danish terms instead of Norwegian ones, along with the explanation of Norwegian terms such as lagting , can be explained by the necessity of creating a law text that is comprehensible for Danish readers. Compared to the two individual translations, it appears that the customary translations share a common source, while the two individual translations are more likely to have been made directly from different exemplars.

Analysis of the recently uncovered manuscripts Ms.8° 296 and Ms.8° 3121

Now that we have established an understanding of the distinctions between the individual and customary translations, our attention shifts to the two recently uncovered manuscripts at the National Library, namely Ms.8° 296 and Ms.8° 3121, to determine whether they belong to the group of individual or customary versions. Table 3 provides a comparative overview of these two manuscripts alongside the customary version in Ms.4° 314.

Ms.8° 296 (Figure 6) was written in the third quarter of the


Figure 6: Ms.8° 296, 4v. The first chapter of the Þingfararbǫlkr in Ms.8° 296, fol. 4v. The paragraph discussed in this chapter begins at the sixth line from the top, and the first line is written in brown ink – it was probably red at the time of writing.


Figure 7: The first chapter of the Þingfararbǫlkr in Ms.8° 3121, fol. 3r. The paragraph examined in this chapter begins at the second line.


sixteenth century by an anonymous scribe. It contains the new prologue, and the Landvarnarb ǫlkr consists of 11 chapters. The text is written in a gothic cursive with black ink and rubrics and initials are written in brown ink. This is possibly originally red ink that has eroded through time. There are no notes or other traces of use in the manuscript.

The other manuscript, Ms.8° 3121 (Figure 7), dated to around 1600, is also the work of an anonymous scribe. It contains the new prologue, and the Landvarnarb ǫlkr consists of 22 chapters. The text is written on paper in a gothic cursive with black ink, including the initials and rubrics. There are tables of content in the beginning of every section. No notes can be found surrounding the text in the manuscript.

The manuscript Ms.4° 314, against which these two are compared, is the longest of the two customary translations discussed above which will be addressed further in the following analysis.

Table 3: Transcriptions of the translations in Ms.4° 314, Ms.8° 296, and Ms.8° 3121.

Ms.4° 314

Er thett saa skikidt at alle Norigis mend skulle en thiidt huert aar holde itt mode som kaldis laugting,

till thett thing skulle alle mend komme som till thett thing ere neffndr udin all forefaldt

baade kongins och bispens ombudzmend, lensmend och alle neffnder mennd, eller dissis Lauglig ombudzmen.

Item skall huer lensmandt udi sitt leen neffne saa mange mend till laugting som gammill Norgis Sedvaane weritt haffer

Ms.8° 296

Er thett saa skicket att alle Noriges mend skulle end tijdt huerdt aar holde eth møde som kallis lagting

Tyll thett ting skulle alle mend komme vten forfalld

Ms.8° 3121

Er thet saa skicketh ath alle Norghis mennd skulle enn thid ij huerth aar hollde ith moode som kalldis laug-thingh

thill the thingh skulle alle bønder komme som didt er neffnde vdenn loughligth forfalldt

baadhe konninge och byscobs embedtsmend lensmend oc alle andhre neffndermend eller theres laglige ombodtzmend

Item skall och huer lensmand vdi sit leen neffne saa mange mend till lagting som gamle Norrijges seduane værit haffver

baade koninghens och biscopes embeth-mennd, lendsmend och alle nefnder mend heller theris louglige ombotsmend

Item skall och huer lentsmannd vdi sith læenn neffne saa manghe mennd thill laughingh som gammel Norghis sæedtwanne verreth haffuer


When examining the texts in the three manuscripts, notable similarities emerge in terms of terminology, synonyms, and word order. Naturally, some variants do occur, for example, in line 7, where Ms.4° 314 and Ms.8° 296 have the term men , Ms.8° 3121 uses bønder (householders). In the second paragraph, Ms.8° 296 has omitted the phrase ‘som till thett thing ere neffndr’ (who are appointed to attend that assembly), possibly because the scribe found the phrase redundant. It also becomes clear that the “additions” found in Ms.4° 314 (as compared to Ms.4° 58 discussed earlier) are present in both Ms.8° 296 and Ms.8° 3121. Therefore, it is more appropriate to assert that Ms.4° 58 lacks the specification about the appointed members of the assembly, rather than labelling them as additions in Ms.8° 296 and Ms.8° 3121.

Based on the many similarities and the structure of the texts, the conclusion as far as these sentences are concerned is that the two manuscripts belong to the category of sædvanlige , that is, customary, or common, translations.


This chapter has presented a preliminary study of six Danish translations of the Norwegian Landsl ǫg from 1274, which served as the authoritative law code in Norway until 1604 when the printed Norske Lov was enacted by the Danish King Christian IV. In this study, I have examined one of the initial paragraphs of the Þingfararb ǫlkr, the first section of the Landsl ǫg , in six selected translations. Two of these manuscripts, Ms.4° 553 and Ms.4° 377, have been translated directly from Old Norse manuscripts of the 1274 Landsl ǫg , classified by Gustav Storm as selvstændige – independent or individual. On the other hand, two other manuscripts, Ms.4° 58 and Ms.4° 314, have been classified as sædvanlige – common or customary. This translation is also close to the 1274 Landsl ǫg , however: my examination of the translations has revealed that the similarities between the common translations are more frequent and evident than those between the two individual translations.

The two individual translations are clearly derived from the Old Norse Landsl ǫg , as represented by Holm perg. 34 4to. Nevertheless, I


will argue that they are not dependent on each other, which makes it clear that two separate individuals have translated the Landsl ǫg without necessarily knowing about the other, using different exemplars. Different choices of terminology and word order support this argument. This stands in contrast to the two customary translations, where the choice of words and the word order are more or less the same in the analysed paragraph. Even if the portion of analysed text is relatively small, it seems likely that the customary translations share a common origin – most likely the translation attributed to Anders Sæbjørnsson, or the four lawmen. This translation then circulated in manuscripts throughout the sixteenth century.

The remaining two translations, Ms.8° 296 and Ms.8° 3121, were unknown to Storm, and consequently a secondary aim of the chapter has been to ascertain to which of the two categories they belong. The similarities between these two manuscripts on the one hand, and the versions in Ms.4° 58 and Ms.4° 314 on the other, are striking. This strongly suggests that these two recently discovered manuscripts fall within the same category as Ms.4° 58 and Ms.4° 314, denoting them as customary, or common, translations. As the meaning of Storm’s term sædvanlig is ‘most common’, that is, the most frequently appearing version, it is perhaps no surprise to find that even these two manuscripts belong to this category.

This pilot study has only scratched the surface of the Landsl ǫg translations, exploring a limited portion of the content across the six manuscripts. More research is needed on the translations of the Landsl ǫg , both regarding the content in the many translations, and the recension as a whole. As noted above, in two of the translations, marginalia throughout the texts testify to an extensive use of the manuscripts, while the four others are more or less blank in that respect. This suggests that the latter were produced out of an interest in old manuscripts, as was common at that time, rather than for the purpose of use by a l ǫgmaðr. The questions of ownership and how these translations were used, or whether they were used at all, should thus be addressed further.

Finally, some reflections on the terms selvstændig (independent,


individual) and sædvanlig (most common). Based on the analyses conducted above, to some extent the term selvstændig fits more appropriately with the versions that Storm classified as sædvanlig (common), depending on the text to which one compares the translations. The translations of the Landsl ǫg in Ms.4° 58, Ms.4° 314, Ms.8° 296, and Ms.8° 3121 are largely independent from the Old Norse Landsl ǫg from 1274, even though they clearly draw on it. On the other hand, the two translations labelled selvstændig by Storm, Ms.4° 553 and Ms.4° 377, exhibit a higher degree of dependence on the Old Norse version. In these translations, the translators have chosen Danish terminology to make the law understandable for the Danish readers. From a modern point of view, the ‘individual’, or ‘independent’ translations examined in this study are therefore more dependent on the Old Norse Landsl ǫg , as represented by Holm perg. 34 4to, and the translators have endeavoured to connect to the tradition of the medieval Old Norse Landsl ǫg – which was the most ‘common’ law since the late thirteenth century. As such, the Norwegian term selvstændig , literally translated ‘independent’, would fit better to the translations denoted by Storm as sædvanlige , ‘most common’. This group of manuscripts encompasses translations deriving from the same origin, and as such they are part of a parallel tradition of transmission, being more independent (selvstændige) from the Old Norse manuscripts of the Landsl ǫg from 1274.




Copenhagen, Arnamagnæan Institute

AM 60 4to

Copenhagen, Royal Library

NKS 1642 4to

Oslo, Deichman Library

33 4to

Oslo, National Library of Norway

Ms.fol. 5

Ms.4° 58

Ms.4° 314

Ms.4° 377

Ms.4° 553

Ms.8° 296

Ms.8° 3121

Linköping, City Library (Stiftsbibliotek)

J7 (listed as Gymnasii bibliothek, B.72 in Storm’s catalogue)

Stockholm, National Library

Isl. Perg. 34 4to

Printed sources

Holm perg. 34 4to – Landslǫg Magnúss Hákonarsonar | Magnus Lagabøtes landslov. Edited by Anna Catharina Horn and Robert Paulsen. Menota, 2020. Accessed 15 August 2023. https://clarino.uib.no/menota/catalogue.

King Magnus the Lawmender’s Laws of the Land. Translated by Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir. Routledge Medieval Translations. Abingdon: Routledge, 2024.

Kong Magnus Håkonsson Lagabøtes landslov. Edited by Magnus Rindal and Bjørg Dale Spørck. 2 vols. Norrøne tekster 9. Oslo: Riksarkivet, 2018.

Norges gamle Love indtil 1387. Vol. 2. Edited by Rudolf Keyser and P.A. Munch. Christiania [Oslo]: Commissionen for Udgivelse af de gamle Norske Love, 1848.


Secondary literature

Horn, Anna Catharina . ‘Form og formål: Landsloven som brobygger i norsk historie’. In Språk i arkivet. Historier om hvordan språk reflekterer samfunnet, edited by Johanne Ostad and Elise Kleivane, 60–79. Nota bene 16. Oslo: Nasjonalbiblioteket, 2021.

Leslie-Jacobsen, Helen F. ‘The Parergon and the Transformation of the Prologues to the Medieval and Early Modern Norwegian Landslǫg (1274–1604)’. Interfaces: A Journal of Medieval European Literatures 9 (2022): 10–39. DOI: 10.54103/interfaces-09-03.

Rasmussen, Elizabeth Sverdrup . ‘Translation and Cultural Influence in Norway c.1100–1600’. PhD thesis. Montreal: Concordia University, 2002. https:// open.unive.it/hitrade/books/RasmussenNorway-1.pdf.

Robberstad, Knut . Rettssoga. Vol. 1. 3. rev. edn. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1976.

Storm, Gustav . Om Haandskrifter og Oversettelser av Magnus Lagabøters Love. Christiania Videnskabsselskabs Forhandlinger 14. Christiania: Jacob Dybwad, 1879.

Storm, Gustav. ‘Haandskriftbeskrivelse’. In Norges gamle Love indtil 1387. Vol. 4, edited by Gustav Storm, 389–797. Christiania: Commissionen for Udgivelse af de gamle Norske Love, 1885.

Vinje, Finn-Erik . Den norske landsloven i svensk målform. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1967.

Witting, Mette Refslund . ‘Nasjonalbibliotekets landslovhåndskrifter og deres proveniens’. In Lov og lovgivning i middelalderen. Nye studier av Magnus Lagabøtes landslov, edited by Anna Catharina Horn and Karen Arup Seip, 32–66. Nota bene 14. Oslo: Nasjonalbiblioteket, 2020.

Bibliography 218

7. ‘Þetta er hworke gamallt nie gagnlegt’ (This is neither Old nor Useful): (Re-)Constructions

of the Medieval Legal Archive in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century*

The National Library of Norway holds a number of early modern manuscripts of Icelandic and Norwegian legal texts from the midseventeenth to the mid-eighteenth century. These are not translations, as would have been the custom at that time, but rather, the texts in their original Old Norse wording. This chapter will concentrate on and discuss three manuscripts in the collection, namely Ms.fol. 86, Ms.fol. 87b, and Ms.8° 66, with side glimpses to other manuscripts. All three manuscripts are witnesses to early modern attempts to reproduce medieval legal texts, and to reiterate and restate in ever new ways what one might call the medieval legal archive. This concept is understood in the sense of memory and discourse theory, as a material and discursive construction of a tradition, i.e., as assemblages of what ought to be said and remembered in a culture of a given time. 1 Manuscript

* I owe thanks to Patricia Boulhosa, Guðrún Laufey Guðmundsdóttir, Beeke Stegmann and Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir, who have provided me with valuable information regarding individual manuscripts or discussed detail aspects of this article with me. All mistakes and shortcomings in the following presentation are mine.

1 Aleida Assmann suggests the notion of archive to describe cultural memory that is stored, but not actively circulated as the core, the canon, of memory, see ‘Canon and Archive’, 102–104. Within the context of his discourse theory, Foucault defines the archive as everything that can be said in a society at a given time, see The Archaeology of Knowledge , 1972, 128–31. See also Rohrbach, ‘Material Philology’, 213–214.


textuality allows to an exceptional degree for insights into the dynamicity of the discursive archive of a society due to its fluid, open, variant nature. This also applies to the early modern manuscripts of medieval Icelandic and Norwegian legal texts. These manuscripts reflect preconceptions of their scribes, compilers and archivists as to what texts were regarded as relevant, as to what texts were and ought to be compiled together, as well as to how these texts ought to be rendered.

A study of the materiality and textuality of these manuscripts can serve as an entry point to further understanding the complex interplay of juridical, antiquarian, historical, and (proto-)philological interest in the medieval legal tradition in this period.

In the following, I will address the material and textual peculiarities of the three manuscripts in comparison to previous and contemporaneous manuscripts, and explore what they reveal about different underlying rationales and working methods of the scribes and commissioners at work in this period.

Figure 1: Ms.fol. 86, opening with the end of Grágás and the beginning of Járnsíða.
Figure 2: Ms.fol. 86. Title page, fol. 1r.

Ms.fol. 86 – Antiquarian Construction of a Legal Corpus

Ms.fol. 86 (Figure 1) is a codex that seems to have been produced in two stages in the latter half of the seventeenth century. 2 It consists of three texts: Grágás, Járnsíða and Hirðskrá , and a title page, and the manuscript is today bound with a beautiful delicate bronzy cover of mid-eighteenth-century brocade paper from the workshop of Simon Haichele in Augsburg, decorated with birds and flowers in red. 3

The title page (fol. 1, Figure 2) reveals that if not from the very beginning, then at any rate in its final stage, the manuscript was meant to contain three items. The first was Grágás , and the second Járnsíða , or rather ‘Løgboc Kong[s] 4 Hakonar Gamla’ (lawbook of King Hákon the Old), as it is called on the title page. Finally comes ‘Gardsriettur Kong Magnusar Hakunarsunar’ (court law of King Magnús Hákonarson), or as a later addition in darker ink adds, ‘her kalladur Hyrdskra’ (here called Hirðskrá). The lower bar of the decorated frame of the title page features the initials D J S, a detail to which I will return below.

The first two texts in the codex are written in the hand of Þórður Jónsson í Skálavík (d. 1680). 5 Þórður produced a variety of manuscripts in the latter half of the seventeenth century commissioned by Magnús Jónsson í Vigur (1637–1702), a wealthy patron of

2 On the contents and codicology of this codex, see also Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir, introduction to Kong Magnus Håkonsson Lagabøtes hirdskrå

3 The upper inner edge of the cover reads ‘PRIV. SAC. CÆS. MAJE.’ (front cover) and ‘SIMON HAICHELE IN AVGSP N[O]’ (back cover). [with imperial privilege. Simon Haichele in Augsburg n[umber]]. On print addresses in early modern prints, see Stijnman, ‘Terms and Abbreviations in Print Addresses’; on the imperial privilege, see in particular p. 8. Simon Haichele is a known manufacturer of brocade paper in the period 1740–1750 (for a catalogue of his known brocade papers, including print addresses, see Haemmerle, Buntpapier, 199–201). On the technical aspects of this brocade paper envelope, see also Hesselberg-Wang, Dekorert papir, chap. ‘Metallisert dekorert papir’, doc. 72.

4 The s is added after Kong in darker ink. It seems to be added at the same time as the addition of the title Hirðskrá further down the page.

5 On fol. 113v, Járnsíða ends with the colophon: ‘Skrifat oc endat ad Skaala Wijk vid miöafiørd, af Thörde Jonssyne. Anno Domini 1655. þann. 6 Decembris’ (Written and completed at Skálavík in Mjóafjörður by Þórður Jónsson on 6 December 1655).


book production in Iceland at that time. 6 Several other legal manuscripts can be connected to this scribal community. 7

Figure 3: Table of contents of Grágás on Ms.fol. 86, fol. 6v, with a mise en page reminiscent of Staðarhólsbók.

Figure 4: Table of contents of Landabrigðisþáttr of Grágás on fol. 70r in Staðarhólsbók.

6 On Magnús Jónsson í Vigur and Þórður Jónsson, see Springborg, ‘Antiqvæ historiæ lepores’, 74–77, and Jóhann Gunnar Ólafsson, ‘Magnús Jónsson í Vigur’, who lists all known manuscripts in previous possession of Magnús. On Magnús Jónsson, his scribes, and manuscripts in his possession, see also the recent research project Icelandic Scribes , https:// icelandicscribesproject.com/ (last accessed 15 June 2023). Jóhann Gunnar Ólafsson and the Icelandic Scribes project do not list Ms.fol. 86 amongst Magnús’ belongings, but Peter Springborg does so, albeit without presenting the evidence for this ascription, see ‘Antiqvæ historiæ lepores’, 74.

7 Reykjavík, Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, Steph 9 (c. 1700), a manuscript in Magnús’ possession, contains Grágás and Járnsíða . Magnus Stephensen (1762–1833) identified the hand as Páll Vídalín’s (1667–1727), whereas Agnete Loth rejects this identification in favour of the hand of Árni Magnússon í Bolungarvík (c. 1625–1698), the uncle of Magnús Jónsson’s second wife (see Loth, ‘Om håndskrifter fra Vigur’, 99–100). No text of Hirðskrá is known from his belongings. Handrit.is lists two younger manuscripts of Jónsbók in the hand of Þórður: Reykjavík, National and University Library of Iceland, Lbs 1401 8vo (1667), and JS 6 4to (1673). All datings of manuscripts in this article are according to handrit.is, unless otherwise stated.


Figure 5: Ms.fol. 86, fol. 2r. Beginning of the Registur þessarar bokar (Index of this book) and table of Erfðaþáttur, which is not contained in Staðarhólsbók.


The text of Grágás is preceded by an incomplete table of contents for Grágás and Járnsíða (fol. 2r–7r), which, in its mise en page , is reminiscent of the table of contents in Staðarhólsbók (Reykjavík, Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, AM 334 fol.), the textual source of the copy of Grágás (see Figures 3 and 4). 8 With regards to content, however, the table departs from Staðarhólsbók and it also contains parts that do not have a table in the medieval exemplar, such as in the case of Erfðaþáttur, the section on inheritance (Figure 5).9

The pages in the first part of Grágás up to fol. 55r are foliated with letters and numbers, from A1 to Þ2.10 The whole text of Grágás is set in a mise en page that clearly draws on and relates to the layout of Staðarhólsbók, but again, the presentation is not identical. Just like in the two medieval codices of Grágás, the text of Grágás in Ms.fol. 86 is written in two columns throughout, but the use of script is heterogeneous and alternates between cursive and a diplomatic rendering of the medieval text of Grágás . From fol. 83v onwards, chapter initials, chapter numberings and chapter headings or beginnings are rubricated consistently, with scattered rubrics in earlier parts of the codex. Especially this latter part clearly adopts material characteristics of the medieval exemplar, with multi-coloured initials in red, green and black, and even hanging black initials that are characteristic for Staðarhólsbók. 11 However, the page and line breaks are

8 The table ends in its extant form on fol. 7r in the beginning of Járnsíða with the heading ‘Christins Domz Bälkr’ (Christian Law Section). The page is glued onto another page of paper, making it impossible to see whether the table originally continued on the next page. The text of Grágás that follows begins on a new quire, so that the table of contents could potentially have originally continued for another page to complete a full quaternion, i.e., four double pages or eight folios.

9 For an overview of the tables of contents in Staðarhólsbók, see Rohrbach ‘Matrix of the Law?’, 112.

10 As far as possible, the foliation of the manuscripts in this article follows the foliation in the catalogues of the National Library of Norway and Jónas Kristjánsson, Skrá um íslenzk handrit .

11 For a detailed analysis of the mise en page and material characteristics of Staðarhólsbók, see Rohrbach, ‘Matrix of the Law?’. For the materiality of Konungsbók (GKS 1157 fol.), see Boulhosa, ‘Layout and the Structure of the Text in Konungsbók’.


Figure 6: Ms.fol. 86, fol. 89v–90r. Beginning of Rekaþáttur of Grágás. The texts clearly contains features copied from the medieval exemplar as well as conventions adopted from printing, such as the centred chapter headings. The text and use of abbreviations is close, but not identical, to Staðarhólsbók.

Figure 7: Staðarhólsbók, fol. 87v–88r. Beginning of Rekaþáttur of Grágás.


different, and the initials are reminiscent in style, but not identical. The same applies to the palaeography and use of abbreviations. This is clearly visible on fol. 89v–90r of Ms.fol. 86, which

Figure 8: Ms.fol. 86, fol. 106v. End of Erfðatal and beginning of Landabrigðisþáttr in Járnsíða with decorative patterns, a Finis emblem, and a playful title in multiple colours.

Figure 9: Ms.fol. 86, fol. 114r. Hirðskrá, written in one column.

contains the beginning of Rekaþáttur (see Figures 6 and 7). Furthermore, the centred placement of chapter headings is clearly influenced by conventions of printing, whereas the rubrication is reminiscent of the medieval tradition. The Járnsíða-part, too, draws on the medieval materiality of its exemplar, but in an even freer manner, with clear borrowing from early modern book layout conventions, featuring playful multi-coloured chapter headings in fraktur and extensive use of decorative patterns (Figure 8).12

The final text of the compilation, Hirðskrá , is not presented in a ‘medieval’ layout, i.e. imitating medieval conventions of script, but written in one column in a hybrid script and with initials in black ink in a contemporary style (Figure 9). The chapter headings, too, are

12 Furthermore, section headings are inserted in places where they are not extant in Staðarhólsbók, in particular in the case of Landabrigðisþáttur (fol. 106v).

Figure 10: Ms.fol. 86, fol. 130v. Last page of the codex with note on Grágás and owner notes.

presented in a contemporary style, singled out in a separate line, centred and in black ink, as was customary in manuscripts produced in that period. A comparison of the script in this final part with the script on the title page – both the original wording and, in particular, the later addition of the title Hirðskrá – suggests that the hands are identical. The last page of the codex, fol. 130v, might actually give a hint as to the context of the writing of these two outer parts of the codex, as it contains an owner mark from 1679 by the sheriff (sýslumaður) Daði Jónsson (Figure 10). This note matches the mentioned initials D J S in the lower frame of the title page, which might suggest that the title page and Hirðskrá were added when Daði received the codex as a gift from Magnús Jónsson in 1679, either by one of Magnús’ scribes or perhaps by Daði himself.13

The final page also has the name ‘Dolmer’ written below Daði Jónsson’s note, written in humanistic cursive with a lighter ink. This latter note leads Jónas Kristjánsson to the conclusion that it is an owner note in the hand of Jens Dolmer, and that the codex thus was in his possession.14 If the note were indeed by Dolmer, it would have had to have been inserted before the manuscript was transported from Iceland, as Dolmer died in the year 1670 (nine years before the owner mark of Daði Jónsson), but the materiality of the page rather indicates an insertion that postdates Daði Jónsson’s note.15

The last page features yet another link back to the title page:

13 See Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir, introduction to Kong Magnus Håkonsson Lagabøtes hirdskrå , 31–32.

14 ‘Virðist bókin um skeið hafa verið í eigu Jens Dolmers (d. 1670). Síðar hefur Magnús Jónsson lögmaður eignazt hana, og þá Daði Jónsson sýslumaður á Jörfa á Kjalarnesi árið 1679’ (The book seems to have been in the possession of Jens Dolmer (d. 1670) for a while. Later did the judge Magnús Jónsson acquire it, and then Daði Jónsson, sheriff in Jörfi in Kjalarnes in the year 1679), see Jónas Kristjánsson, Skrá um íslenzk handrit , 11. All translations in this article are mine, unless otherwise stated.

15 Jónas Kristjánsson notes that Dolmer does not seem to have used the manuscript in his edition (Jónas Kristjánsson, Skrá um íslenzk handrit , 11). At any rate, there is no mention of it in his edition. I was unfortunately not able to find any other artefact written in Jens Dolmer’s hand to compare the signature with to solidify the rejection of Jónas Kristjánsson’s assumption.


The name Grágás, followed by an explanation of this title, is repeated and the title given on the top of the title page is thus taken up again on this last page of the codex.16 The title page as such, and the double use of this title, are one of two significant characteristics of this codex that deserve more attention. The title Grágás used so far to designate the first item in the codex was of a rather recent nature at the time of the making of Ms.fol. 86, in the second half the seventeenth century, and the manuscript is one of the first to use this title at all.17 To my knowledge, the oldest manuscript to use the title Grágás is the Icelandic manuscript AM 125 a 4to from around 1600, where the title appears three times throughout the codex.18 From the mid-seventeenth century onwards, the title is taken up in the manuscript transmission in variations: AM 124 a 4to relates to the text as ‘Grafugls Bok’ (fol. 1r), AM 120 4to and AM 124 b 4to call it Grágás. 19 The mid-seventeenth century scribe of AM 341 fol. does not give a title, but Árni Magnússon refers some decades later to the text as Grágás in his note in the beginning of the codex, and furthermore reveals that the text is copied

16 The note on fol. 130v reads: ‘Graagas: Þad eru þaug laug oc landsriettur sem Wirdulegur herra Olafur helgi haralldsson I fyrstu utgaf, og þar epter af hans loflega syne Magnuse konge Goda Confirmerud, huoria og so Islendingar nockru sydar fyrir lóg toku’ (Grágás: These are the laws and the land law that the honourable lord Saint Olav Haraldsson enacted in the first instance, and after that confirmed by his lawful son King Magnus the Good, and that the Icelanders somewhat later adopted as law).

17 The name Járnsíða does not appear on the title page, but a separate hand noted it down in the upper margin in the beginning of the text on fol. 95r ‘Jarnsida edur Hákonar Løgbook’ (Járnsíða or Hákon’s lawbook).

18 The full shelfmark is Reykjavík, Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, 125 a 4to. The name appears on fol. 1r: ‘Nockrar Greinir wr norskum laugum þ ei m Gragas fylgia og magnus konun gur lagabætir he fur þ ar wuid Aukid og kollud woru i þann tijma nyulaug’ (Some articles from the Norwegian laws that follow Grágás [i.e., Járnsíða , LR] and that Magnus the Lawmender added and that were called new laws at that time); on fol. 3v: ‘Nock ʀ a ʀ faar Greinir wr þ eir ri LogBok se m sumer kalla GraGÄS’ (A few articles from the lawbook that some call Grágás), as well as on the last page of the codex on fol. 14v: ‘Þesso E ʀ u Balka nofn G ʀ agasar. Ad þui mig minn ir’ (These are the section names of Grágás , as far as I remember).

19 The full shelfmarks are Reykjavík, Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, AM 120 4to and AM 124 b 4to. On AM 120 4to, see Springborg, ‘Antiqvæ historiæ lepores’, 73, and Springborg, ‘Nyt og gammelt fra Snæfjallaströnd, 302–305 and 321–324. Also Reykjavík, Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, Steph 9, the manuscript of Grágás and Járnsíða in Magnús’ possession from around 1700, has the title Grágás , see Steph 9, fol. 1r.


from a manuscript that he received from Jónas Daðason, the son of Daði Jónsson (the one-time owner of Ms.fol. 86). 20

AM 120 4to is of particular interest for the present context, as the codex was commissioned in 1640 by Jón Arason, the father of Magnús Jónsson í Vigur, and sent to the Icelandic scholar Thormod Torfæus (Þormóður Torfason, 1636–1719) in 1664. According to Peter Springborg, the text of Grágás and Járnsíða in this codex was copied from Stockholm, National Library, papp 66 4to (hereafter Holm 66 4to), a copy of Staðarhólsbók. Both Holm 66 4to and AM 120 4to share some textual characteristics in that the Christian law sections, and the section on the travel to the assembly (Þingfararb ǫlkr) are omitted. 21 Ms. fol. 86 also omits the Christian laws section in Grágás, but presents the complete text of Járnsíða . Furthermore, since neither Holm 66 4to nor AM 120 4to render the text in a diplomatic copy of Staðarhólsbók, but rather, in a contemporaneous mise en page in one column, Þórður must have copied the text either from Staðarhólsbók directly, or from yet another unknown diplomatic copy of Staðarhólsbók.

Another manuscript from the mid-eighteenth century in the holdings of the National Library of Norway, Ms.fol. 30, gives insights into contemporaneous deliberations that mirror the recent appearance of this title in the manuscript tradition. The codex is written in the hand of the Icelander Jón Marteinsson (1711–1771), a scribe who worked for, amongst others, P. F. Suhm (1728–1798) and Hans Gram (1685–1748) in Copenhagen. Jón was involved in and partly funded by the then young institution of the Arnamagnæan Collection. 22 The

20 The full shelfmark is Reykjavík, Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, AM 341 fol.; see f. 1r: ‘Ur Grágas. Ur bok er eg feck af Jonas Dadasyne’ (From Grágás . From a book that I received from Jónas Daðason). AM 341 fol. is, however, a copy of Konungsbók Grágásar (Reykjavík, Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, GKS 1157 fol.) and the manuscript in the possession of Daði Jónsson mentioned in Árni’s note thus cannot be identical with Ms.fol. 86.

21 Grágás omits Kristinna laga þáttur and begins with Erfðaþáttr, and Járnsíða omits Kristindómsbálkr and Þingfarabálkr and begins with Mannhelgi . See Springborg, ‘Antiqvæ historiæ lepores’, 322.

22 See Páll Eggert Ólason, Íslenzkar æviskrár, 3:226.

Figure 11: Ms.fol. 30, fol. 8r. Beginning of Jón Marteinsson’s treatise on Grágás.

manuscript contains lengthy, somewhat amusing and at times nearly poetic considerations of the origin of the title Grágás (Figure 11).

Amongst others it reads:

Og saaeledes er det heelwel mueligt, at Bogen af hendes generalitet over det ganske Rige er bleven kaldet gaas, thi fuglen gaas er i sig selv stórre end de fleste sorter andefugle, og udi sit flóy tager en viid omkreds, og af den lignelse kunde Bogen kaldes gaas; thi hun i samme maade var stórre en de forige specielles og meget mindre herreds eller fylke love, hvilke alle til hoebe hun begreebede sig, og saaledes udstrackte sine vinger og flóy over det ganske Riige; men hvorfor den er bleven kaldet graagaas, vil mand have for aarsage refereret, at lovbogen gaas, da hun var sammenskreven og indbunden; er hun vel bleven sin auctor og lovgiveren kong Magnus den goede præsenteret, og da welmueligt, som bóger i den Tyd pleyede at være, ikkun maadelig conditioneret; nemlig: bladene med huller og Pialter, og kappen uden om af uberendt, halvloden, graat og ureenligt skind, maa kongen vel have faldet paa den lystige betænkning, at kalde bogen efter den, som hun faar ligest ind, det er en graagaas, hvilket da kandske strax er bleven paa den fórste codex antegnet. 23

(And so, it is very well possible that the book – because of its generality over the whole realm – has been called goose, because the bird goose is, in itself, larger than most types of anatids, and covers in its flight a wide ambit, and, based on that simile, the book might have been called goose; because it was in the same way larger than the previous specific and much smaller district laws, which it took up all together, and thus spread its wings and flew over the whole realm; but as to why it was called Grágás, the reason has been referred to that when the lawbook Goose was compiled and bound, it was presented to its author and lawgiver Magnus the Good, and it is well possible, as books in this time used to be, in rather poor condition, that is: leaves with holes and in shreds, and the binding around it out of untreated, half-loden, grey and dirty leather, that the King might have hit upon the cheerful idea to call the book after what it resembled most, which is a greygoose, which then maybe right away was noted on the first codex.)

23 Ms.fol. 30, fol. 8v.


In his notes, Jón also refers to Árni Magnússon’s view that the title is of a recent nature:

Dette u-agted kand mand dog rymeligen formælde og slutte om denne Islandske fórste skrevne lov graagaasen ongefæhr det samme som sal. Arnas Magnæus in notis sinis ineditis ad Schedas Aronis Frode har meent, og ligesom peget til i hans Raisonnement sammestæds, at denne Islandske lovbog graagasen ikke haver heedet saaledes i fordum tyd, eller og af sin fórste begyndelse, og det nafn findes icke nogensteds for antegnet end langt efter den norske graagas. Der findes og mange gamle Bógger uden Titel og Summarier, og skulde man kiende dem af den fórste Clausul i Texten, hvilken de gamle pleyede at kunde uden ad. Ligeledes var der mange gamle bógger paa hvilke var ingen Titelform, men de linier som skulle betegne Indholden, stoede i Samfælde med den anden Text; og kand det da være her passeret, at man uden nogen synderlig Betænksomhed haver kasted Titul og Nafn paa denne Bog efter den forige Norske, saa at hun skulde dog heedde noget, om end icke just det, som rettest passed. 24

(This notwithstanding, one can rightfully announce and conclude about this first written Icelandic law Grágás more or less the same as what the late Árni Magnússon in his unedited notes about the booklet of Ari fróði (the Wise) uttered and pointed out in his reasoning in the same context, namely, that this Icelandic lawbook Grágás was not called like this in the old times or from its first beginnings, and the name is not noted down somewhere before long after the Norwegian Grágás . There are also many old books without titles and summaries, and one had to know them from the first clause in the text, which the old used to know by heart. There were also many old books without any form of title, but the lines that should describe the contents were presented in line with the other text; and it may have happened here that one without further thinking threw title and name on this book after the previous Norwegian, because it should be called something, even though not quite what seemed most fitting.)

The title Grágás was thus a recent ascription at the time Ms.fol. 86 was made, and the title page is, in fact, the first of its kind for Grágás, at least to my knowledge. Title pages appear in the Icelandic tradition from the middle of the sixteenth century, but they only become

24 Oslo, National Library of Norway (NB), Ms.fol. 30, fol. 11v.


common in the second quarter of the seventeenth century. 25 Magnús Jónsson í Vigur seems to have played a decisive role in the breakthrough of this medial practice, 26 which thus places the scribal context of Ms.fol. 86 in the orbit of Magnús Jónsson very near to the introduction of title pages to the Icelandic tradition.

A second peculiarity of the codex in its present form is the compilation of texts as such. Grágás and Járnsíða are copied from the same template, Staðarhólsbók, which, at the same time, is the only medieval text of the latter. The third item in the codex, Hirðskrá , is transmitted in Norwegian manuscripts, and in fourteenth-century Icelandic manuscripts that contain Jónsbók and Bishop Árni Þorláksson’s Christian Law. 27 The compilation of the two Icelandic lawbooks preceding Jónsbók alongside the Norwegian law of the retinue is a textual combination that thus finds no counterpart in the medieval tradition. The text ual assemblage is, in fact, a singular combination. 28 There are several copies of Hirðskrá from different exemplars throughout the seventeenth century, with a distinctive culmination around 1700 in the sphere of Thormod Torfæus and Árni Magnússon. 29 Most of these

25 Hufnagel, ‘Title Pages’, 307–10.

26 Hufnagel, ‘Title Pages’, 331; Springborg, ‘Antiqvæ historiæ lepores’, 76.

27 Imsen, ed., introduction to Hirdskråen , 18–19; Rohrbach ‘Construction, Organisation, Stabilisation‘, 249.

28 Copenhagen, Royal Library, GKS 1158 b fol., written in Copenhagen in 1754 by Illugi Sigurðsson (c . 1724–1759), contains the same textual compilation. The wording on the title page and the mise en page of the complete codex follow the materiality of Ms.fol. 86, also regarding the number of columns in the different texts and the decoration of initials. GKS 1158 b fol. might thus be a direct copy of Ms.fol. 86, which would imply that the manuscript was in Copenhagen in the middle of the eighteenth century.

29 These manuscripts are all held in Copenhagen, the Arnamagnæan Manuscript Collection: AM 324 fol. (Ásgeir Jónsson, 1688–1705, copy of AM 350 fol.), AM 103 4to (Ásgeir Jónsson, 1688–1705, copy of AM 350 fol.), AM 104 4to (17th c., copy of AM 350 fol.), AM 105 4to (Jón Hákonarson, 1690–1710, copy of Heyneslögbok [which cannot be identical with AM 147 4to, designated as Heynesbók, as this does not contain Hirðskrá]), AM 106 4to (Jón Hákonarson, 1690–1710, copy of Heyneslögbok), AM 185 4to (c. 1700, copy of AM 354 fol.), AM 34 8vo (Eggert Jónsson, 1625–1675, copy of AM 350 fol.). The identifications of the exemplars are by Árni Magnússon (in attached slips or also noted on the first folios) and not made explicit by the scribes themselves. Reykjavík, the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, AM 350 fol. is nicknamed Skarðsbók Jónsbókar.


copies were produced as single-text units, in the sense that the manuscripts contain only the text of Hirðskrá , but at least three of them, AM 324 fol., AM 104 4to, and AM 34 8vo, were originally part of larger compilations, as will be discussed in more detail later in this chapter. The original part of Ms.fol. 86 in Þórður Jónsson’s hand can be characterised as a manuscript that was made with a distinctive antiquarian interest in the medieval materiality of the texts copied, even though it emancipates itself somewhat from the medieval model, both materially and textually. The later augmentation of the codex adds to this creative reconstruction of the medieval Icelandic legal corpus. It presents – as announced and concerted by the title page – the two Icelandic legal texts that predate Jónsbók together with the royal court law, without the Christian law section of Grágás. The codex in its final form thus constructs an Icelandic secular legal corpus prior to Jónsbók , a corpus that most likely never existed in this form in the medieval tradition.

Ms.fol. 87b – Philological Gathering of the Legal Archive

The manuscript with the shelf number Ms.fol. 87b consists of fourteen loose booklets that today are all kept in separate envelopes in one manuscript box. 30 Most of the booklets are without any outer binding, or only recent ones, such as in the case of booklet 7, but the third booklet is bound in beautiful blue and red paste paper (Figure 12). 31 The booklets are written by several hands, some of which recur across the collection, and the contents indicate that most of them must have been written in Copenhagen in the first half of the eighteenth century. Some of the fourteen items contain only one legal text, such as several booklets that feature different versions of the Norwegian church law, while others contain large collections of shorter texts, royal amendments and ecclesiastical statutes. In the catalogue of the National Library of

30 For a detailed list of the contents, see Jónas Kristjánsson’s catalogue of Icelandic manuscripts in Norway, in which the manuscript is filed under shelf number Ms.fol. 87 (Jónas Kristjánsson, Skrá um íslenzk handrit , 11–19).

31 On this paper envelope, see Hesselberg-Wang, Dekorert papir, ch. ‘Klisterbaserte dekoreringsteknikker’, doc. 37.


12. Ms.fol. 87b, booklet 3. Decorated paper binding.

Figure 13: Ms.fol. 87b, booklet 3, fol. 9v–10r. Beginning of the synoptic bilingual presentation of Archbishop Eilif’s statute, with the exemplars of both texts given in the top of the outer margins.


Norway, the manuscript item is listed as part of the archive of Bernhard Møllmann (1702–1778), who was professor, royal historian, rector of the university as well librarian at the Royal Library in Copenhagen from the 1740s – one generation after Árni Magnússon and Ludvig Holberg (1684–1754). In his catalogue, however, Jónas Kristjánsson raises doubts as to this provenance, which seems to have been established by the Norwegian Old Norse scholar Hallvard Lie. 32 Irrespective of the provenance, the collection exhibits an interest in assembling an encompassing collection of minor Norwegian ecclesiastical and royal legal texts from the thirteenth century to the end of the Middle Ages, with a distinctive philological approach: Throughout the booklets, the textual source of the copied texts is regularly explicitly given in the form of references to manuscript shelfmarks in the Arnamagnæan Collection or other archives. 33 The philological impetus

32 ‘H[allvard] L[ie] segir að ‘en del av hss. i det minste synes å skrive seg fra Bernh. Møllmanns samling. Jfr. flg. nummers proveniens’. Ekki er ljóst hvad H. L. hefur fyrir sér í þessu’ (Hallvard Lie says that ‘a part of the manuscript at least seems to derive from Bernhard Møllmann’s collection. See the provenance of the following number. It is not clear on what H. L. bases this), see Jónas Kristjánsson, Skrá um íslenzk handrit , 19. Hallvard Lie’s notes are found in NB, Ms.4° 4331:C.

33 The beginning of the individual texts gives the source of the transcript, sometimes with specifications as to the format or date of the manuscript, or also the placement in the codex, e.g.:

- booklet 2, fol. 1r: ‘Ex Cod. Membran: N. 78 in qvarto majore’ (From the parchment codex number 78 in large quarto).

- booklet 3, fol. 9v: ‘Ex Cod. pergam. Bibl. Arn: Magn: No 138 in 4to’ (From the parchment codex number 138 in quarto in the library of Árni Magnússon).

- regarding the Latin translation of the statute on the opposite page, booklet 3, fol. 10r: ‘Ex. Chart. Bibl. Arn Magn: No 345 in fol: autographum ipsius’ (From the paper manuscript number 345 in folio in the library of Árni Magnússon, in his autograph) – Note: 345 is a scribal error; it ought to be 355. AM 355 a fol. is a paper manuscript in Árni’s hand containing several Latin texts of statutes. The text of Archbishop Eilif’s is noted on fol. 28v–34r. I owe thanks to Beeke Stegmann for helping me solving this conundrum.

- booklet 6, fol. 1r: ‘Ex Cod. Tunsbergensi script’ (From Codex Tunsbergensis [i.e., NKS 1642 4to]).

- booklet 6, fol. 30r: ‘Ex Cod. Pergam: Biblioth. Arn. Magn.: No 309 in Folio exarato 1325’ (From the parchment codex number 309 in folio in the library of Árni Magnússon, written in 1325).

- booklet 6, fol. 32r: ‘Ex Codice membra: in forma qvadrata folio Catal. Num. 302 ad Calcem Gulaþl.’ (From the parchment codex in quarto format folio catalogue number 302 at the end of Gulaþingslög).


is also evident in the bilingual rendering of the statute of archbishop Eilif in Old Norse as well as a Latin translation by Árni Magnússon in booklet 3, fol. 9–48 (Figure 13), 34 including, again, initial notes in the top of the outer margins as to the origin of the two texts. Árni’s Latin translation is always facing the Old Norse equivalent on separate leaves, alternating on verso and recto pages. The individual leaves are not fastened, so they can be moved freely and the Latin translation (or also the Old Norse text) removed (Figure 14).

Also in good philological manner, the exemplars are in some cases evaluated in terms of their age and textual quality, again reminiscent of Árni Magnússon’s and his associates’ commentaries some decades earlier. 35 Not all texts are deemed to be of good textual quality. The last text in the encompassing assemblage of amendments in booklet 5, for instance, written in a separate hand, is introduced by the remark that the text stems from Skálholtsbók (Membrana

34 ‘Statuta Eilifs Erchibiscups i Nidar-osi id est Constitutio Eilifi Archiepiscopi Nidarosiensis. Interprete Ana Magnæo’ (Statute of Archibishop Eilif in Nidaros that is Constitutio Eilifi Archiepsicopi Nidarosiensis. Translated by Árni Magnússon); Ms.fol. 87b., booklet 3, fol. 9r.

35 Már Jónsson, Arnas Magnæus Philologus

Figure 14: Ms.fol. 87b, booklet 3. Unfastened bifolia, with Latin and Old Norse text facing each other.

Schalholtina), ‘þó með yngre hende’ (albeit in a younger hand), and the text is ended by another note that states: ‘NB. Þetta er hworke gamallt nie gagnlegt’ (Nota Bene. This is neither old nor useful) (Figure 15). 36 Nonetheless, the disdained text is included in this encompassing collection of legal texts of different origin and age.

Quite different from the first manuscript analysed in this chapter, Ms.fol. 87b reflects less an attempt to present a coherent corpus of legal texts, and more a philological endeavour to gather as many texts as possible. There is a conscious choice of and explicit reference to the

36 Ms.fol. 87b, booklet 5, fol. 15r. The nickname Skálholtsbók refers to Reykjavík, the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, AM 351 fol.

Figure 15: Ms.fol. 87b, booklet 5, fol. 15r. Philological evaluation of the copied text.

textual origin, accompanied by philological considerations and translations to make the texts accessible to the learned reader. The materiality of the texts is irrelevant for the different scribes of the booklets and the texts written throughout in kurrent , or humanistic cursive. The scribes of this collection must have worked in Copenhagen, in the premises of the Royal Library, and with Árni Magnússon’s library of medieval manuscripts and learned copies of medieval texts at hand. In the end, the nature of the collection makes Bernhard Møllmann, the librarian of the library in that period, a likely candidate to own this gathering of booklets, at the very least.

Ms.8° 66 – Ornate Academic Compilation of Norwegian Secular Laws

The third manuscript I will discuss in this chapter, Ms.8° 66, was copied in 1760. It was probably written or at least commissioned by the Icelander Eggert Ólafsson (1726–1768), as apparent from the distinctive handwriting, as well as his monogram with the date 1760 in the front inner paper cover of the limp parchment binding. 37 Eggert Ólafsson was an advocate of the Enlightenment, an ethnographer, natural scientist, historian, and philologist. He is probably best known for his Reise igennem Island , printed in Sorø in 1772, but he also composed poems and wrote treatises on the Icelandic language, farming, among other topics. He studied in Copenhagen and went back to Iceland in the years 1752–1757 on an explorative expedition with Bjarni Pálsson through the country in the name of the Danish crown. The next time he returned to Iceland was in the spring of 1760 for a period of four years, before going back to Copenhagen for two more years in the period 1764–1766. In 1767, he was appointed deputy lawman (varalögmaður) for the southern and eastern part of Iceland, and he returned to

37 The inner limp binding furthermore holds the signature of Rudolf Keyser together with the year 1826, which implies that he received the codex during his two-year stay in Iceland. Keyser commented on and corrected the text widely in the margins. For more discussion about Keyser, see Witting’s chapter in this volume.


Figure 16: Ms.8° 66, fol. 8v (p. 16 in Eggert Ólafsson’s numbering of the text).

Gulathing Laws, beginning of Kristindómsbálkr (Christianity Section) with tree initial.

Figure 17: Ms.8° 66, f. 159r (p. 31 in Eggert Ólafsson’s numbering of the text).

Beginning of Kaupabálkr (Trade Section) of Bergen Town Law with tree initial.

his home country, where he drowned in 1768. 38 Eggert Ólafsson applied for the position of lawman, but since he did not have a juridic qualification, he was asked by the Danish count Christian Rantzau to submit a juridic treatise as proof of qualification, something Eggert never managed to accomplish before his death.


There are two other known legal manuscripts from the latter half of the 1760s in Eggert’s hand: Reykjavík, National and University Library, JS 4 4to (containing Járnsíða and statutes and verdicts from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries), and JS 65 8vo (containing royal amendments from the thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries). While these two younger legal manuscripts in Eggert’s hand might be connected to his aspirations for the office as lawman of Iceland, Ms.8° 66 seems of a more academic nature. The manuscript is

38 On Eggert Ólafsson’s life and œuvre, see Halldór Hermannsson, Eggert Ólafsson. A Biographical Sketch ; Margét Eggertsdóttir and Veturliði Óskarsson, ‘Betra er að gjöra sér hjálpvænlegar’.

39 See Kl[emens] Jónsson, ‘Lögmannsdæmi Eggerts Ólafssonar’.


written in a neat and ornate script and equipped with artistically decorated major initials of an individual style with two distinctive initials in a tree shape, for which I, at least, do not know any model (Figures 16 and 17).40

The codex features a table of contents on the outer side of a complexly folded flyleaf, that lists Gulaþingslög Magnúss konungs , Hirðskrá , Björgyniar lög , Farmannalög , Osloar lög , Osloar Frelsi and Tunsbergs lög (Figure 18). The actual contents of the manuscript in its current form do not fully accord with this table as it does not contain Hirðskrá , and Bergen Town Law and Farmannalög are placed at the end of the codex, rather than as the second and third items in the compilation. Thus, the contents look like this:

Table 1: Contents of Ms.8° 66



1–117 Gulaþings Laug Magnúss konungs (including amendments)

119–132 Oslóar laug

135–142 Oslóar privilegia

143–156 Túnsbergs laug

159–182 Þingskipanar bolk biorguina manna

183–192 Farmanna lög

Copy of

AM 322 fol.

AM 305 fol.

AM 305 fol.

AM 307 fol.

AM 322 fol.

AM 322 fol.

The individual quires in the manuscript are, however, not fastened to the paper back of the limp binding anymore. It is possible to see that the quires were once stitched to the back, but today they are loose. A closer look at the individual quires reveals that this loose state might actually correspond to the original disposition of this manuscript, as the individual texts each begin with a separate page

40 One tree initial is found in the beginning of Kristindómsbálkr of Gulaþingslög on fol. 8v (p. 16 in Eggert Ólafsson’s numbering of the text); the second tree initial is found in the beginning of Kaupabálkr of Bergen Town Law on fol. 159r (p. 31 in Eggert Ólafsson’s numbering of the text).



66, table of contents of the codex on the front flyleaf.

Figure 19: Ms.8° 66. Unfastened gatherings of the individual texts, each with a separate page numbering.

Figure Ms.8°

numbering in Eggert’s hand, each beginning anew with a page 1 (Figure 19). This disposition allows the reader to change the order of the individual texts and also to take out individual quires. Thus, the Hirðskrá-text mentioned in the table was probably taken out at a certain point, since it is no longer in the manuscript. With or without Hirðskrá , the manuscript contains an assemblage of Norwegian legal texts, more precisely a Gulathing text of King Magnus the Lawmender’s Landsl ǫg (Laws of the Land ) and different versions of the town law. 41

The biography Æfe Eggerts Ólafs Sonar (Life of Eggert Ólafsson) from 1784 lists works by Eggert, and in this list, it mentions eight volumes of Icelandic and Norwegian legal texts in the hand of Eggert’s scribe Oddur Jónsson (1734–1814), as well as a Glossarium Juridicum on Icelandic and Norwegian law, all of which were lost at the time of the writing of the biography.42 A comparison of the listed contents of the eight volumes with Ms.8° 66 reveals that all the texts in the extant manuscript are among them. It might thus be possible

41 See Drechsler’s chapter in this volume for more discussion on and further references for the Gulathing-version of the Landslög .

42 ‘Juridica. 1.) Sammansafn ymissra Laga Islendskra og Norskra, sem voru: Grágásir baadar [Codex Vulgaris og Reformatus] Járnsida, edr Hákonar-Bók, Gulaþings Løg hin fornu, Gulaþíngs Løg Magnuss K. Frostuþíngs Løg Hákonar Kongs, Ønnr Magnuss K. Eidsivia Løg hann s, Bi ỏ rgvínar Løg, Farmanna Løg, edr Biarkeyar Retter, Borgar Rettr Hákonar Kongs, Hirdskrá, Túnsbergs Løg, Oslóar Løg, of fleire Privilegia þessara Stada, Kristenn Retter, Statutur og Rettarbætr, Løg Waldemars annars. Yfir øll þesse Løg hafde hann giørt mørg Annotata, einkum yfir vanskildar Greiner þeirra, var þetta Safn 8 Tomi i Regal Octava, alltsamann ritad af Prestenum Sira Odde Jonssyne, sem þá var Þienare EGGERTS (og med Hanns var lika skrád mest af því ádrtalda) alltsaman deperd. 2.) Líted Glossarium Juridicum, edr Fornyde Islendskra og Norskra Laga, med Latinskre Version. – deperditum.’ (Juridica. 1.) Compilation of several Icelandic and Norwegian laws: both Grágás -versions [Codex Vulgaris and Reformatus] Járnsíða or Hákon’s book, the old laws of Gulathing, King Magnus’ Gulatingslov, King Hákon’s Frostatingslög , King Magnus’ laws of Eidsivating, the Bergen law, Farmannalög or the Bjarkey law, the town law of King Hákon, Hirðskrá , Tønsberg law, Oslo law, and several privileges of these towns, the Church law, statutes and amendments, the law of Valdemar the Second. On all these laws he had made many notes, in particular about these articles that were difficult to understand. This was a compilation of 8 volumes in octavo format, everything written by pastor Oddur Jónsson, who was Eggert’s servant at that time (and in his hand is written most of what has been listed before) everything lost. 2.) A small juridical glossary, or old words of the Icelandic and Norwegian law, with the Latin version. – lost.), Æfe Eggerts Ólafs Sonar, 25–26.



that the codex forms one volume of this encompassing lost legal collection, or that it is at least related to this multivolume collection.

Similar to Ms.fol. 87b, the sources of the individual texts are explicitly identified in Ms.8° 66, either in the beginning or at the end of a text (see Table 1), again with reference to shelf numbers in the Arnamagnæan Manuscript Collection, which indicates that the manuscript must have been written in Copenhagen. This dates the making of the codex to the first months of the year 1760, before Eggert left for Iceland in the spring, if Eggert was indeed the scribe.

A note at the end of the Landslög actually confirms the order and contents given in the table of contents of the codex. According to this note, ‘Lex Gulensis Magni R. ut et inseqvens Aulica, Bergensis et Nautica’, that is the Landslög -text in the Gulathing version, and the following Hirðskrá and the Bergen Town Law including the Farmannalög , are all copied from AM 322 fol. (Figure 20).44 Notes in the beginning of the Oslo and the Tønsberg town laws refer to AM 305 fol. and

Figure 20: Ms.8° 66, fol. 117v (p. 234 in Eggert Ólafsson’s page numbering of the text). Scribal note at the end of Laws of the Land that explicates the exemplar for several items in the codex.

43 The handwriting of Eggert and Oddur share many commonalities, but a detailed comparison of Ms.8° 66 with other manuscripts in their hands has not been carried out so far. Also, Oddur Jónsson was in Copenhagen in 1760: After having finished his studies in theology, he is known for having copied old texts in that period (see Páll Eggert Ólason, Íslenzkar æviskrár, 4:15).

44 See Ms.8° 66, fol. 117v (p. 234 in Eggert Ólafsson’s page numbering of the text).


AM 307 fol., respectively, as source texts.45 The note at the end of the Landslög -text thus might indicate that the first four items mentioned in the table of contents were copied from the same exemplar, AM 322 fol., in one go.

The codex thus presents a deliberate selection of texts based on different exemplars in three manuscripts. Even if we include Hirðskrá in the list of texts copied from AM 322 fol., Eggert did not copy all texts of his main exemplar: he left out the Church laws, and he compiled the selected contents of this codex with the Oslo and Tønsberg versions of the town law from two other manuscripts of the Landslög. 46 The underlying rationale of the compilation seems to have been to provide a comprehensive collection of the Norwegian national and local royal laws of the thirteenth century. Similar to Ms.fol. 86, the resulting compilation presents an assemblage of texts that did not exist in this manner in the medieval tradition, at least to our knowledge.

In the early modern period, too, one has to look closely to find compilations of a similar kind. Around the turn to the eighteenth century, several copies of Bergen and Tønsberg town laws were made by different scribes, among them again a manuscript commissioned by Thormod Torfæus, written in the hand of Ásgeir Jónsson (c.1657–c.1707). 47 While most of these copies seem to have been produced as single-text manuscripts, i.e. only containing the text of the respective town law, Ásgeir Jónsson’s copy of the Tønsberg Town Law,

45 A marginal note at the end of the town law of Oslo in neat humanistic script reads: ‘Sammenholdt med Cod. Mbr. Am. Magn. 305. Fol., efter hvilken den er skreven.’ (Compared with the parchment codex AM 305 fol, after which it is written), see Ms. 8° 66, fol. 132v, p. 28 in Eggert Ólafsson’s page numbering of the text. A similar note at the end of the law of Tønsberg reads: ‘Hermed ender I Mbr. et Blad; eet eller flere Blade synes at være bortrevne. Nærværende Afskrift er nöiagtig sammenholdt med og rettet efter dens Originale Mbr. No 307. Fol. i den Arn. Magn. Saml.’ (With that ends in the parchment codex a leaf; one or several leaves seem to be torn out. The present copy is meticulously compared with and corrected according to the original parchment number 307 fol. in the Arnamagnæan Institute), see Ms.8° 66, fol. 156r, p. 27 in Eggert Ólafsson’s page numbering of the text.

46 AM 322 fol. contains Kristindómsbálkr of Frostaþingslög (fol. 21r–29r).

47 Copies of Tønsberg Town Law are AM 326 fol., in the hand of Ásgeir Jónsson (1688–1705); AM 73 4to, in the hand of Magnús Einarsson (1690–1710); and AM 76 b 4to (1685–1697). Bergen Town Law was copied by Jón Gíslason in AM 76 a 4to (1685–1697).


today catalogued as Copenhagen, Arnamagnæan Institute, AM 326 fol., was originally part of a larger compilation, as Beeke Stegmann showed as part of her investigation of Árni Magnússon’s rearrangements of paper manuscripts. Stegmann was able to demonstrate that AM 326 fol. was part of a codex listed as ‘Torfæi Num. IX’ in Árni Magnússon’s catalogue of manuscripts (Copenhagen, Arnamagnæan Institute, AM 435 b 4to), a codex that he received from Torfæus’s widow after his death. Apart from the Tønsberg town law, this codex also featured a text of Hirðskrá , and furthermore texts of the older Gulaþingslög (laws of Gulathing), Frostaþingslög (laws of Frostathing) and Archbishop Jón’s and Sverrir’s Church laws. 48 The last item is written in the hand of Jón Gíslason (1665–1724), but the other texts are all written in the same hand – seemingly Ásgeir’s – and presented with the same mise en page , with 27 to 29 lines per page and separate page numberings for each textual unit. A detailed comparison of the materiality of the manuscripts has not been carried out so far, but the mise en page indicates a deliberate assemblage of these texts in a manner similar to the compilation of Ms.8° 66.

Just like Eggert Ólafsson in the case of Ms.8° 66, or the scribes of the different booklets in Ms.fol. 87b, Ásgeir Jónsson, too, copied his texts from different manuscripts. He does not state the sources himself in the manuscript, but Árni Magnússon identifies the exemplars in his catalogue as well as in notes on the individual texts, of which three can be identified with known codices: Codex Rantzovianus, i.e., Copenhagen, Royal Library, E don. var. 137 4to, for Gulaþingslög , the now burnt Codex Resenianus for Frostaþingslög , and the Icelandic manuscript Skarðsbók or AM 350 fol. for Hirðskrá . 49

48 Stegmann, ‘Árni Magnússon’s Rearrangement of Paper Manuscripts ’, 324. The other parts of the original manuscript are today shelved as AM 306 fol. (Gulaþingslög), AM 310 fol. (Frostaþingslög), AM 324 fol. (Hirðskrá), and AM 327 fol. (Sverrir’s and Jón’s Church Law). On AM 324 fol., see also above.

49 See AM 435 b 4to, fol. 3v–5r.


Protophilological Approaches to the Medieval Law

As the shelf numbers of the individual texts indicate, Árni Magnússon archived each of the texts from the original codex under a separate shelf mark in different sections of his library, dismembering the codex as he had acquired it from Torfæus’ widow, and rebinding the individual texts. Obviously, he was of the opinion that the texts as they were compiled in Torfæus’ codex did not belong together, presumably partially because of the textual assemblage, which did not find a counterpart in the medieval textual tradition, and partially because of the fact that the texts were based on different medieval exemplars. As Stegmann was able to show, Árni pursued the same practice in a large number of cases, and he split many early modern paper manuscripts into smaller entities, often down to single-text units, where the compilation did not meet his philological criteria. Another example of a compilation of legal texts of a similar kind is ‘Torfæi codex number 4 (4to)’, again in the hand of Ásgeir Jónsson, that consisted of a text of the older Gulaþingslög , several amendments from different centuries that are now lost, and Hirðskrá , written in a separate hand. 50 In a note that accompanies AM 104 4to, the Hirðskrá-text, Árni unveils his working methods more transparently, mentioning that this manuscript was ‘innbundin i eitt Volumen med ödrum fleirum Tractatibus, og er það Volumen Num. 4 i minu Register yfir bækur Þormodar’ (bound in one volume with several other treatises, and this is volume number 4 in my register over Thormod’s books). 51 While his decision to separate Hirðskrá from the rest of Torfæus’ codex can be understood as an attempt to restore an original state, this criterion however does not necessarily pertain to the separation of Gulaþingslög from the various amendments that have subsequently gone lost.

50 Gulaþingslög is today shelved as Copenhagen, Arnamagnæan Institute, AM 66 4to and Hirðskrá as AM 104 4to in the same collection. See AM 435 b 4to, fol. 14r/v; Stegmann, ‘Árni Magnússon’s Rearrangement of Paper Manuscripts’, 336. Again, the two extant texts go back to different exemplars, Codex Rantzovianus, E don. var. 137 4to for Gulaþingslög , and Skarðsbók, AM 350 fol., for Hirðskrá .

51 Copenhagen, Arnamagnæan Institute, AM 104 4to, fylgigögn 1r.


The fate of being dismembered might very well also have encountered the three manuscripts in the holdings of the National Library of Norway, had Árni managed to get them under his wings.

Admittedly, Ms.8° 66 and probably also Ms.fol. 87b are too young for this to be a feasible scenario and they actually build upon Árni Magnússon’s work in that they copy texts from his manuscript holdings, and either implicitly or explicitly refer to his archive and the shelf numbers he had given the manuscripts. But all three manuscripts –regardless of their individual characteristics and different rationales –represent attempts to construct a textual archive of medieval Icelandic and Norwegian legal texts that would have collided with Árni Magnússon’s archival and philological approach to the medieval textual tradition and its post-medieval transcripts. While the three scribes and compilers of these three manuscripts – and also Thormod Torfæus and Ásgeir Jónsson for that matter – compiled and assembled texts according to certain thematic criteria, Árni Magnússon rearranged texts from encompassing post-medieval, but also medieval, compilations where these compilations seemed unfitting, and, instead, archived several copies of the same text in consecutive shelf-marks, such as in the case of copies of Íslendingabók , but also many other texts.


From a book-historical perspective, it is a stroke of luck that the three manuscripts now archived in the National Library of Norway can be studied in the shape they were originally disposed and compiled in the seventeenth and eighteenth century, as they allow valuable insights into approaches to the medieval textual tradition of that period.

52 On Árni Magnússon’s aggregations of texts of Íslendingabók , see Stegmann, ‘Árni Magnússon’s Rearrangement of Paper Manuscripts ’, 231.




Copenhagen, Arnamagnæan Institute

AM 305 fol.

AM 306 fol.

AM 307 fol.

AM 310 fol.

AM 322 fol.

AM 324 fol.

AM 326 fol.

AM 327 fol.

AM 355 a fol.

Copenhagen, Royal Library

AM 66 4to

AM 73 4to

AM 76 a 4to

AM 76 b 4to

AM 103 4to

AM 104 4to

AM 105 4to

AM 106 4to

AM 185 4to

AM 435 b 4to

AM 34 8vo

NKS 1642 4to (Codex Tunsbergensis)

Reykjavík, Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies

AM 334 fol. (Staðarhólsbók)

AM 341 fol.

AM 350 fol. (Skarðsbók)

AM 124 a 4to

AM 124 b 4to

AM 125 a 4to

GKS 1157 fol. (Konungsbók Grágásar)

Steph 9

Reykjavík, National and University Library of Iceland

JS 4 4to

JS 6 4to

JS 65 8vo

Lbs 552 4to


Lbs 553 4to Lbs 1401 8vo

Oslo, National Library of Norway

Ms.fol. 30. http://urn.nb.no/URN:NBN:no-nb_digimanus_54304.

Ms.fol. 86. http://urn.nb.no/URN:NBN:no-nb_digimanus_57509.

Ms.fol. 87b. https://www.nb.no/search?q=Ms.fol.%2087%20hefte&mediatype=brev-og-manuskripter.

Ms.4° 4331:C. Hallvard Lie’s notes on manuscripts in the National Library’s collection

Ms. 8° 66. http://urn.nb.no/URN:NBN:no-nb_digimanus_201057.

Stockholm, National Library

Isl. Papp. 66 4to

Printed sources

Assmann, Aleida . ‘Canon and Archive’. In A Companion to Cultural Memory Studies. An International and Interdisciplinary Handbook, edited by Astrid Erll and Ansgar Nünning, 97–107. Media and Cultural Memory 8. Berlin, New York: De Gruyter, 2010.

Boulhosa, Patricia Pires . ‘Layout and the Structure of the Text in Konungsbók’. In Rohrbach, ed., The Power of the Book, 75–97.

Dolmer, Jens , ed. Hird­Skraa Vdi ded gamle Norske Sprok / retteligen ofversat paa Danske/ Med de gamle Ords Forklaring/ oc merkelige Antegnelser til hvert Capittel. Copenhagen: Henrick Gøde, 1666.

Foucault, Michel . The Archaeology of Knowledge and the Discourse on Language. New York: Pantheon Books, 1972.

Haemmerle, Albert . Buntpapier. Herkommen, Geschichte, Techniken, Beziehungen zur Kunst. 2nd rev. edn. Munich: Verlag Georg D.W. Callwey, 1977.

Halldór Hermansson . Eggert Ólafsson. A Biographical Sketch. Reprint from 1925. New York: Cornell University Library, 1925.

Hesselberg-Wang, Nina . Dekorert papir. En fargesprakende kilde til bokhistorisk kunnskap. NB tema 11. Oslo: Nasjonalbiblioteket, 2021. https://www.bokselskap. no/boker/dekorertpapir/kolofon

Hufnagel, Silvia . ‘Title Pages in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Icelandic Manuscripts. The Development and Functions of Print Features in Manuscript Form’. Manuscript Studies: A Journal of the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies 6.2 (2021): 300–337. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1353/ mns.2021.0018.

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Imsen, Steinar , ed. Hirdskråen. Hirdloven til Norges konge og hans håndgangne menn. Oslo: Riksarkivet, 2000.

Jóhann Gunnar Ólafsson . ‘Magnús Jónsson í Vigur’. Skírnir 130 (1956): 107–126.

Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir , ed. Magnus Håkonsson Lagabøtes hirdskrå. NB kilder 16:2. Oslo: Nasjonalbiblioteket, 2024.

Jónas Kristjánsson . Skrá um íslenzk handrit í Noregi. Typewritten Catalogue. Reykjavík: Handritastofnun Íslands 1967. Available as Oslo, National Library of Norway, Ms.4° 2367, on www.nb.no/items/URN:NBN:no-nb_digimanus_44841.

Kl[emens] Jónsson . ‘Lögmannsdæmi Eggerts Ólafssonar’. Skírnir 85 (1911): 372–377.

Loth, Agnete . ‘Om håndskrifter fra Vigur i Magnús Jónssons tid: tre bidrag’. Opuscula 3 (1967): 92–100.

Margrét Eggertsdóttir, and Veturliði G. Óskarsson . ‘“Betra er að gjöra sér hjálpvænlegar en hryggvar innbyrlingar”. Úr bréfum Jóns Ólafssonar (1705–1779) og Eggerts Ólafssonar (1726–1768) á árunum 1760–68’. Gripla 24 (2013): 121–171.

Már Jónsson. Arnas Magnæus Philologus (1663–1730). Odense: University Press of Southern Denmark, 2012.

Páll Eggert Ólason . Íslenzkar æviskrár frá landnámstímum til ársloka 1940. 6 vols. Reykjavík: Hið íslenzka bókmenntafélag, 1948–1976.

Rohrbach, Lena . ‘Matrix of the Law? A Material Study of Staðarhólsbók’. In Rohrbach, ed., The Power of the Book, 98–128.

Rohrbach, Lena . ‘Construction, Organisation, Stabilisation. Administrative Literacy in the Realm of Norway, the Case of Iceland’. In Rex Insularum. The King of Norway and His ‘Skattlands’ as a Political System c. 1260–c. 1450, edited by Steinar Imsen, 227–263. Bergen: Fagbokforlaget, 2014.

Rohrbach, Lena , ed. The Power of the Book. Medial Approaches to Medieval Nordic Legal Manuscripts. Berliner Beiträge zur Skandinavistik 19. Berlin: NordeuropaInstitut, 2014.

Rohrbach, Lena . ‘Material Philology’. In Handbook of Pre­Modern Nordic Memory Studies. Interdisciplinary Approaches, vol. 1, edited by Jürg Glauser, Pernille Hermann, and Stephen Mitchell, 177–183. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2018.

Springborg, Peter . ‘Antiqvæ historiæ lepores – om renæssancen i den islandske håndskriftproduktion i 1600-tallet’. Gardar 8 (1977): 53–89.

Springborg, Peter . ‘Nyt og gammelt fra Snæfjallaströnd: Bidrag til beskrivelse af den litterære aktivitet på Vestfjordene i 1. halvdel af det 17. århundrede’. In Afmælisrit Jóns Helgasonar. 30. júní 1969, edited by Jakob Benediktsson and others, 288–327. Reykjavík: Heimskringla, 1969.

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Stegmann, Beeke . ‘Árni Magnússon’s Rearrangement of Paper Manuscripts’. PhD thesis. Copenhagen: University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Humanities, 2017.

Stegmann, Beeke . ‘Note to Self and Others. Árni Magnússon’s Note Slips in Paper Manuscripts’. In Care and Conservation of Manuscripts 16. Proceedings of the Sixteenth International Seminar Held at the University of Copenhagen, edited by Matthew J. Driscoll, 1–33. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum, 2018.

Stijnman, Ad . ‘Terms and Abbreviations in Print Addresses’. Virtuelles Kupferstichkabinett. 2017. Accessed 15 June 2023. http://www.virtuelles-kupferstichkabinett.de/site/assets/files/48394/abbreviations_v3.pdf

Æfe Eggerts Olafs Sonar, Vice­Løgmanns Sunnann og Austann aa Islande. Hrappsey: [n.p.], 1784.

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8. Norway’s Pioneering Editions of Old Norse Texts: The Creation of Keyser and Munch’s Norges gamle Love indtil 1387*

Mette Refslund Witting

1. A presentation of Norges gamle Love

Norges gamle Love (Norway’s Ancient Laws) is a multivolume work with editions of Norwegian medieval laws dating back to the centuries before the first lawbook was published in print, i.e. King Christian IV’s Norske Lov (Norwegian Laws) of 1604. The groundwork for this publication began in the 1830s and the first volume was printed in 1846, while the most recent volume came out in 1995.

The work is divided into two series, each with its own title: Norges gamle Lov e indtil 1387 (Norway’s Ancient Laws up to 1387 ) and Norges gamle Love: Anden Række, 1388–1604 (Norway’s Ancient Laws: Second Series, 1388–1604 ), respectively. The former covers the period before the Dano-Norwegian union, i.e. from early medieval times until 1387, and came out in five volumes from 1846 to 1895. According to the preface of the fifth and last volume in this series, it was mentioned as early as 1832 that after the first series was completed, the ambition was to continue publishing the laws from after 1387. In 1894, in a letter to

* My thanks go to Anne Eidsfeldt, who has guided and supported me in the book historical parts of this study, and to Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir, for helpful conversations during my writing process. Both are my colleagues at the National Library of Norway. Thanks are also due to typographer and librarian Torbjørn Eng for helping me find sources for Schochic typeface and sharing his knowledge with me.


the Ministry for the Church and Education (hereafter, the Ministry), the Committee for the Publication of Ancient Norwegian Laws (Kommisjonen for Utgivelse av de Gamle Norske Lover, hereafter, the Committee) repeated its wish to continue with the next series.1 The second series started to come out in 1904 and it is not yet complete. Norges gamle Love indtil 1387 has five volumes:

• Første bind. Norges Love ældre end Kong Magnus Haakonssøns Regjerings-Tiltrædelse i 1263 (Volume 1. Norway’s Laws Older than King Magnus Håkonsson’s Assumption of Rulership in 1263 ). Edited by R. Keyser and P.A. Munch. Printed by Chr. Grøndahl, Christiania [Oslo], 1846.

• Andet bind. Lovgivningen under Kong Magnus Haakonssøns Regjeringstid fra 1263 til 1280, tilligemed et Supplement til første Bind (Volume 2. The Laws from King Magnus Håkonsson’s Reign from 1263 to 1280, in addition to a Supplement to Volume 1 ). Edited by R. Keyser and P.A. Munch. Printed by Chr. Grøndahl, Christiania, 1848.

• Tredie bind. Lovgivningen efter Kong Magnus Haakonssøns Død 1280 indtil 1387 (Volume 3. Legislation after King Magnus Hákonsson’s Death 1280 until 1387 ). Edited by R. Keyser og P.A. Munch. Printed by Chr. Grøndahl, Christiania, 1846.

• Fjerde bind, indeholdende Supplementer til de tre foregaaende Bind samt Haandskriftbeskrivelse med Facsimiler (Volume 4, containing Supplements to the three Previous Volumes in addition to a Manuscript Description with Facsimiles). Edited by Gustav Storm. Printed by Grøndahl & Søn, Christiania, 1885.

• Femte bind, indeholdende Supplement til foregaaende Bind og Facsimiler samt Glossarium med Registre (Volume 5, Containing a Supplement to the Previous Volumes and Facsimiles in addition to a Glossary and Index). Edited by Gustav Storm and Ebbe Hertzberg. Printed by Grøndahl & Søn, Christiania, 1895.

The first three volumes, containing the bulk of the laws, were printed in rapid succession over a period of four years, while the fourth volume arrived 37 years later and the fifth came ten years after that. From the beginning, the plan was to have three volumes containing

1 NgL , 5:XII–XIII. In references in this chapter, the abbreviation NgL will be used for Norges gamle Love


the laws, and, additionally, a fourth volume with a description of the manuscripts containing these texts along with relevant facsimiles and possibly an index. 2 The editors, Jakob Rudolf Keyser (1803–1864) and Peter Andreas Munch (1810–1863), had done some limited preparation for this volume, but owing to other commitments, they were never able to carry out the focused and systematic work needed to make the material fit for publication. The Committee made several concerted efforts to have the work resumed after the publication of the first three volumes, but the project was only completed when the historians Gustav Storm (1845–1903) and Ebbe Hertzberg (1847–1912) came on board. The projected fourth volume was split into two, and they additionally contained an extensive glossary and supplementary material from manuscripts that had been discovered after the publication of the first three volumes. 3

These five volumes of Norges gamle Love indtil 1387 served as the standard edition of Old Norse laws for generations of scholars until the late twentieth century, when they began to be replaced by new editions of the oldest laws. These editions were made in the 1990s; however, work on reediting the laws from the reign of King Magnus the Lawmender is still ongoing at the National Library of Norway. Much of the archival source material that formed the basis for the first three volumes, i.e. hand-written transcriptions and collations of medieval law manuscripts, is preserved at the National Library. These are fascinating documents which made me curious about the work carried out in the 1830s and 1840s that lay behind the printed publications, and they will be the focus of this chapter.

2. The background to Norges gamle Love

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, new ideas about nations and national history rose to prominence in many European countries. In Norway, this development was concurrent with the

2 NgL , 1:VI

3 NgL , 4:III–XVI and NgL , 5:I–III.


dissolution of the union with Denmark in 1814, and the forced entry into a new and looser union with Sweden later that year. The new liberal constitution (Norw. Grunnlov), dated 17 May 1814, became the founding legal document and a central symbol for the re-established Norwegian autonomous state. Norway’s new national, political and legal position stirred an interest in legislation in the medieval period among prominent Norwegian politicians and officials, whose goal was to create a link between, on the one hand, Norwegian society as it had been before the union with Denmark, and, on the other hand, the new constitution. 4 As a consequence, in the early 1800s, there was a great deal of interest in the ancient laws within these circles, and this was probably the main motivation for research on and publication of the earliest historical sources. In addition to communicating knowledge about legislation in ancient times, the publications helped raise awareness in the general public of early Norwegian history and language, Old Norse, before the union with Denmark. 5 The publication of the ancient laws thus played an important part in the nation-building process in Norway by documenting its old linguistic, legal and national roots.

As early as the mid-eighteenth century, the Norwegian legal scholar and historian Hans Paus (1710–1770) had edited some of the oldest Norwegian laws in his Samling af Gamle Norske Love (A Collection of Ancient Norwegian Laws). 6 However, this edition only contained a selection of texts, and they were published in Danish translation rather than Old Norse. 7 In the early 1800s, Professor Gregers Fougner Lundh (1786–1836) spearheaded an effort to have the entire corpus of medieval laws published in the original language. Lundh was an economist but he was also interested in language and history,

4 For more discussion about this period and especially the relationship between interest in the medieval past and contemporary politics, see, e.g., Storsveen, ‘Gi meg mine fire hundre år tilbake!’; Hemstad, Den dansk-norske skilsmisse

5 Jørgensen, ‘Norrøne kildetekster og norsk nasjonsbygging’.

6 Paus, Samling af Gamle Norske Love .

7 Holm-Olsen, Lys over norrøn kultur, 38.


and in 1829, he published Bergens gamle Bylov (Bergen’s Town Laws). 8 He had plans to move on to the other ancient laws, but was unable to continue with the project. 9 Instead, in 1830, Lundh petitioned Stortinget (the Norwegian Parliament) to commit funds for publishing either the medieval Norwegian laws or the corpus of charters from the same period.

Lundh’s petition was successful, and Stortinget granted funding for a project to publish the laws. Initially, the Committee was appointed whose brief was ‘to take the matter into consideration and give its opinion’.10 In addition to Lundh, other members of the Committee were theologian Svend Borchmann Hersleb (1784–1836) and legal scholar Henrik Steenbuch (1774–1839). The Committee’s opinion is clearly stated: they envisaged an output consisting of all of the ancient Norwegian laws rendered as comprehensively and faithfully as possible, ideally edited from Norwegian manuscripts, printed by a Norwegian printer in Gothic typeface in books in quarto format on good quality, thick and strong paper. 11 Jakob Rudolf Keyser was subsequently appointed to carry out the preparatory work for the publication with the assistance of Peter Andreas Munch.

3. The editors: Keyser and Munch

Keyser was one of the first young men who was educated at a Norwegian university. The Royal Frederick University (Det Kongelige Frederiks Universitet) in Christiania (now University of Oslo) was founded in 1811, but before then, Norwegians who sought higher education had to go abroad – most went to Denmark. Intellectual milieus in Norway were limited. With the establishment of the country’s own university, academic posts were established according to Norway’s own needs, and it became clear relatively early on that a position in Old Norse lan-

8 Lundh, Bergens gamle Bylov

9 Jørgensen, ‘Rudolf Keyser and His Use of Old Norse Texts’, 233.

10 NgL , 1:III.

11 National Archives, S-1007, L1008. ‘Betænkning’, 13–15.


guage was among the posts that the nation needed. Keyser came from an intellectual family, and in 1820, he began studying theology. However, he was much more interested in language and history, and this was noticed by Lundh, among others. Owing to these interests, Keyser was granted a two-year stipend to live in Iceland by the Royal Norwegian Society for Development (Kongelige Selskab for Norges Vel), of which Lundh was a founding member and secretary. Keyser was in Iceland from 1825 to 1827, where he learned the language and acquired Icelandic contacts. When he returned to Norway in 1828, he was appointed as the director of the university’s Collection of Antiquities (Oldsakssamling) and lecturer in history. He was the first person to teach Old Norse at a university level in Norway, and Munch became one of his students.12

Munch passed the civil service exam in law in 1834, but he studied law with the goal of working on Norway’s history. At the time,

12 Jørgensen, ‘Rudolf Keyser and His Use of Old Norse Texts’, 232–237.

Figure 1: Peter Andreas Munch. Portrait by Sophie Ribbing (1865). Figure 2: Rudolf Keyser. Daguerrotype by an unknown photographer (1850s).

philology as a university subject centred on classical languages, but that was not the direction in which Munch wanted to go. While he studied law, he also cultivated his philological interests, attending Keyser’s lectures and writing articles about Norwegian language politics, among other subjects.13

In 1834, the Committee for the Publication of Norwegian Ancient Laws formally requested that Keyser and Munch accept the task of documenting, transcribing and collating the ancient Norwegian laws. At the time, Keyser was 31 years old and employed at the university, in addition to his various other commitments. Munch was 24 and had just graduated from the university. In other words, they were both at the beginning of their careers and at the time, no one could know that they would go on to be considered two of the nineteenth century’s most important historians in Norway. Both of them have left behind foundational scholarship, and Keyser was, moreover, considered a brilliant teacher. Munch, on the other hand, was admired more for his numerous ground-breaking publications, most notably an influential history of the Norwegian people that came out in eight volumes.14

As Old Norse philologists, the work resulting in volumes 1–3 of Norges gamle Love made Keyser and Munch pioneers in Norwegian history. However, they did not receive training in the then new methods in textual criticism developed by the German philologist Karl Lachmann (1793–1851), which were adopted in both Sweden and Denmark in this period.15 Consequently, Keyser and Munch’s choices of manuscripts as base texts were not based on stemmatological work – exploring the relationship between texts in different manuscripts – but rather on what they considered a ‘good’ text. Their idea of ‘good’ was usually only explained with vague terms such as ‘meticulous’, ‘accurate’ or ‘excellent’ (omhyggelig , nøyaktig ,

13 Holm-Olsen, Lys over norrøn kultur, 74–77.

14 Dahl, Norsk historieforskning i 19. og 20. århundre , 39; Munch, Det norske Folks Historie .

15 Holm-Olsen, Lys over norrøn kultur, 97.


fortrinnlig).16 In the case of the Laws of the Land of King Magnus the Lawmender (the Landsl ǫg), their choice of base text (AM 60 4to) was criticised by Storm in 1879 on the basis that the manuscript’s text was inferior to Stockholm, National Library, Perg. 34, which, according to him, has an older and better text.17 In the 2018 edition of these laws, the editors chose to base their work on the latter manuscript.18

4. The transcriptions

Keyser and Munch’s manuscripts for Norges gamle Love indtil 1387 are preserved at the National Library of Norway. This material consists of ten volumes of handwritten transcriptions of medieval Norwegian law books with the shelfmarks Ms.4° 681–690.19 It is uncertain when the present binding was added, but it would have happened in the spring of 1839 at the earliest. At this point, Keyser handed the transcriptions to the Committee, describing them in an enclosed letter: ‘Afskrifter og Collationeringer tagne i Danmark og Sverige, ordnede i 14 Pakker’ (Transcriptions and Collations carried out in Denmark and Sweden, divided into 14 parcels). 20 This indicates that the transcriptions were not bound at the time and were in loose quires, and indeed, this is clearly visible in the volumes Ms.4° 683 and Ms.4° 690, since in both of these, one of the quires is in smaller format and the quality of the

16 ‘3 codices udmærke sig med Hensyn til Textens omhyggelige Behandling saa overordentligt fremfor de fleste øvrige, at der neppe kunde være Spørgsmaal om at vælge nogen anden’(Three manuscripts distinguished themselves in terms of the text’s meticulous treatment in a manner superior to most of the others, so that there could hardly be any question of choosing another one); ‘Cod. 60 qv. er den nøiagtigst og omhyggeligst skrevne af dem alle’ (Cod. [AM] 60 4to is the most accurately and meticulously copied of them all), ‘som baade med Hensyn til Textens Behandling, Sprog og Retskrivning viser sig saa fortrinlig, at den uden Spørgsmaal maatte have været valgt til Grundcodex’ (considering both the text’s treatment, language and orthography, [the manuscript] shows itself to be so excellent that it had to be chosen as the base text without question); preface to Norges gamle Love , 2:IV.

17 Storm, Om Haandskrifter og Oversættelser af Magnus Lagabøters Love , 16–17.

18 See introduction to Rindal and Spørck, eds., Kong Magnus Håkonsson Lagabøtes Landslov.

19 The volumes have all been digitised and images are available on the library’s website, www.nb.no.

20 Brevs. 1, Keyser to the Committee, 14. March, 1839.


paper is different. In the rest of the volumes, the quires are relatively uniform, both in terms of paper size and quality.

The binding of the ten units is also broadly similar but it has likely been done in several rounds and over some time, since there is also slight variation to be found here. A common feature for all of them is the bookcloth material used for the covers, but it is in two hues of blue which have slightly differing textures. According to the conservators at the National Library, the binding’s colours suggest a late nineteenth-century dating, i.e. several decades after the volumes were handed over by Keyser in 1839. Every volume is gold-tooled with a title in the middle of the front cover. The gold tooling was likely carried out at the same time for all the volumes, since the titles are in the same font and placed in the same location on the covers of all of them (Figure 3).

At the behest of Gustav Storm, this material was deposited by the Committee to the National Library (then the University Library) in November 1882. 21 In a letter to the Committee, Storm listed

21 National Archives, S-1007, L1010. The Committee to the Ministry, 12 November, 1882, written on Gustav Storm’s letter to the Committee dated 5 November, 1882

Figure 3: Front covers of Mss.4° 684, 696, 697 and 698, showing the gold-tooled letters.

‘10 indbundne Bøger’ (10 bound books) with titles that correspond to those gold-tooled on the volumes, and he mentioned that enclosed were ‘et uindbundet Hefte Rettebøder og Kongebreve’ (an unbound booklet with law amendments and royal letters). The reason Storm wanted an official institution to take on the material at that point was that he was working on the fourth volume of Norges gamle Love , containing the manuscript descriptions, and he needed to be able to refer to this material with appropriate shelfmarks. 22

The three items Ms.4° 681–683 contain transcriptions of the laws printed in the first volume of Norges gamle Love , while the remaining seven preserve the editors’ work for the second volume. The transcriptions of the Laws of the Land from 1274 take up five of these, Ms.4° 684–688. These five items are divided according to medieval law districts, i.e., Borgarthing, Eidsivathing, Frostathing and two for Gulathing. 23 The transcriptions that laid the foundations for the third volume of Norges gamle Love were probably in the unbound material that Storm mentioned in his letter from November 1882, which was given the shelfmark Ms.4° 691:a. Unfortunately, this material was, in all likelihood, subsequently lost, since it has been registered as ‘i.p.p.’ or ‘ikke på plass’ (not in place) from 1946. 24

In front of each individual law, the manuscripts transcribed or collated are listed. When the editors used manuscripts from more than one institution, those in Copenhagen are listed first, then Sweden, and, finally, Norway. Each manuscript in the lists was given a siglum, but in the case of the Laws of the Land , where there are 39 extant manuscripts and many fragments, this system soon became unworkable. At first, when Keyser and Munch got to the end of the alphabet, they went back to the beginning and used Gothic letters for the rest. Later on, they

22 The letter from the Committee to the Ministry dated 12 November 1882 was unknown to me until I researched the present chapter; for that reason, I did not refer to it in my previous work on a related subject (Witting, ‘Nasjonalbibliotekets landslovhåndskrifter og deres proveniens’, 57).

23 See further Rindal, Handskrifter av norske mellomalderlover.

24 Witting, ‘Nasjonalbibliotekets landslovhåndskrifter og deres proveniens’, 57.


arrived at an alternative system for the text witnesses to the Laws of the Land , written in pencil next to the original list and implemented in the remaining work. This new system involved a capital letter referring to the law district where the manuscript was used (i.e., B, E, F or G), followed by a lowercase letter which functioned as a serial letter, so Ga, Gb, Ba, etc. These references have been used by scholars ever since.

Travels to the archives

As mentioned previously, Stortinget allocated funds to start the preparatory work for the publication of the laws in 1834, and in May 1835, Keyser and Munch went on their first journey abroad to transcribe and collate the law manuscripts preserved in archives outside of Norway. Since nearly all medieval Norwegian manuscripts had been taken to Copenhagen or Sweden in the seventeenth century by Árni Magnússon and other collectors, this meant that nearly all the relevant material needed to be consulted abroad. 25

The pair first went to Copenhagen, where most of the manuscripts were kept, either at the Royal Library, the University Library, the National Archives (then the Geheime Archive) or the Arnamagnæan Collection. The work of transcribing and collating was carried out in 1835 and 1836. In April 1837, Keyser and Munch started on the next segment of the groundwork in Sweden, i.e., at the Royal Library in Stockholm and the university libraries in Uppsala and Lund. However, in the summer of 1837, Munch was appointed lecturer at the university, meaning that he was forced to abandon his position as Keyser’s assistant and return to Christiania (now Oslo). Keyser completed the rest of the collations at the Swedish archives alone, finishing in December 1837, two and a half years after the work abroad had begun.

Keyser and Munch’s manuscripts now preserved at the National Library of Norway thus came into being in these years, i.e. from 1835 to 1837. These irreplaceable documents were transported between the

25 On Árni Magnússon’s collecting and the establishment of his collection in Copenhagen, see Már Jónsson, Arnas Magnæus Philologus


major Scandinavian cities, but it is difficult to imagine this when looking at them today, given their excellent condition. They look as if they have always stood on the same bookshelf in the same office, but that is not the case. In other words, Keyser and Munch must have taken very good care of them on their journeys between the Scandinavian archives.

With this in mind, I went through Keyser and Munch’s private letters to search for descriptions of how they stored and transported the transcriptions – then in loose quires – but I did not find any explicit mention of the material. However, the letters of Munch to his wife Nathalie (1812–1900) give an insight into the editors’ travels. There are hardly any comments on the actual work, but on the other hand, Munch discusses the modes of transport they used, the parties to which they were invited and the people they met. Few of Keyser’s personal letters are preserved, and none of these date to the trips to the archives, so we only have access to Munch’s perspective on this matter. Munch wrote to his wife from Helsingør, Denmark on 5 April 1836. He and Keyser were there en route from Copenhagen to Lund, which they visited during their time in Denmark.

K[eyser] maa nok ikke være vant til at reise, thi hans forskjellige smaae

Pakkenelliker gjorde ham reent betuttet og ude af det: hvert Øieblik troede han at have mistet noget, og havde tusende Ængstelser […] Da vi bestilte Baaden, begyndte det stærkt at snee, og K. fik, som jeg mærkede, en uhyre Lyst til ikke at gaae videre den Dag, men jeg drev ubarmhjertigt paa, uden at lade mig mærke med noget: Vinden var god. Skulde vi da for Sneens Skyld ligge over i det ækleste Hotel i den flaueste By og endda have Søfarten i Vænte? […] K. satte sig beklemt og forstemt: jeg nok saa munter, thi du veed at jeg paa Reiser altid er i godt Humeur, som tiltager i Forhold som de Medreisendes Humeur aftager. 26

(Keyser was presumably not used to travelling, for his assorted little parcels made him look like he was completely nonplussed and out of it: every moment, he thought he had lost something and [he] had a thousand

26 Brevs. 19, P.A. Munch to Nathalie Munch, 5. April, 1836.


worries [...] When we booked the boat, it started to snow heavily, and as I mentioned, K. wanted very much not to go further that day, but I mercilessly insisted without paying notice to anything: the wind was favourable. Were we, because of the snow, supposed to stay in the most disgusting hotel in the lamest town and still have yet to undertake the the sea journey? […] K. sat down, quite anxious and out of sorts: I was in fairly good spirits, for you know that when I travel, I am always in a cheerful mood, and it rises in inverse proportion to my fellow travellers as their mood declines.)

A year later, Munch again wrote home to his wife while he was on a trip with Keyser, this time on a coach from Lund to Stockholm: ‘ Keyser er nu i et Perlehumeur, thi naar Sagerne engang ere indpakkede i Diligencen, har han intet mere at bebyrde sin Hukommelse med, og anseer sig allerede halv i Stokholm’. 27 (Keyser is now in a fantastic mood, for when the items are all packed up in the coach, he has nothing more with which to burden his memory, and he considers himself already halfway in Stockholm).

These two excerpts are coloured by Munch’s situation as a young man who wished to entertain and impress his young wife. His companion was seven years older than him, and it is clear that Keyser was nervous when he and Munch changed modes of transport, especially because of the valuable luggage. It is not unlikely that it contained the transcriptions, which would have made Keyser anxious, and he may have felt more responsibility for them than the younger and more junior Munch. We are not given any description of the manuscripts but the ‘items’ (Sagerne) that were packed into the coach in the second quote may refer to this material. As previously mentioned, a later description of the material is found in Keyser’s letter enclosed with the transcriptions and other documents as he handed them over to the Committee. At that point, they were packed into 14 parcels and the entire load was placed in a locked chest. 28 Perhaps it was this or a comparable chest that they brought with them on the trips to the archives.

27 Brevs. 19, P.A. Munch to Nathalie Munch, 16. April, 1837.

28 Brevs. 1, Keyser to the Committee, 14. March, 1839.


It is bewildering to consider that Keyser and Munch, who are counted among the nineteenth century’s most important Norwegian historians, spent so many working hours on the transcription and collation of all these manuscripts. In addition to the enormous amount of text, the work had to be carried out in archives far away from their homes and workplaces. Munch mentioned their travels in an article in the newspaper Morgenbladet about the return of Norwegian manuscripts from Denmark, printed in 1850, only a year after the third volume of Norges gamle Love had been published:

Jeg kan selv bevidne, hvor ofte Professor Keyser og jeg have følt os generede under Udgivelsen af Norges gamle Love ved ikke at have alle de norske Lovkodices ved Haanden, efter hvilke Udgaven er besørget, og det uagtet vi ved Afskrivningen gik frem med en Omhu og smaalig Nøiagtighed, som de Fleste maaske vilde finde overflødig, Mange latterlig. Denne Nøiagtighed kom os vistnok nu til Gode, men hvor langt lettere havde ikke alt gaaet, hvis vi havde haft Originalerne selv omkring os, ikke at tale om, hvor langt mindre bekosteligt Arbeidet selv vilde være blevet?29

(I can myself bear witness to how often Professor Keyser and I felt encumbered during the publication process of Norges gamle Love since we did not have all the Norwegian law books on which the edition is based available, and this despite the care and detailed accuracy with which we transcribed, which most people would perhaps find superfluous. Many, risible. This accuracy did, to be sure, benefit us, but how much easier everything would have been, had we had the originals themselves around us, not to speak of how much less expensive the work itself had been?)

The method of travelling around to the archives that preserved the Norwegian law manuscripts was thus problematised by Munch himself soon after the publication, and he made it very clear that it was a costly method. In the early 1880s, when Gustav Storm investigated the same legal manuscripts for his manuscript descriptions (printed in the fourth volume of the work), things were much simpler. First, he

29 Morgenbladet , 1 July 1850.


gathered all the manuscripts stored in Swedish and Danish archives at the Royal Danish Library in Copenhagen, and later, he was allowed to borrow many of these to the National Archives in Norway. 30 It is uncertain whether the Committee requested permission to borrow the manuscripts in the 1830s and 1840s and was denied this, or whether the idea was never even discussed.

The manuscripts

By studying the ten volumes with transcriptions and collations, one gets a good idea of how Keyser and Munch proceeded in their editing work. For each of the separate laws, they chose one manuscript as a base text and transcribed it completely. The sheets of paper for these transcriptions were divided into two by being folded vertically in half before they were written on, and the transcription was copied onto one half of the page. On the other half, the editors entered variants from other manuscripts containing the same laws, which were found by collating them against each other.

Each of the laws printed in Volume 1 of Norges gamle Love have very few text witnesses, and there is a great deal of space for variants on that side of the page in the transcriptions. However, when Keyser and Munch came to the 39 whole preserved Laws of the Land , with many more fragmentary text witnesses, matters got more complicated, and they seem to have thought carefully through how to record the great number of variants before beginning the work. In Ms.4° 684, the sole volume that contains a full transcription of their chosen base text, they also tried to keep the entire lower third of the page clear so that they could eventually join all the variants from the different law districts together in one place. 31 This manuscript in particular presents an image of the textual work in overwhelming detail, with Munch’s compilation of the variants from all the manuscripts of Laws of the Land in the bottom margin across the entire page (Figure 4). Munch must have

30 NgL , 4:VIII.

31 The base text was taken from Copenhagen, Arnamagnæan Institute, AM 60 4to.


worked very hard indeed on keeping track of all this information consistently, and conveying it to the page.

The documents clearly reflect that they are the basis for the printed edition. In the process of preparing the material for print, additions were made in pencil and red ink, and reference numbers

Figure 4: Variants from all the collated manuscripts compiled in one place.

were crossed out, presumably when a decision had been made to leave out a variant in the printed edition. In Ms.4° 682, the volume containing the transcriptions for the older laws of Frostathing – one of the first laws that was printed – there are instructions to the compositor about the choice of typeface. On p. 21, there is a comment regarding ‘Schockisk’ typeface, something to which I will return

Figure 5: Instructions regarding the ‘Schockisk’ typeface.

(Figure 5). We do not know who wrote these annotations and they do not seem to be in Munch’s handwriting, even though he was heavily involved in the printing process and may have written instructions to the press.

In summary, the current state of the transcriptions reflects that they were worked on in several rounds over several years. The editors started with empty quires in Copenhagen, where a base manuscript was transcribed. After that – or concurrently with the original transcription – Keyser and Munch collated the rest of the manuscripts of Laws of the Land in Copenhagen against the base manuscript and made notes of variants on the blank side of the page. They returned with these transcriptions to Norway and took them to Sweden the next year, where more manuscripts were collated against the base text and more variants were entered. Finally, yet more variants were added from the two codices in Norway. Next, Munch started to collect all the variants spread out over the five volumes in one place, entering them into Ms.4° 684. However, he never finished this, since the compilation ends early in the ‘Section about Tenancy’ (Landsleigubálkr). 32 Thus, the compositor did not have a compilation of variants to typeset for the last third of the law in the same format as for the previous part. We do not know how the footnotes were chosen for this part – the compositor may have had to gather them himself from the different volumes during the printing process, in which case, he would have become very skilled indeed at perceiving the editors’ intentions. Alternatively, Munch may have recorded the variants he wished the compositor to print separately in a document now lost, or he may have given verbal instructions in person. Remarkably, however, there is nothing in the finished edition suggesting that the working method was different in this part, and there are around the same number of footnotes with variants as in the first two-thirds of the edition, in the same format.

32 NgL , 2:109.


5 . The printed books

Preparing for print

As previously mentioned, Keyser finished the transcriptions and collations in December 1837, and in January 1838, he took on the work of processing the material to prepare the text for printing. However, in September the same year, he realised that he would not have time to complete this task because of his teaching and other responsibilities, which included directing two collections, the Collection of Antiquaries and the Collection of Charters (Diplomsamlingen), so he suggested to the Committee that Munch should be approached for this task. 33 Munch was indeed asked, and agreed to take it on. 34 He was also aware that there were still some collations remaining, which must have been the two manuscripts preserved in Norwegian archives at the time, Ms.4° 1 at the University Library (now National Library) and Trondheim, NTNU University Library, Gunnerus, XA HA, Qv. 1. In the spring of 1839, once Keyser had handed the transcriptions over to the Committee, Munch began preparing the text for print. He worked on this until the spring of 1840 and sent interim reports every quarter. 35 However, owing to the death of one of the Committee members as well as the lack of funding, the work was put on hold at this point. It was only in 1844, when Keyser and Munch had become members of the Committee themselves, that they resumed the process of publishing the editions. In 1845, Stortinget granted funds for printing the work and the first three volumes were finally published in 1846–49. 36

Glimpses of the process from handwritten transcriptions to printed books are visible in the extant letters between the Committee and the two editors, the Ministry, the Commission and the press, Grøndahl, respectively. The letters are formal and practically oriented, and they document the evaluations and decisions made when the pub-

33 National Archives S-1007, L1008. Keyser to the Committee, 6 September 1838.

34 Indrebø and Kolsrud, eds., Lærde brev, 19.

35 The original letters are in Brevs. 19 (see notes 25) but most of them are printed in Indrebø and Kolsrud, eds., Lærde brev.

36 NgL , 1:V–VI.


lishing process was underway. As early as December 1839, Munch signalled to the Committee in his letters that the work of making the transcriptions ready for publication had come far enough that the preparation for printing could be set in motion. It was necessary to find a press and ‘anskaffe de fornødne Typer, da ingensteds saadanne her haves’ (acquire the necessary typeface, as that sort of thing is not available anywhere here). Munch was very eager to get the printing process started as quickly as possible, as he was afraid that if the printing were postponed too long, he would be too busy with other responsibilities and unable to contribute. Additionally, he was worried that the enormous and expensive work of transcribing and collating the manuscripts would be squandered: ‘At redde Afskrifterne fra Undergang ved snarest muligt at give dem i Trykken, er fremfor Alt nødvendigt’. 37 (To save the transcriptions from demise by getting them printed as soon as possible is, above all, necessary.) In Munch’s next letter to the Committee, written a few months later, he reiterated his plea to get the printing process started, and he also addressed the challenge of acquiring the right typeface: ‘Hvis en Bestemmelse desangaaende kunde træffes – idetmindste foreløbigt, – indtil Skibsfarten kommer igang og Bestillinger af Typer kunne finde Sted – da vilde man vistnok vinde megen Tid.’38 (If a decision on that matter could be taken – at the least preliminarily – until the process gets underway and the typeface could be ordered – that would certainly win us a lot of time).

As mentioned previously, work on the edition stopped completely from 1840 to 1844, and the next mention of the anticipated printing process is in Munch’s letter to the Committee from 11 April 1844. Here, he repeated his entreaties to start the process and emphasised, again, the challenge of obtaining enough typeface for such a publication. No press in Christiania had enough reserves. Munch estimated that the printing of the entire work would take seven to eight years, and he explained the long printing process in the following way:

37 Indrebø and Kolsrud, eds., Lærde brev, 32–33.

38 Indrebø and Kolsrud, eds., Lærde brev, 37.


Fremdeles maa jeg gjøre opmærksom paa, at da de herværende Sættere ved Arbeidet selv maa indøves i at behandle det tilbørligt, vil det, især i Førstningen, gaae noget langsomt fra Haanden, saameget mere som det ogsaa fra Udgiveres og Correctørers Side fordrer den ængsteligste Nøiagtighed. Man tør derfor vist ikke regne hurtigere Fortgang, end i det allerhurtigste eet fiirbladigt Ark om Ugen. Arbeidet vil saaledes medtage 7 á 8 Aar. 39

(Again, I must draw attention to the fact that since the local compositors who carry out the work must themselves be trained to handle it appropriately, it will, especially in the beginning, go quite slowly, so much more so because on the editors’ and proofreaders’ part, too, it demands the most careful accuracy. One does not, therefore, dare to calculate a faster advancement than, at the quickest, one four-paged sheet a week. The work will thus take seven to eight years.)

He suggested that the first volume should be printed as soon as possible to put it on the market, and thereby, it would be easier to raise funds to print the rest.


This letter from Munch was clearly the grounds for the Committee’s letter to the Ministry on 12 June the same year, in which many of Munch’s estimates were communicated. Additionally, the latter letter included information about a quote from the press Grøndahl for printing the work, along with the Committee’s recommendation to accept the quote. In this letter, the process was estimated to take six years, so Munch’s own evaluation had been lowered. 41 Half a year later, the printing still had not begun because Grøndahl ‘ikke har erholdt alt det Fornødne til at begynde’ (had not received everything they needed to begin). It is not specified whether it was the typeface or paper stock that was insufficient for starting the project, but at any rate, some of the new typeface had arrived. 42 Another six months later, Grøndahl requested more funds to acquire paper and typeface.43

39 Indrebø and Kolsrud, eds., Lærde brev, 92.

40 Indrebø and Kolsrud, eds., Lærde brev, 92–93.

41 National Archives, S-1007, 1008. The Committee to the Ministry, 12 June 1844.

42 National Archives, S-1007, 1008. The Committee to the Ministry, 7 December 1844.

43 National Archives, S-6117, L0003. Grøndahl to the Committee, 18 July 1845.


The printing of the first three volumes took about four years, from early summer 1845 to August 1849. There is evidence that Munch was paid a fee for ‘endelig Revision samt Korrectur’ (final revisions and proofreading) from this period for the first volume. 44 There is also a letter from Munch dating to the same period regarding Volume 2 – the one with the many text witnesses – with a status report and a question about his fee:

Da det andre Bind af de gamle norske Love – det Bind hvis Udarbejdelse ene kræver mere Arbejde og Anstrengelse end de to andre Textbind tilsammentagne – nu sterkt nærmer sig sin Ende, tillader jeg mig at fremkomme med Andragende...45

(Since the second volume of the ancient Norwegian laws – the volume whose preparation demands more work and effort than the other two volumes combined – is now soon reaching its end, I allow myself to request...)

When considering the manuscripts that lie behind the printed books, it is easy to see that it was necessary to have an expert be heavily involved in the printing process, and that it would have taken a huge amount of work to render the transcriptions and collations in print. The many variants with the attending reference numbers in the text demanded a great deal of accuracy. In the process, it was necessary to make many editorial decisions, since not all the variants were included in the printed variant apparatus. Only those that ‘medførte en Forandring i selve Meningen’ (implied a change in the meaning itself) were included, while the variants where ‘there was only an orthographic or grammatical peculiarity’ were excluded.46 The pencil lines crossing out reference numbers in the text, indicating the variants that were not to be printed, were thus probably drawn by Munch.

44 National Archives, S-1007, 1009. The Committee to the Ministry, 9 March 1846.

45 National Archives, S-1007, 1009. Munch to the Ministry, 15 February 1848.

46 NgL , 1:VIII.



The first three volumes of Norges gamle Love were printed in 1022 copies, of which 1000 were printed on ‘Trykpapir’ (printing paper), 20 on ‘Skrivpapir’ (writing paper) and two on ‘Thonpapir’ (‘Thon’ paper).47 The same is true for volumes four and five.48 ‘Skrivpapir’ and ‘Trykpapir’ were usual types of paper in book production at that time, but ‘Thon’ (or ‘ton’) paper was not. 49 ‘Thon’ paper was a type of coloured paper which was mostly used for drawing and other art. 50 The reason two copies were printed on this type of paper was that Bernhard Rosenblad (1796–1855), a Swedish financier and politician, contacted Keyser in his capacity as a member of the Committee, commissioning a copy of the work printed on coloured paper. 51 Rosenblad had clearly known about the imminent publication of the medieval laws for a long time, since Keyser had mentioned his wish regarding paper in a letter to the Committee as early as 14 March 1839. In the same letter, he also informed the Committee that Rosenblad had most kindly lent the editors his copy of the Laws of the Land , i.e., a medieval manuscript he owned. 52 Keyser wrote that Rosenblad requested, ‘when the time comes, to receive his copy of the edition of Norway’s ancient laws, to which he wishes to subscribe, printed on coloured paper which he will supply himself’. 53 In 1845, when Rosenblad contacted Keyser again with his request for a special copy of the Norwegian laws, he specified that it should be ‘på gult Hollandskt papper (eller om sådant ej finnes i Christiania annat couleurt papper)’ (on yellow Dutch paper (or if that sort of thing is not found in Christiania, then another

47 National Archives S-6117, L0003. Grøndahl to the Committee, 3 September 1846, 6 October 1848, and 27 August 1849.

48 See Grøndahl’s sales reports, National Archives S-1007, L1010.

49 Dahl, Om bogtryk og korrekturlæsning , 22.

50 See, e.g., Illustreret norsk konversations leksikon , ed. Nyhus.

51 Brevs. 19, Rosenblad to Keyser, 2 July 1845.

52 The codex subsequently came into the National Library’s holdings as Ms.4° 317. Rosenblad sold it to the library in 1844; see Witting, ‘Nasjonalbibliotekets landslovhåndskrifter og deres proveniens’, 54, and Winroth, this volume.

53 Brevs. 1, Keyser to the Committee, 14 March 1839.


coloured paper)). Rosenblad stated that his agent would pay for the extra costs incurred. 54

Grøndahl chose to print two copies of this special version, in order to have a spare, should anything go wrong in the printing. However, since nothing failed, the Committee ended up with a spare special copy. The Committee suggested to the Ministry that the superfluous copy be given to the Royal Norwegian Society of Science and Letters (Det Kongelige Norske Videnskabers Selskab) in Trondheim, which contributed to the funding of the edition. 55 The Ministry probably followed the Committee’s suggestion, since a memo from 1849 states that 30 copies on printing paper had been sent to the Society, ‘samt i en særskilt Kasse det for Videnskabers Selskabet Bibliothek bestemte Expl. paa Tonpapir’ (in addition to a special box for the Society’s Library’s copy on Ton paper). 56 All five volumes were printed on ‘Ton’ paper in two copies. 57 I have not been able to track down these special copies – all the copies in the National Library are printed either on writing or printing paper, as it was termed, and those libraries and archives I have contacted also state that they only have such copies in their holdings.


In 1831, the Committee laid out the plans for Norges gamle Love ’s publication, and among the goals was that the books should be printed ‘ideally in Gothic typeface’. 58 This plan was partially carried out when the first volume came out 15 years later, though the book was printed in a combination of Gothic, also called Fraktur, and Antiqua, with the Old Norse text in Fraktur and all other text in Antiqua. The four remaining volumes repeated this format.

54 Brevs. 19, Rosenblad to Keyser, 2 July 1845.

55 National Archives S-1007, L1008. The Committee to the Ministry, 14 September 1846.

56 National Archives S-1007, L1008. Memo from 30 August 1849.

57 See Grøndahl’s sales reports, National Archives S-1007, L1010.

58 National Archives S-1007, L1008. ‘Betænkning’, 13.


The printing of the book series began during a transitional period in Norwegian book production, when Antiqua had begun to take over Fraktur as the dominant typeface in Norway. Until then, Fraktur had been the standard font, with occasional appearances of Antiqua in passages and single words in foreign languages, especially Latin. 59 The switch from Fraktur to Antiqua first happened in academic circles and in texts aimed at bourgeois and educated audiences. More popular publications were, on the other hand, printed in Fraktur far into the nineteenth century. 60

It would have been interesting to find out the specific reasons why the Committee wished to and eventually chose to render the Old Norse text in Norges gamle Love in Fraktur, but I have not been able to find any documentation for this. Regarding the oldest charters in the series Diplomatarium Norvegicum , whose first volume was published in 1847, the choice was made to print the entire text in Antiqua. 61 Moreover, Gregers Fougner Lundh, a central figure in the earliest phase to publish Norges gamle Love and a central member of the Committee, had even published Bergens gamle bylov (Bergen’s Ancient Town Laws), printed in Copenhagen in 1829, in Antiqua. 62 The choice of Fraktur for the most important parts of the text in Norges gamle Love may therefore seem surprising. However, the series adhered to an old tradition of publishing Old Norse texts, where the source text in the original language was printed in one typeface and the commentary in a modern language with another font. Even the earliest editions from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were printed in two kinds of typeface (as well as the occasional runic text) to indicate what was the original source text and what was the commentary. The earliest editions include examples of both using Fraktur for the original and Antiqua for the modern text, or vice versa. 63

59 Johannessen, Den glemte skriften , 25; Eng, Da typografien ville være kunst , 11.

60 Rem, ‘Bjørnson, bønder og lesning’, 248.

61 See Lange and Unger, eds., Diplomatarium Norvegicum .

62 Lundh, ed., Bergens gamle bylov.

63 Gottskálk Jensson, ‘Udgivelse af norrøn litteratur indtil 1772’.


The use of both Fraktur and Antiqua typeface in the same edition – combined with using italics and different sizes of font – necessitated that the press have many different versions of each letter, and this must have contributed to making the acquisition of typeface a challenge. During the preparatory work for the printing, Munch was very aware of this difficulty (as can be seen from his repeated comments on this in his letters, mentioned previously), and indeed, it turned out to take considerable time before Grøndahl had enough typeface to begin printing. The type of Fraktur used in Norges gamle Love indtil 1387 was called schochisk (Schochic) after its designer, Friedrich Schoch in Augsburg in Germany, who developed the font in the early 1840s. The Schochic typeface eventually came to be produced by others as well as Schoch, including the producer J.D. Trennert in Altona, 64 from whom Grøndahl bought his typeface. 65 The idea to use exactly this typeface for Norges gamle Love may therefore have come from Grøndahl, but

64 Bauer with Reichardt, ’Chronik der Schriftgiesserien’, 14.

65 Eng, Da typografien ville være kunst , 15.

Figure 6: From the Frostathing Laws in Norges gamle Love.

Munch later used the same typeface in his edition Aslak Bolts Jordebog (Aslak Bolt’s Urbarium) so he must have been pleased with it. 66 On the other hand, it does not seem that the Schochic font became very popular in Norway, since younger publications I have looked at published in Fraktur are all printed in the traditional version. The name ‘Schochic’ for the typeface of the Old Norse text in Norges gamle Love is not mentioned in any of the forewords of the first three volumes, nor have I seen it explicitly named as such in any of the letters between the editors, press, Committee and Ministry. Apart from its appearance in the instructions to the compositors in Ms.4° 682 (Figure 5), I first came across it in a commemorative publication by W.P. Sommerfeldt from 1912 about Grøndahl press’s centenary. Here, Sommerfeldt singled out Norges gamle Love as one of the press’s most important achievements, describing the books’ characteristics and writing that the typeface had a ‘ganske merkelig historie’ (quite a remarkable history). According to him, it was originally acquired for a projected dictionary that the Society for Norway’s Development planned to publish in 1811. The dictionary never came out, but the priest and printer Niels Wulfsberg (1775–1852), who was involved in these plans, had, according to Sommerfeldt, already got hold of ‘en ny og eiendommelig skriftsort, den saakaldte schokkiske’ (a new and unique typeface, the so-called Schochic one’), and the author claimed that it was pulled out 30 years later for the printing of Norges gamle Love . 67 This is, of course, incorrect, but Sommerfeldt seems to have taken this information from a book by O.A. Øverland about the history of the Society for Norway’s Development. 68 Neither of them give any source for the claim and although I spent considerable time trying to verify it, I was unable to do so. However, the title ‘Schochic’ in Sommerfeldt’s publication led me to compare the text printed in Norges gamle Love with this typeface in Bauer’s survey of German typeface producers, and thus, the mystery was solved.

66 Munch, ed., Aslak Bolts Jordebog , VI.

67 Sommerfeldt, Grøndahl & søns boktrykkeri , 74–76.

68 Øverland, Det Kgl. selskap for Norges vels historie , 238.


The print run

As mentioned previously, 1000 copies of the series were printed on so-called printing paper. In a letter from the Committee to the Ministry written in June 1844, before the printing began, a print run of 500 copies was suggested, but in December the same year, when Grøndahl had made a few trial runs of typesetting and printing the text, the number was doubled to 1000 copies. 69 The Committee wrote that the first suggestion of 500 copies was based on a financial analysis, while after the trial runs, they were bold enough to suggest 1000 copies. The grounds for a larger print run were that a publication which demanded ‘saa betydelige Omkostninger’ (such significant costs) should be available for purchase for a long time. They also assumed that many copies would go to official institutions and larger private libraries. 70

Further information about the target audience that the Committee had in mind is found in a letter to the Ministry dated to 14 September 1846, soon after the first volume had been printed. They reasoned that each copy should be sold for two spesiedaler, which they considered a low price for such a book. They also argued that it was important that the books not be too expensive, because ‘Ved en saa billig Priis ville forhaabentlig ogsaa mange af de Studerende, Lovkyndige, og Yndere af det gamle Sprog, finde sig opfordrede til Verkets Anskaffelse’ (for such a cheap price, hopefully many students, people knowledgeable of law and lovers of the old language will find themselves encouraged to acquire the work). 71 The Committee clearly had high expectations when it came to popular interest in the publication. As it turned out, this large print run meant that Norges gamle Love has been available for purchase ever since it came out, and it is only in the last few years that it has been to a large extent replaced by new editions.

69 National Archives S-1007, L1008. The Committee to the Ministry, 12 June and 7. December, 1844.

70 National Archives S-1007, L1008. The Committee to the Ministry, 7 December, 1844.

71 National Archives S-1007, L1008. The Committee to the Ministry, 14 September, 1846.


Distributing the books

Grøndahl sold the series for the first few years after it was published. This involved getting the printed quires bound, advertising the books, distributing them to book traders and keeping an inventory of the stock. Around 200 copies of each of the three volumes were bound immediately when they came from the printer by the bookbinder Sauerzapff. 72 Christian Friedrich Rudolph Sauerzapff (1812–97) was the University’s and thus the University Library’s bookbinder from 1845 to 1888. 73 For Volume 1, Sauerzapff carried out the binding – or more accurately, the sewing – using two slightly different methods, one standard and one slightly cheaper. 74 In the sales advertisements Grøndahl placed in the newspapers after each publication, the books are described as sewn (indhæftede) but there is no mention of binding. 75 This could mean that the binding Sauerzapff

Figure 7: Copies of Norges gamle Love in original binding.

72 RA S-1007, L1010. Invoice from Sauerzapff to Grøndahl, 12 November 1846; Grøndahl to the Committee, 9 June 1849, and 23 November 1850.

73 [Refsum], ‘Universitetsbogbinder Sauerzapff’, 7–9.

74 National Archives S-1007, L1010. Invoice from Sauerzapff to Grøndahl, 12 November 1846.

75 E.g., newspapers Den Constitutionelle , 31 October 1846; Morgenbladet , 15 October 1848, and Christiania-Posten , 2 September 1849.


carried out – at least the cheaper sort – was only a provisional one, and it was assumed that the buyer would have the books bound in a more permanent binding.

With regard to the distribution of the books, Grøndahl ensured that there were copies for sale in the larges towns in Norway – Kristiansand, Stavanger, Bergen and Trondheim – as well as in Stockholm, Lund, Copenhagen, Hamburg and Leipzig, collaborating with book traders he already knew and trusted. 76 For the next few years, Grøndahl regularly reported sales figures to the Committee from the various book traders, first annually and later every few years. 77

The unsold copies of the first three volumes of Norges gamle Love must have filled a good deal of storage space. In the autumn of 1854, Grøndahl delivered the share of the inventory that was still ‘i Materie’ (in unbound sheets) to the Ministry. Here, it was a question of slightly fewer than 800 copies of each volume.78 Twenty years after the original publication, the same stock was mentioned in two documents in connection with its being bound by Albert Cammermeyer, book and paper dealer, in December 1868.79 In an invoice to the Ministry for completed binding, Cammermeyer had entered an additional cost for printing 2400 spine labels. A pre-printed spine label on an exemplar of vols. 1, 2 or 3 of Norges gamle Love would thus suggest that it was not bound when it was printed but in this second round of binding in 1868, while those without such a label were likely bound in the 1840s.

In 1869, P.T. Malling’s Bookstore took over the responsibility for selling the books. This must have entailed taking over the almost 2400 copies that had just been bound. Malling sold single volumes for

76 National Archives S-1007, L1010. Grøndahl to the Committee, 29 October 1846.

77 National Archives S-1007, L1010.

78 In Grøndahl’s letter to the Ministry dated to 24 October 1854, the numbers are approximate – 730 copies of volume 1 and 800 of volumes 2 and 3. National Archives S-1007, L1009.

79 Here, the numbers are slightly different: 732 copies of Volume 1, 788 of Volume 2 and 795 of Volume 3. National Archives S-1007, L1009. Receipt for received goods dated 1 December 1868, signed by Johan Guldbrandtsen; National Archives S-6117, L0003. Invoice from Cammermeyer to the Ministry, 2 December 1868.


80 skilling and all three together for two spesiedaler, but until then, all three volumes had been sold together for 5 spesiedaler. 80 Clearly, selling the books for less than half the price 20 years after publication suggests that there was a desire to increase sales and reduce the stock. Perhaps the sales had been lower than expected. Along with sales, free copies were also given out. How this should be administered was discussed in a letter from the Committee to the Ministry dated 14 September 1846. The Committee requested to coordinate with the Ministry regarding a list of who should be sent the books. 81 There is a good deal of documentation surrounding these free copies in the archival material, but I have not gone deeper into this matter. 82 The rest of the print run is still stored at the National Archives.

6 . Contemporary evaluation of the work

The first volume of the work was completed by the printer in September 1846 and on the 20th of the same month, it was mentioned in the newspaper Den Constitutionelle , while the same notice was repeated in other newspapers a few days later. 83 The fact that these oldest laws were now accessible for research was presented as highly important:

[Boken] vil afhjælpe det mest presserende Krav paa brugbare Kilder for vore Historieforskere og Lovgranskere, da hint Tidsrums Love eller Lovfragmenter hidindtil ikke have været trykte i Originalsproget.

([The book] will relieve the most urgent demand for useful sources for our researchers of history and law, since until now, these laws or fragments of laws have not been printed in the original language.)

80 For the price from Malling, see, e.g., Morgenbladet , 18 February 1869, and 8 October 1871. For the earlier price, see, e.g., Christiania-Posten and Morgenbladet 2 September 1849.

81 National Archives S-1007, L1008. The Committee to the Ministry, 14 September 1846.

82 National Archives S-1007, L1009.

83 E.g., newspapers Moss Tilskuer on 24 September, and Lillehammer Tilskuer on 25 September, both in 1846.


Finally, the plans for the rest of the work were outlined – three more volumes with the rest of the laws up to 1387 with a description of the material and possibly an index, to be published in the next four to five years.

After the first volume’s publication in 1847, at least two reviews appeared, one by the linguist Johan Fritzner in the Norsk Tidsskrift for Videnskab og Litteratur (Norwegian Journal for Scholarship and Literature), and one by the editors in the Danish Historisk Tidsskrift ( Journal of History). Both reviews stated that this was a significant publication, and both considered the editors’ work rigorous and reliable. Fritzner gave a list of examples where either the base manuscripts had errors or the editors had made a mistake – he considered this unclear. But he still seems to have been generally impressed by the edition and he agreed with the decision not to fund a translation into modern Norwegian, since, in his opinion, those who needed the edition should be able to read the text in the original language. Someone else could translate the texts later. The editors of Historisk Tidsskrift wished to ‘ønske Norge og dets Regiering til Lykke med at have fremmet et stort, ægte Nationalmonuments Reisning’ (congratulate Norway and its government with having erected a large, real national monument). 84 In their opinion, it was important to prioritise such large scholarly and literary projects, especially for smaller nations.

Both reviews considered the book’s visual format to be successful. According to Fritzner, ‘Ogsaa fra Officinets Side er denne Udgave af vore gamle Love udstyret paa en Maade, der gjør det al Ære’85 (The printer’s work, too, makes this edition of our ancient laws appear in a way that does them every honour), and in Historisk Tidsskrift , it was evaluated as follows: ‘Bogens Udvortes er smukt og pynteligt, uden overflødig Pragt’ (the book’s exterior is beautiful and elegant without superfluous showiness). 86 They both noted that the Old Norse text was

84 Redaksjonen, ‘3. Norges gamle Love, indtil 1387’, 674.

85 Fritzner, ‘Norsk Litteratur’.

86 Redaksjonen, ‘3. Norges gamle Love, indtil 1387’, 675.


printed in the new Schochic typeface and here, too, they were positive. Fritzner described it as clean and antikk (antique), presumably meaning that it looked appropriate for the medieval content, while the Danish reviewer wrote:

Man har til Prydelse og Udmærkelse for Værket benyttet en ny, hertil skaaren gothisk Skrift, hvis Charakteer nærmer sig den angelsaxiske og dennes Afkom, den ældste islandske Bogstavskrift. Den er maaskee falden lidt for mager ud; enkelte Bogstaver (f.Ex. d og ð) kunde være noget tydeligere. 87

(To make the work look beautiful and distinguished, one has used a recently produced Gothic script, whose character comes close to the Anglo-Saxon one and its descendant, the oldest Icelandic written script. It is perhaps a little thin: some characters (e.g., d and ð) could have been somewhat clearer.)

When the first three volumes had been published, the philologist and librarian Martinus Nissen, too, mentioned it in a survey article about the art of printing in Norway, published in Norsk Tidsskrift for Videnskab og Litteratur. 88 Nissen listed the most impressive books that had been printed in Norway in 1814–1847, counting Norges gamle Love among them. He wrote:

Først i det sidste Decennium og navnlig siden 1840 have flere især af Hovedstadens Bogtrykkerier naaet en høi Grad af Fuldkommenhed, og de Arbeider, som leveres fra disse, kunne i kunstnerisk Henseende stilles ved Siden af Udlandets. 89

(Only in the last decade, and markedly since 1840, many of especially the capital’s presses have achieved a high degree of perfection, and the works that these produce can, in artistic terms, be placed side by side with foreign ones.)

87 Redaksjonen, ‘3. Norges gamle Love, indtil 1387’, 675.

88 Nissen, ‘Statistisk Udsigt over den norske Literatur fra 1814–1847’.

89 Bergens Stiftstidende , 23 August 1849.


Thus, the work’s visual aspects clearly impressed people at the time of publication, and for some readers, at least, the books’ visual language evoked their content’s antiquity.

The work was not only discussed and evaluated by historians and philologists, but also by those who were interested in the craftsmanship of its printer. Norges gamle Love ’s first volume was included in the first industry exhibition that was held in Christiania, organised by the city’s newly established Technical Association (Den tekniske Forening). This exhibition took place in February 1848 during Market Week, an annual event in the city.90 In the autumn of 1847, the Technical Association encouraged those interested to contribute objects for the exhibition: ‘her i Landet forarbeidede Gjenstande, der kunde ansees som vellykkede industrielle Frembringelser, og som røbe en ikke ubetydelig Grad af Kunstflid’ (Objects produced in this country that could be considered successful products of industry, and which boast of not unconsiderable craftsmanship).91 On 6 February 1848, Morgenbladet printed a longer piece about the exhibition, describing some of the most interesting objects, e.g., a piano, a mirror, books bound by the bookbinder Hoppe, an air gun, a loom and a guitar. A panel of judges chosen from the Technical Association’s members handed out prizes for outstanding objects, including three of Grøndahl press’s publications, among them Norges gamle Love . 92 Unfortunately, it is not stated why the prize was awarded to Grøndahl. However, in sum, the reviews and articles in newspapers and journals, along with the work’s inclusion in the exhibition and the prizes awarded to it, demonstrate that Norges gamle Love was valued and admired at the time of its publication.

90 Collett, Gamle Christiania-billeder, 136.

91 Munthe, Den norske Haandværks- og Industriforening 1871–1896 , 81.

92 Morgenbladet , 22 February 1848.


7. Summary and conclusion

Most of the requests that the Committee for the Publication of the Ancient Norwegian Laws made in its opinion in 1831 were fulfilled in the work Norges gamle Love indtil 1387. All the ancient Norwegian laws had been published as accurately as practically possible and printed by a Norwegian press. The books’ format and visual aspects were almost exactly as stipulated – in quarto format and Gothic typeface, though the paper for most of the copies (those printed on printing paper) was not quite as thick and strong as they had hoped. The binding for some of the books before sale was standard, but for others, it was of the simpler kind. The copies in preliminary binding that ended up with buyers who did not have them bound properly are, today, quite tired, with brittle paper and worn edges, since the pages were not cut.

The Committee’s decision to print the laws in Fraktur turned out to be an unfortunate one for a work that was to be used for years to come. The Schochic typeface has proved to be more difficult for posterity’s readers than if they had used traditional Fraktur. Hans Paus’s edition of the laws from the mid-eighteenth century is printed in the latter, and I consider these texts easier for today’s readers than Norges gamle Love . The best decision of all would have been to choose Antiqua, since this typeface entirely supplanted Fraktur a few decades later.

On the other hand, the editors succeeded in producing a work that gave rise to national pride, inspired many other publications and became the standard edition for a century and a half or more. The print run of 1000 copies means that the book has never gone out of print. And it is only now, with the approach of the 750-year anniversary of King Magnus the Lawmender’s laws in 2024 that the laws dating to his reign have been published again in new scholarly editions. In contrast to the cheapest copies of the printed edition, the manuscripts with Keyser and Munch’s transcriptions and collations appear as solid objects even today. The paper is strong and of good quality, and the binding is sturdy. The transcriptions have always been carefully preserved, first by Keyser and Munch during their travels to the archives and the subsequent printing process at home in


Christiania, and then by Gustav Storm, when he recommenced the work on Norges gamle Love in the 1880s. Storm understood their worth and ensured that they would be preserved for posterity when he deposited them in the National Library (then the University Library). The fact that they were carefully stored even after the publication of the printed editions indicates that they were considered valuable in their own right. This is not least because many of the details in the enormously rigorous transcriptions done by Keyser and Munch were not included in the printed edition. They are an important historical source in themselves because they provide a unique and irreplaceable insight into the process of editing and printing a pioneering edition that was the basis for research on Norway’s medieval history for years to come.


Unprinted sources


Oslo, National Library of Norway

Brevs. 1. Letter from Rudolf Keyser to the Committee for Publishing Norway´s Ancient Laws.

Brevs. 19. Letter from P.A. Munch to the Committee for Publishing Norway´s Ancient Laws. (Most of these are printed in Indrebø and Kolsrud, eds., Lærde brev fraa og til P.A. Munch).

Brevs. 19. Letters from P.A. Munch to Nathalie Munch.

Brevs. 19. Letter from Bernhard Rosenblad to Rudolf Keyser.

Oslo, National Archives

Kirke- og undervisningsdepartementet, Sakarkiv, saker ordnet etter emne. Norges gamle lover (S-1007/D/Dc/L1008–L1010).

Norsk Historisk Kjeldeskrift-Institutt (NHKI), Rettshistorisk kommisjon, Norges gamle lover (S-6117 /Gc/L0003).

Primary sources

Indrebø, Gustav and Oluf Kolsrud , eds. Lærde brev fraa og til P.A. Munch. Oslo: Aschehoug & co, 1924.

Lange, Chr. C.A. and Carl R. Unger , eds. Diplomatarium Norvegicum. Oldbreve til kundskab om Norges indre og ydre forhold, sprog, slægter, sæder, lovgivning og rettergang i middelalderen. Vol. 1.1. Christiania [Oslo]: P.T. Mallings forlagshandel, 1847.

Lundh, Gregers Fougner , ed. Bergens gamle Bylov. Efter Membran-Codices med Indledning, Oversættelse og Anmærkninger. Copenhagen: Universitets-Boghandler Brummers Forlag, 1829.

Munch, P. A ., ed. Aslak Bolts Jordebog. Christiania: Chr. Grøndahl, 1852.

NgL = Norges gamle Love indtil 1387. 5 volumes. Edited by Rudolf Keyser, P.A. Munch, Gustav Storm and Ebbe Hertzberg. Christiania: Chr. Grøndahl, 1846–1895.


Paus, Hans . Samling af Gamle Norske Love. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Niels Hansen and Owe Lynow, 1751–52.

Rindal, Magnus, og Bjørg Dale Spørck , eds. Kong Magnus Håkonsson Lagabøtes landslov. Norrøne tekster 9. Oslo: Arkivverket, 2018.

Secondary sources

Bagge, Sverre , John Peter Collett, and Audun Kjus , eds. P.A. Munch. Historiker og nasjonsbygger. Oslo: Dreyers forlag, 2012.

Bauer, Friedrich, with Hans Reichardt . «Chronik der Schriftgiesserien in Deutschland und den deutschsprachigen Nachbarländern» (lest januar 2023: 2011 [1928].

Collett, Alf. Gamle Christiania-billeder. Christiania: J.W. Cappelens forlag, 1893.

Dahl, Bastian . Om bogtryk og korrekturlæsning. Kristiania: Den grafisk-tekniske forening and W.C. Fabritius & Sønner, 1888.

Dahl, Ottar. Norsk historieforskning i 19. og 20. århundre. Oslo, Bergen, Tromsø: Universitetsforlaget, 1976.

Eng, Torbjørn . Da typografien ville være kunst. Oslo: Typografi i Norge, 2021.

Fritzner, Johan . ‘Norsk Litteratur’. Norsk Tidsskrift for Videnskab og Litteratur 1 (1847): 117–123.

Hemstad, Ruth . Den dansk-norske skilsmisse. 100 danmarkshistorier. Aarhus: Aarhus Universitetsforlag, 2023.

Illustreret norsk konversations leksikon. Volume 4, Recambio – Øynhausen. Edited by Haakon Nyhuus. Kristiania: H. Aschehoug & co, 1913.

Gottskálk Jensson. ‘Udgivelse af norrøn litteratur indtil 1772’. In Dansk Editionshistorie. Vol. 2, Udgivelse af norrøn og gammeldansk litteratur, edited by Britta Olrik Frederiksen, 47–106. Charlottenlund: Museum Tusculanums Forlag, 2021.

Holm-Olsen, Ludvig . Lys over norrøn kultur. Norrøne studier i Norge. Oslo: J.W. Cappelens forlag, 1981.

Johannessen, Knut . Den glemte skriften. Gotisk håndskrift i Norge. Riksarkivaren skriftserie 28. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 2007.

Jørgensen, Jon Gunnar . ‘Norrøne kildetekster og norsk nasjonsbygging’. In Det norrøne og det nationale, edited by Annette Lassen, 43–58. Reykjavík: Stofnun Vigdísar Finnbogadóttur, 2008.

Jørgensen, Jon Gunnar . ‘Rudolf Keyser and His Use of Old Norse Texts in the Norwegian National Initiative’. In Old Norse-Icelandic Philology and National

Bibliography 293

Identity in the Long Nineteenth Century, edited by Gylfi Gunnlaugsson and Clarence E. Glad, 226–259. Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2022.

Már Jónsson . Arnas Magnæus Philologus. (1663–1730). The Viking Collection 20. Odense: Syddansk Universitetsforlag, 2012.

Munch, P. A. Det norske Folks Historie. 8 vols. Christiania: Chr. Tønsbergs forlag, 1852–1863.

Munthe, Olaf . 1896. Den norske Haandværks- og Industriforening 1871–1896. Kristiania: Grøndahl & Søns Bogtrykkeri.

Nissen, Martinus . ‘Statistisk Udsigt over den norske Literatur fra 1814–1847’. Norsk Tidsskrift for Videnskab og Litteratur 3 (1849): 177–207. [Refsum, H.M.?] . ‘Universitetsbogbinder Sauerzapff’. Bogbindernes blad 1.2 (1908): 7–9.

Redaksjonen. ‘3. Norges gamle Love, indtil 1387. I Fölge offentlig Foranstaltning,og tillige med Understöttelse af det Kgl. Norske viderskabernes Selskab, udgivne ved R. Keyser og P.A. Munch. Förste Bind’. Historisk Tidsskrift 2.1 (1847): 673–75. Available at https://tidsskrift.dk/historisktidsskrift/article/ view/54036/72525.

Rem, Tore . ‘Bjørnson, bønder og lesning. Om gotiske meningsdannelser’. Edda: Nordisk tidsskrift for litteraturforskning 95.3 (2005): 245–255.

Rindal, Magnus . Handskrifter av norske mellomalderlover ved Nasjonalbiblioteket. NB tema 8. Oslo: Nasjonalbiblioteket, 2020.

Sommerfeldt, W.P . Grøndahl & søns boktrykkeri og bokhandel i hundrede aar 1812–1912. Kristiania: Grøndahl & søns boktrykkeri, 1912.

Storm, Gustav . Om Haandskrifter og Oversættelser af Magnus Lagabøters Love. Christiania Videnskabsselskabs Forhandlinger 14. Christiania: Jacob Dybwad, 1879.

Storsveen, Odd Arvid . ‘Gi meg mine fire hundre år tilbake! Danmark og Norge: Historien som aldri tar slutt’. In Mellem brødre: Dansk-norsk samliv i 600 år, edited by Rasmus Glenthøj, 218–231. Copenhagen and Oslo: Gads forlag & Sap, 2016.

Den Tekniske Forening i Christiania. Beretning om Selskabets Virksomhed til Udgangen af 1847. Christiania: Chr. Schibsted, 1848.

Witting, Mette. ‘Nasjonalbibliotekets landslovhåndskrifter og deres proveniens’. In Lov og lovgivning i middelalderen. Nye studier av Magnus Lagabøtes landslov, edited by Anna Catharina Horn and Karen Arup Seip, 32–66. Oslo: Nasjonalbiblioteket, 2020.

Øverland, O.A . Det Kgl. selskap for Norges vels historie gjennem hundre aar 1809–1909. Vol. 1, Vicestatsholder Prins Fredrik av Hessens præsidium 1809–1813. Kristiania: Grøndahl & søns boktrykkeri, 1909.

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9. Andreas Heusler’s German Translation and Paratextual Realignment in Isländisches Recht. Die Graugans and its National Socialist Publication Context*

Andreas Heusler III (1865–1940), Professor of Early Germanic Studies including Old Norse at the Universities of Berlin and Basel, may no longer be an all too prominent name in international research on legal history.1 The reason for this, however, cannot be that he did not publish on legal history, 2 a specialist subject which was, in a sense, handed down to him by his father and grandfather. 3 Instead, the general academic interest probably moved away from this type of law and legal

* I would like to thank my colleague Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir and the anonymous reviewer for their very constructive feedback and comments at an earlier stage of this article.

1 For an overview of Heusler’s life and publications, consult the lemma Heusler in: König, et al., eds., Internationales Germanistenlexikon 1800–1950 , 2:738–741; Wyss, ‘Andreas Heusler (1865–1941) ’, 128–140. It should be noted here, however, that Wyss incorrectly gives Heusler’s year of death as 1941 instead of 1940.

2 In addition to the translation of Grágás discussed here, Heusler also published scholarship, e.g., the monographs Strafrecht der Isländersagas (Criminal Law of the Icelandic Sagas, Leipzig, 1911) and Zum isländischen Fehdewesen in der Sturlungenzeit (On the Icelandic Feudal System in the Sturlung Period, Basel, 1912).

3 His grandfather Andreas Heusler I (1802–1868) was an important jurist and legal historian who published on De prohibita rei litigiosae alienatione secundum praecepta juris romani (On the Prohibited Alienation of a Matter in Dispute Under the Rules of Roman Law, Basel, 1830), as was his father Andreas Heusler II (1834–1921) who published, for example, Verfassungsgeschichte der Stadt Basel im Mittelalter (Constitutional History of the City of Basel in the Middle Ages, Basel, 1860) and Deutsche Verfassungsgeschichte (German Constitutional History, Leipzig, 1905). In contrast to Andreas Heusler III, his grandfather and father were also conservative politicians and members of the Grand Council of Basel-Stadt.


history from the second half of the twentieth century onwards. While Heusler’s work has never been particularly well known or cited outside of German-speaking scholarship, 4 interest in Heusler’s life, and his academic research in German studies and German-speaking Scandinavian studies, appears at regular intervals. Heusler’s terminology is closely tied to its ideological premises, but time and again, some attempt is made to rehabilitate it and present it as supposedly ideologically neutral 5 – some even transpose their own twenty-first century writing style on Heusler. 6 Others take a critical approach to the ideological underpinnings of Heusler’s research and the discourses he shaped in the history of German studies and Scandinavian studies. 7 The present contribution, too, should be considered part of the current wave of interest in Heusler’s work, and as will become readily apparent, it will critically evaluate the ideological foundations and context of his translation of Grágás . However, the aim is not so much to analyse how Grágás 8 – an Old Norse legal text from mid-thirteenthcentury Iceland – relates to the transmission history of the Icelandic dependence on medieval Norwegian legal texts, and the concomitant

4 A good introduction to the reception of Heusler’s work in the English-speaking academic world of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries can be found in Clunies Ross, ‘Heusler and the English-speaking world’, 286–308.

5 The attempt to continue to apply Heusler’s distinctly völkisch ideas to the topic of ‘Germanic peoples’ for the purposes of the study of Germanic history and cultures is exemplified by Beck, ‘Andreas Heuslers Begriff des “Altgermanischen”’, 396–414.

6 One concise example of this approach is offered by Nahl, ‘“Wuchernder Wildwuchs”? Andreas Heusler und die Mittelalterphilologie’, 421–431.

7 See, e.g., Glauser and Zernack, eds., Germanentum im Fin de siècle. Wissenschaftsgeschichtliche Studien zum Werk Andreas Heuslers . A brief analysis of Heusler’s Germanophile attitude and his problematic political alignments can be found in Rösli, ‘Skandinavistische Lehre und Forschung in der Schweiz: 1900 – 1945’, 19–29.

8 Naumann,‘Grágás’. Although this entry no longer offers the most up-to-date overview of research, it should be mentioned here because it provides a succinct, good introduction to the manuscript tradition and dating, the textual content and composition, and the legal material dealt with in Grágás . When reference is made to the Grágás in the manuscript context in this chapter, it is to the manuscript of the Konungsbók Grágásar or Codex regius of the Grágás (GKS 1157 fol.), as this was the main manuscript of the edition that Heusler used for his translation. For digitised images of the manuscript see https://handrit.is/ manuscript/view/is/GKS02-1157/.


implementation of monarchist legal conceptions. Rather, the focus will be on how Heusler’s German translation, and the paratextual extensions of the text he undertook to translate, have an influence on the understanding of this legal text as decidedly ‘Germanic law’,9 in terms of an alleged legal tradition. In the second part of this chapter – and closely related to the first idea – the National Socialist publication context of Heusler’s translation will be taken into consideration. The physical manifestations of this context had an influence on the archiving process in libraries and, in the medium of a library book, they shape our present immanent first contact with the text.

The reason I think a paratextual study of a modern translation of a medieval legal text is important and fruitful for the study of actual medieval legal texts can be summarised as follows. On the one hand, people have generally prioritised codifying legal texts, and they often canonise them. This pattern is based on the fact that legal texts make a statement by means of writing, which is binding for an extra-textual entity, i.e. society, and must therefore be recognised by all. However, the text should, for these reasons, always be conveyed in as uniform a manner as possible, at least as far as the semantic meaning of the legal text is concerned. On the other hand, legal texts are considered by definition to be the basis of performative action, which attaches itself from their textuality to the world outside the text.10 Thus, legal texts have an impact that goes beyond the actual literary text: they refer to the society from which the text originated or to which it was attributed in terms of a legal norm. This inherent performative purpose is, at least, what is expected of, or, rather – in many cases – ascribed to them. For a legal text that had no binding authority outside its established diegesis would just be a literary text

9 For an introduction to the concept and the history of its various problematic connotations see, e.g., Shoemaker, ‘Germanic Law’, 249–263.

10 For a critical examination of the question of how law, also in the sense of legal texts, and performance interact, see Peters, ‘Law as Performance’, 193–209.


with a legal topic,11 as we know it – for example – from the narratives we traditionally call Íslendingasögur (Sagas of Icelanders).12

Furthermore, legal texts are, both today and in the Middle Ages, highly structured texts in which the structure of individual legal sections is an inherent part of the expected text layout.13 From a narratological point of view, we can call these structuring mechanisms paratexts. They divide the law-teaching and law-ordering continuous texts or legal codes in different chapters or paragraphs with, for example, section signs, subchapters and punctuations.

According to the literary theorist Gérard Genette, however, such paratexts are not only structural for any text, but moreover, they have a pronounced function:

A literary work consists, entirely or essentially, of a text, defined (very minimally) as a more or less long sequence of verbal statements that are more or less endowed with significance. But this text is rarely presented in an unadorned state, unreinforced and unaccompanied by a certain number of verbal or other productions, such as an author’s name, a title, a preface, illustrations. And although we do not always know whether these productions are to be regarded as belonging to the text, in any case they surround it and extend it, precisely in order to present it, in the usual

11 There are also good reasons to argue that legal texts like that of the Grágás are nothing but literature, see McSweeney, ‘Fiction in the Code’, 581–629.

12 One of the most recent contributions to the discussion of how law is performed in the diegesis of Íslendingasögur can be found in: Hughes, ‘What is “Good Law”?’. What is remarkable about this paper is that the arguments it presents build mainly on Heusler’s 1911 and 1912 works on the subject, mentioned previously.

13 See, e.g., the contemporary layout of Kongeriket Noregs grunnlov (the Constitution of Norway), which is made available free of charge by the Lovdata foundation, as are all current Norwegian legal texts, ordinances and judgments or court rulings in Norway: https://lovdata.no/dokument/NL/lov/1814-05-17-nn


sense of this verb but also in the strongest sense: to make present, to ensure the text’s presence in the world...14

Thus, following Genette, it is the paratext, manifested in the form of an ordering structure, that makes the text present and accessible to its readers. For a legal text, such presence in the world is, of course, of central importance, since, as already mentioned, it can only be understood as the written consolidation of a valid law through codification and acceptance in the world outside the text.15 Thus, when law manifests itself in the form of a text, it also seems to be subject to certain premises that are applied to the content by the medium of appearance, i.e., the legal text.16 Therefore, it seems to be expected that paratextual changes also take place in the multi-layered medial and linguistic change from the manuscript Reykjavík, Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, GKS 1157 fol., to Heusler’s translation of Grágás.

14 Genette, Paratexts. Thresholds of Interpretation , 1. The passage in the original French reads: ‘L’oeuvre littéraire consiste, exhaustivement ou essentiellement, en un texte, c’est-à-dire (définition très minimale) en une suite plus ou moins longue d’énoncés verbaux plus ou moins pourvus de signification. Mais ce texte se présente rarement à l’état nu, sans le renfort et l’accompagnement d’un certain nombre de productions, elles-mêmes verbales ou non, comme un nom d’auteur, un titre, une préface, des illustrations, dont on ne sait pas toujours si l’on doit ou non considérer qu’elles lui appartiennent, mais qui en tout cas l’entourent et le prolongent, précisément pour le présenter, au sens habituel de ce verbe, mais aussi en son sens le plus fort : pour le rendre présent , pour assurer sa présence au monde’, Genette, Seuils , 1.

15 Traditionally, however, scholars assume that the Old Norse laws in Iceland were recited orally by the so-called lögsögumaður (law speaker) at the annual meetings at the Alþingi , rather than written down in manuscripts. As one of many examples for this assumption see Jón Jóhannesson, A History of the Old Icelandic Commonwealth . Such an oral transmission of the law is only known from written, literary sources, and no actual written source has survived from the very time that is to be depicted by the diegesis (which, at least for the Íslendingasögur is known as ‘saga time’ lasting from c. 930 to 1030). For these reasons, it can be reasonably assumed that the law speakers, at least in the texts we know of, are figures with a purely literary function. This is also partially the argument of Gropper, ‘Ek segi’.

16 For a discussion about the medium of the book and its paratextual structural mechanisms, especially when it comes to law books, see: Rohrbach, ‘Die Fabrikation des Rechts’; Rohrbach, introduction to The Power of the Book


Heusler’s ‘Verdeutschung’ and other translations and editions of Grágás

While we do not have detailed knowledge about the context in which the manuscript GKS 1157 fol. was written, in the case of Heusler’s work on the text – written hundreds of years later – we have some idea of how he worked. At least this is true if we are to believe the translator’s own comments to his friend, Wilhelm Ranisch (another Old Norse scholar), about his difficulties in translating Grágás , i.e, the medieval text of GKS 1157 fol. On 10 March 1935, he wrote to Ranisch that he had taken up this task at the beginning of the year:

Und seit 1. Jänner, pünktlich, trieb die Graugans ihr Wesen. Weiszt du, mein Ranisch, die ist höllschen schwer. Hätt ich dàs zum voraus gewuszt ...! Nun hab ich ja eine gute Hilfe an den 2 Uebertragungen, der lateinischen von 1829 und der dänischen von 1852. Ohne die – ich schaudre bei dem Gedanken, was ich da für Böcke schösse! Die ältere, von Thôrdur Sveinbjörnsson, ist meisterhaft, zT. genauer als die spätere von Vj. Finsen. Ab und zu mal glaub ich eine Stelle richtiger zu verstehn als die 2 Isländer – mögs keine Täuschung sein! Das eigentliche Problem für mich ist ja ein stilistisches: ich trachte, den unglaublichen Satzbau des Urtextes nachzubilden; diese einzigartige bäuerlich-scholastische Sprachwurstelei. Es wär gewisz leichter, umzusetzen in ein kühles modernes, logisches Juristendeutsch. Dies hat Vh. Finsen mehr oder minder folgerichtig getan. Seine Uebersetzung ist streckenweise nicht Uebertragung, sondern Kommentar. Das such ich also nach Kräften zu vermeiden – und darin liegt für mich die grosze Schwierigkeit. Es ist ja eine Sprache, grun dverschieden von der Sagasprache.17

(And from 1 January on the dot, Grágás has been up to its tricks. You know, dear Ranisch, it’s a hell of a burden. If only I would have known this in advance. However, I have much support in the two translations, the Latin one from 1829 and the Danish one from 1852. Without them – I shudder at the thought of what I’d be missing! The older one, by Thôrdur [Þórður] Sveinbjörnsson, is brilliant, partly more accurate than the later one by Vj. [Vilhjálmur] Finsen. Now and then, I think I understand a passage much clearer than the two Icelanders – let it not be a deception!

17 Düwel and Beck (in collaboration with Bandle), Andreas Heusler an Wilhelm Ranisch , 577.


The real problem for me is a stylistic one: I try to reproduce the unbelievable syntax of the original text; this unique peasant-scholastic linguistic muddle. It would certainly be easier to translate it into a rational, modern, logical legalese. This is what Vh. Finsen has done more or less accordingly. His translation is partly not a translation, but a commentary. So I try to avoid that as much as possible – and therein lies the greatest difficulty for me. It is, after all, a language that is fundamentally different from the language of the sagas.) 18

Thus, two previous translations of Grágás already existed when Heusler began his translation of Grágás in January 1935. He sent the manuscript to the publisher Böhlau in 1936,19 and the translation Isländisches Recht – Die Graugans (Icelandic Law. The Grey Goose) was published in 1937. The same text – or rather collection of law texts –was translated by the two previously-mentioned Icelanders in the nineteenth century. In 1829, a Latin translation of Grágás by Þórður Sveinbjörnsson was published, 20 and in 1870, Vilhjálmur Finsen produced a Danish translation. 21 The first English translation was published alongside an edition in two parts in 1980 and 2000. 22 In contrast to literary texts from Old Norse-Icelandic, 23 Grágás seems to have been extremely difficult to translate, as can be seen not only from Heusler’s letter to Ranisch, but also from the relatively sparse translation situation of non-literary Old Norse texts in general. Heusler’s reference to the sagas seems remarkable, since one would assume that at least some

18 Unless otherwise stated, all translations are my own.

19 The introduction to the volume is dated November 1936, see Heusler, trans., Isl ä ndisches Recht: Die Graugans , xxx.

20 Þórður Sveinbjörnsson, ed. and trans., Hin forna lögbók Íslendinga sem nefnist Grágás

21 Vilhjálmur Finsen, trans., Grágás. Islændernes Lovbog i Fristatens Tid .

22 Dennis, et al., trans., The Laws of Early Iceland. Grágás .

23 At least in the German-speaking world, the first decades after 1900 were a heyday for the translation and popularisation of saga literature and Eddic texts. For saga translations see: Zernack, Geschichten aus Thule ; for the popularising mediation of the Eddic material, see: Baden. Populäre Mythen


of the Íslendingasögur, with their many legal disputes, would offer a similar vocabulary and syntax. 24

Translations of Grágás into any language were thus few and far between at the time Heusler began his work. Considering this sparse publication situation, it is not surprising that even the editors of the modern Icelandic edition and translation, published in 1992, referenced the pre-existing translations into other languages that had appeared so far in their preface:

Þessar þýðingar eru allar notadrjúgar við lestur Grágásar. Texti hennar er ekki ætíð auðskilinn, og þá má fletta upp í þýðingum ok kynna sér hvernig þýðendurnir hafa skilið torvelda staði. 25

(These translations are all useful when reading Grágás . Its text is not always easy to understand, so you can look it up in translations and see how the translators have understood difficult passages.)

This passage from the introduction to Grágás. Lagasafn íslenska þjóðveldisin s is evidence that the Old Norse-Icelandic text of Grágás does not seem to be easy to understand even for native speakers of modern Icelandic. It should be noted that the passage quoted does not refer to the problem of the text being difficult to understand as a scriptographic entity, i.e. due to a handwriting that is difficult to decipher palaeographically, or a manuscript that is illegible due to soiling or poor preservation. Rather, it refers to the linguistic expression of the semantic content, which seems more accessible to the authors of the introduction with the help of translations. It becomes apparent that when creating an edition, it is not only the transcription of a medieval manuscript that requires interpretation and needs to be explained in

24 For example, a term such as herað(s)sekð , which stands for a special form of ostracism, namely district outlawing, is attested solely in literary texts, i.e., in medieval manuscripts containing Brennu-Njáls saga , Grettis saga and Sturlunga saga , but not in any legal texts of the time. For the evidence from the manuscripts and the respective syntactical usage, see: https://onp.ku.dk/onp/onp.php?o33379#.

25 Gunnar Karlsson, et al., ed. and trans., Grágás. Lagasafn íslenska þjóðveldisins , xxvi.


the preface for the sake of transparency. The translation of a text, too – especially if it is written in a dead language such as Old Norse –requires semantic interpretation. When it comes to technical terminology, such as Old Norse legal terminology, even more caution is obviously required.

This may indicate why it can be useful not only to look critically at editions, 26 but also to analyse translations, which are themselves used again for other translations and which are also actively used in research. 27 Regardless of whether they are editions or translations, the aforementioned texts all purport to refer to Grágás , or they indicate Grágás as their source in one way or another. Their multiplicity shows us that an actual basis of reference to a medieval text from a manuscript is set aside in favour of a paratext, in this case the title. The connection between the content, whether translated or edited from Old Norse, is only made via the title, which then labels the text content as Grágás.

Heusler’s paratextual realignment in his translation of Grágás

What are we talking about when we speak of Grágás? Or, more specifically: to what is Heusler referring when he makes a translation of something called Grágás? Today, two Old Norse-Icelandic legal text compilations, i.e. the Codex Regius of Grágás (GKS 1157 fol.) and the Staðarhólsbók (Reykjavík, Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, AM 334 fol.), are referred to by this name. However, it is assumed that the work Grágás refers less to a narrowly defined compilation of legal texts or even redactions of a philologically dreamed up *Grágás archetype, than to an extensive overall text tradition. 28 It is assumed that the first individual mention of a manuscript with the

26 See further Rösli, ‘Terminology’, 47–60.

27 Julia Zernack has preveiously dealt with this topic of (German-language) translations in Old Norse Studies, which still receives far too little attention today, in her dissertation at Freie Universität Berlin in 1992, see Zernack, Geschichten aus Thule .

28 For an overview of Grágás in literature and history, see: Boulhosa, Icelanders and the Kings of Norway , 45–58.


name of Grágás goes back to a list of books which appeared in a larger inventory list compiled at the episcopal see of Skálholt in 1548. 29 It is nevertheless unknown which narrative was written in the manuscript that was called Grágás. 30

Thus, due to this ambiguous reference in the sixteenth century, it already becomes apparent that it is not quite so simple when Heusler refers to a Grágás (‘Die Graugans’) with his translation. The paratextual realignment made in the translation is apparent, which is, of course, partly due to the conventions of a scholarly translation of the time. Next to the end of the introductory preface on page xxx is the unpaginated intertitle page (Figure 1), which shows the title of the German translation ‘Die Graugans’ and below it ‘Königsbuch’ (the King’s Book). The second part of this title, i.e. ‘Königsbuch’ of course indicates GKS 1157 fol., Konungsbók Grágásar or Codex Regius of Grágás, which is thus presented here as the Old Norse-Icelandic source for the text, translated into German. Does this mean that Heusler translated directly from a manuscript of the Codex Regius of Grágás?

In his letters to Wilhelm Ranisch, Heusler mentions the number of folios he translated in a certain period of time: on 7 June 1935, he wrote that he had translated only 55 folios during the entire summer semester, and that he had now completed about 60% of the entire Grágás. 31 The assumption, however, that Heusler’s mentioning of folios would mean that he had the manuscript GKS 1157 fol. in front of him when working on the translation at his desk at home in Arlesheim near Basel can be dismissed as completely unrealistic.

In the introduction to the translation, Heusler states: ‘Die vorliegende Verdeutschung wählt den Text des Königsbuchs und gr ündet sich auf V. Finsens Ausgabe von 1852’ (The present translation chooses the text of the Codex Regius and is based on V. Finsen’s

29 Ólafur Lárusson, ‘On Grágás – the Oldest Icelandic Code of Law’, 77–89.

30 See further Rohrbach’s chapter in this volume.

31 Düwel and Beck (in collaboration with Bandle), eds., Andreas Heusler an Wilhelm Ranisch , 585.


Figure 1: Isländisches Recht. Die Graugans, xxx–unpaginated page.

2: Isländisches Recht. Die Graugans, unpaginated page–1.


edition of 1852). 32 Heusler thus translated an edition of Konungsbók Grágásar and not the medieval textual witness in the form of the manuscript GKS 1157 fol. Nevertheless, it immediately becomes evident that even this attribution, which can be read on the unpaginated title page (Figure 1), is not entirely valid. From his point of view, however, even the edition of Konungsbók prepared by V. Finsen does not seem to provide the supposedly complete text of Grágás that Heusler envisages for his translation, so he draws on another text: Vilhjálmur Finsen’s edition of Staðarhólsbók (AM 334 fol.) from 1879, 33 as the verso page of the previously discussed title page shows (Figure 2).

Heusler is very specific about which passages he extracts from the Staðarhólsbók edition to fill in the gaps he has identified in his base text, the Konungsbók edition, but this is not enough for him to achieve the textual form he imagines for what he calls Grágás. What he creates in his alleged translation is much more than just a translation of a compilation of two editions. He expands his text’s paratext tremendously, creating a new structure that was never there before. Heusler thereby creates Die Graugans, which no longer has a source, not in edited form and certainly not as an artefact in the form of a medieval manuscript. Heusler, needless to say, has sufficient philological expertise to disclose his extensions, which he marks in square brackets in the case of interpolations from Staðarhólsbók, and in round brackets in the case of self-chosen additions (Figure 2), but this offers no justification for why he intervenes so massively in the structure of the text.

Heusler’s unpublished notes cover the most conspicuous paratexts he added, namely the chapter headings and subheadings. When studying them, it becomes clear that his Die Graugans is not simply the

32 Heusler, trans., Isl ä ndisches Recht. Die Graugans , xii. It should be noted that Heusler does not use the word ‘Übersetzung’ (i.e. translation) to denote his work on the text, but ‘Verdeutschung’ (i.e. Germanisation), which has, since the time of Renaissance humanism, denoted the practice of incorporating a foreign object into the culture of the German-speaking world. On the topic of ‘Verdeutschung’, see also: Lipczuk, ‘Zu Motiven der Verdeutschung von Fremdwörtern im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert’, 127–130.

33 Vilhjálmur Finsen, ed., Grágás efter det Arnamagnæanske haandskrift. nr. 334 fol., Staðarhólsbók


translation of the Finsen editions, but a radical expansion which leads to a complete paratextual realignment of the legal narrative with respect to the alleged source, the Konungsbók , or rather the manuscript GKS 1157 fol. As can be seen in Figures 3–5, the majority of headings are not taken from the manuscript – they are Heusler’s own invention. While Finsen’s edition of Konungsbók Grágásar (GKS 1157 fol.) has 170 chapter headings and subheadings, Heusler’s ‘Verdeutschung’ has 485 (Figure 3).

Through these paratextual additions, the translator expands the text not only in terms of its length, but, more importantly, by creating parts of the text that were not previously present as independent semantic units. Heusler uses these subchapters to create structures in the sense of modern paragraphs in legal texts. This results in a textual layout that, on the one hand, appears much more concise due to its strong structure, but on the other hand, it takes on the character of a reference work in which the titles are useful for finding the respective legal text. This is illustrated by the section on inheritance law, which, in Finsen’s edition, is divided into only five subchapters (Figure 3), but in Heusler’s edition is given 45 new headings (Figures 4–5). In the preface, Heusler states that only this extremely detailed subdivision he has implemented would make the text legible at all. This is a general problem to which he also refers in the preface, regarding Old Norse-Icelandic literature and its weakness in the subdivision of texts:

‘Die Kunst der Überschrift – das wissen wir auch aus den Sagas – war die Schwäche der isländischen Schreiber’ (The fine art of the heading – we know this also from the sagas – was the weakness of the Icelandic scribes). 34

It seems as though Heusler saw himself in the right when he adapted the text to a contemporary reading practice of legal texts by such realignments, thus not only modernising the Old Norse-Icelandic text, but also interpreting it. His aim was to create an allegedly Old Norse-Icelandic or even Germanic law text (as will be argued in the next

34 Heusler, trans., Isl ä ndisches Recht. Die Graugans , xv.


section), which was as comprehensible as possible for the German reader, not only linguistically but also in terms of content. 35 The fact that a completely new text was created in this way, which was not only

35 It is interesting to see that Heusler’s translation work has been received quite positively by researchers, both in general: Sonderegger, Andreas Heusler und die Sprache , but also with regard to the translation of Grágás and from a legal-historical research perspective: Hermann, ‘“Mit offenem Blick auch für das Recht” – rechtshistorische Werkerträge bei Andreas Heusler’. Hermann’s essay also offers a good overview of the reviews of Heusler’s translations, which were very positive.

Figures 3–5: Notes from Andreas Heusler III’s Nachlass, Basel University Library.

the result of the linguistic transfer, i.e. the translation, seemed to be completely irrelevant to Heusler. It is to be hoped that one day someone will take the trouble to check the scholarly statements on the laws in GKS 1157 fol., especially regarding the intertitles added by Heusler, and the resulting textual understandings in subsequent scholarship of an allegedly medieval, Old Norse-Icelandic legal text called Die Graugans.

The National Socialist Publication Context of Die Graugans

When dealing with Heusler’s academic work, one must not forget to address the ideologically unpleasant aspects of his personal and scholarly views as well. As a Swiss citizen, Heusler was never a member of the NSDAP (the National Socialist German Workers’ Party), and his views on Hitler were vague, as can be seen in his correspondence with Ranisch. 36 Nevertheless, Heusler clearly held extreme right-wing, Wilhelminian-German nationalist views, as can be seen, for example, from his membership of the völkisch and anti-Semitic Kampfbund für deutsche Kultur (Militant League for German Culture). This could be considered his private affair, but as a scholar, and in his function as a professor at the University of Basel, he voluntarily devoted himself to be part of National Socialist propaganda, as his acceptance of the Lessing Prize and the Erwin von Steinbach Prize in 1938 – both of which were associated with Nazi ideology – make abundantly clear. 37 However, in the context of the topic of this chapter, attention should now be paid to the outermost margins of Isländisches Recht. Die Graugans : the book’s cover and the title pages. Both of these are, of

36 While he never outright rejected Hitler, Heusler’s ambivalent attitude towards him, especially in his role as a foreign politician, is easy to see, e.g., in his letter to Ranisch of 10 March 1937: ‘Méine Liebe gehört Deutschland – und Hitlern nur so weit, als er Deutschland zum Heile führt’ (My love belongs to Germany - and to Hitler only as far as he leads Germany to salvation), Düwel and Beck (in collaboration with Bandle), Andreas Heusler an Wilhelm Ranisch , 616. It must be taken into account that the edition of letters produced by Düwel and Beck deliberately omits those letters that contain Heusler’s emphatic comments on Hitler and anti-Semitic statements. The editors are completely open about this in their preface and give on two pages all the dates of Heusler’s letters that have not been printed for the reasons mentioned: ibid , 2–4.

37 Rösli, ‘Skandinavistische Lehre und Forschung in der Schweiz: 1900 – 1945’, 26.


course, parts of the modern paratext par excellence. Obviously, these modern paratexts do not correspond to a medieval manuscript, at least not in the latter’s historical manifestation as an artefact. Nevertheless, a medieval manuscript is semantically charged by modern designations and the connotations associated with them. That this is the case has already been shown by the restructuring that Heusler’s translation Isländisches Recht. Die Graugans undertakes in relation to the manuscript GKS 1157 fol., a restructuring which resonates in the understanding of the medieval legal text.

To this end, three manifestations of the text will be discussed below: one from the collection of the Library of Scandinavian Studies at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (Humboldt University of Berlin), one from the University of Oslo Library and one from the University Library in Basel. The Berlin copy, which will be discussed first, was part of the library of the German Department of the Freie Universität Berlin (Free University of Berlin) until the foundation of the Nordeuropa-Institut at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin in 1994. At this point, the book found its way into the joint Scandinavian Library of the Nordeuropa-Institut, newly created from holdings of FU Berlin and HU Berlin.

Today, the book is bound in a plain half-linen cover with cardboard (Figure 6). On the back, there is a modern barcode, which, as an inventory or stock number, makes the book recognisable and borrowable via the HU Berlin library system. On the spine one can read ‘Germanenrechte 9 Isländisches Recht’. The text on the inside of this cover, Die Graugans, is thus not seen from the outside. The book is, instead, presented as one volume in a series covering the topic of Germanic law, and designated as Volume 9, supposedly containing Icelandic law. The front endpaper and first flyleaf of the Berlin copy reveal a material addition that was made after the text was printed, and probably only after it was rebound (Figure 7). The following two pages form the frontispiece of the book series and of the present volume (Figure 8), followed by a page with the proof and place of printing, above which the inventory number of the library of the Germanisches Seminar (Germanic Department) at Freie Universität Berlin was handwritten


in a stamped template (Figure 9). Finally, the table of contents follows on the opposite page. This table of contents states that the rest of the text contains an introduction of 21 pages, followed by 440 pages of the main text, and that the volume concludes with a subject index, which comprises 16 pages.

Provided that one does not take offence at the alleged Germanic cultural continuum that the book implies, subsuming a medieval Icelandic legal text under an overarching Germanic legal system, at first glance there is little to be seen here that could be problematic. Perhaps one becomes a little more attentive if one connects the Germanic cultural continuum mentioned with the year of publication of Heusler’s translation, i.e. 1937, and the name of the series itself. Books on Germanic topics published in Germany in the 1930s and in the 1940s should be viewed critically on principle for ideological reasons, and if not the description of Icelandic laws as ‘Germanic’, then at least the

Figure 6: Isländisches Recht. Die Graugans. Cover and spine, Berlin copy.

Figure 7: Isländisches Recht. Die Graugans Endpaper/flyleaf, Berlin copy.

publication year should raise questions about the publication’s bias. 38 In this context, the typefaces used for the printing of the book are perhaps of interest as well. For many contemporary recipients, Fraktur and other blackletter typefaces have a German-nationalist or even National Socialist aesthetic connotation, which would of course also fit the publication period and its ideological context, as will be discussed later on. Since the imprint (Figure 9) does not indicate which type was used for printing, one can only guess from the typical typeface design elements that it must have been a Fraktur in the style of Breitkopf Fraktur or Walbaum Fraktur. 39 This Fraktur typeface was used for the entire continuous text of the volume in German, i.e. for both the introduction (Figure 1) and the main text (Figure 2), while Old Norse expressions in the table of contents (Figure 9) are set in an Antiqua typeface and added in brackets after the Germanlanguage text in Fraktur. While today, neo-Nazis and völkisch right-wing extremists like to express their political-ideological affiliation through the use of Fraktur types on banners, t-shirts, book and magazine covers, or stickers, 40 it is less

38 Two exemplary contributions that deal with the topic of the service of Scandinavian and German studies in the propaganda apparatus of National Socialism in Germany are: Zernack, ‘Der Toten Tatenruhm’, 42–45; Gajek, ‘Germanenkunde und Nationalsozialismus’, 325–355.

39 On different versions of Fraktur typefaces and their history, see: Kapr, Fraktur: Form und Geschichte der gebrochenen Schriften .

40 Scheuermann, ‘Schriftbild’, col. 1193–1207, esp. col. 1196–1197.


Figure 8: Isländisches Recht. Die Graugans. Series title page and title page, Berlin Copy.

Figure 9: Isländisches Recht. Die Graugans. Imprint and table of content, Berlin copy.


well-known that Fraktur was considered un-German in the Third Reich from 1941 onwards, and was replaced by the use of Antiqua. While Fraktur was considered German script from the middle of the eighteenth century at the latest, and most German-language printed matter was set in Fraktur, the so-called Antiqua-Fraktur dispute took place from the nineteenth century onwards.41 In a circular dated 3 January 1941, Hitler’s decree was made known that all Gothic scripts, under which Fraktur also falls, were to be reviled because of the alleged descent of these types from the Schwabacher blackletter typeface, which was denigrated as the Schwabacher Judenlettern (Schwabacher Jew letters). 42 This so-called Normal-Schrift-Erlass (Normal Font Decree) enforced the exclusive use of Antiqua in print publications. 43 In the case of the publication of Heusler’s Die Graugans discussed here, however, it is quite clear that a different aesthetic perception of type prevailed in 1937. It is worth noting that the modern German text was printed in Fraktur, which appears old to our eyes, while the Old Norse text was printed in Antiqua, which appears modern, but it was not uncommon for two languages to be distinguished by two different typefaces.44

Heusler’s Verdeutschung was not only published in 1937, well after Hitler’s seizure of power (1931–1933) and the Gleichschaltung 45 (after 1933/1934) in Nazi Germany, but it was also only begun in 1935. Upon realising this, one immediately asks oneself what the expansion of the material could mean (Figure 7), or what was pasted over at the

41 Hartmann. Fraktur oder Antiqua: der Schriftstreit von 1881 bis 1941 .

42 Beck. ‘“Schwabacher Judenlettern”. Schriftverruf im Dritten Reich’.

43 Wehde. Typographische Kultur, 278–286.

44 Kemmler, and Corvo Sánchez. ‘“Fraktur”, “Kurrent”, “Sütterlin” und “Antiqua”: Schriftarten und Zweischriftigkeit in alten Deutschlehrwerken’. See also discussion in Witting’s chapter in this volume.

45 The expression is also used in English as a technical term for the process of Nazification of German society, state and all its institutions, coordinated by Adolf Hitler and the NSDAP. Gleichschaltung was enforced as a system of totalitarian control of the media, culture, education, commerce and law from 1933/1934 onwards, and was considered completed in the wake of the Reichsparteitag (known as Nuremberg rally, literally meaning Reich Party Congress) in Nuremberg in 1935.


beginning of this printed version of Heusler’s translation, and thus censored. Since the passage in question has been rendered illegible in the Berlin version of the book (Figure 7), two comparative copies were consulted, which, as already mentioned, come from the holdings of the University of Oslo library and the University Library of Basel, in order to obtain clues regarding the paratextual changes made in the Berlin copy. As can be seen from the flyleaf of the edition from the holdings of the University of Oslo Library (Figure 10), the actual institution behind the series and the direct publisher of this series have been covered with paper in the Berlin version, and thus made invisible (Figure 7). The book series publishing institution, the Akademie für Deutsches Recht (Academy for German Law), was an academic institution based in Munich that was considered the jurisprudential arm of the National Socialist state. It was directly subordinate to both the Reich Ministry of the Interior and the Reich Ministry of Justice. 46 The editor of the series mentioned here, Hans Frank, 47 was not only once Hitler’s lawyer, Reichsleiter of the party, Reich Minister without portfolio in Hitler’s cabinet, but later also head of the Nazi General Government in occupied Poland and thus responsible for the mass murder of the Jews. 48 His influence on the National Socialist understanding of law was evident from the beginning, as Frank founded the Bund Nationalsozialistischer Deutscher Juristen (Association of National Socialist German Lawyers) as early as 1928, which was called NS-Rechtswahrerbund (literally translated as NS Legal Preservations Society) after 1936. In addition to his function as head of the NSDAP’s Reich Law Office, he was appointed Reich Commissioner for the Gleichschaltung of the Judiciary in the Federal States in 1933/1934. For the aspect of his

46 On the complete synchronisation between the Academy of German Law, the Faculty of Law of the University of Munich and the National Socialist power apparatus, see: Adlberger, ‘Nützliche Kooperation’, 405–430.

47 On Frank and his political career, see: Housden, Hans Frank. Lebensraum and the Holocaust .

48 Frank was known as Schlächter von Polen (Butcher of Poland) among his victims, see: Schenk, Hans Frank: Hitlers Kronjurist und Generalgouverneur, 236.

Figure 10: Isländisches Recht. Die Graugans. Flyleaf, University of Oslo copy.

activities discussed here, however, it is not least important that in 1936, Frank himself founded the Akademie f ür Deutsches Recht, of which he was president until 1942, 49 and in whose series Heusler’s Die Graugans was published. In terms of his stance as a lawyer, politician and editor, Hans Frank was undoubtedly a staunch National Socialist, which, given the prominence of his person, must have been indubitably clear to Heusler. Frank was tried as one of the main war criminals at the Nuremberg Trials after the end of the war, sentenced to death and executed on 16 October 1946.

The library stamp also indicates a National Socialist context (Figure 10). The Deutsche Informationsbibliothek Oslo (German Information Library Oslo) refers to a library that was founded after the Nazi occupation of Norway from 9 April 1940. Together with other cultural and scientific institutes, this library was to play its part in securing the National Socialist ideology in Norway. 50

Thus, Heusler’s translation Die Graugans was not simply a German translation of a medieval Old Norse-Icelandic legal text, which, as argued before, was not problematic from a philological point of view. Heusler’s translation was an institutional and structural component of the National Socialist legal apparatus, which attempted to revive an allegedly Germanic law, as it says on the inside back cover of the original booklet in the advertisement for the book series Forschung zum Deutschen Recht (Research on German Law), which is still in place in the copy from the University Library in Basel. While in the copy held by the University Library in Oslo, the cardboard binding has been replaced by a hard cover, the version held by the University Library Basel shows what is probably its original appearance (Figures 11–13).

The front cover clearly indicates the editor of the series (Figure 11), while the list of volumes 1 to 15 can be seen on the inside (Figure 12), with laws from medieval Norway, Sweden, Denmark, England, Burgundy, among others, that is, anything that could be framed as

49 Klee, Das Personenlexikon zum Dritten Reich , 160.

50 Moll, ‘Die deutsche Propaganda in den besetzten “germanischen” Staaten’.


‘Germanic’. These titles, again, reveal how a Germanic cultural continuum is constructed here, made visible through an imagined Germanic law that is to be legitimised.

The advertisement for the new book series Forschung zum Deutschen Recht, which can be found on the inside back cover (Figure 13), makes it unmistakably clear which ideology is to be conveyed:

Die neue Schriftenreihe will dem Kampf f ür die deutsche Art in unserem Recht dienen. Sie will mithelfen, unser lebendes Recht im Geiste unseres Volkstums zu entwickeln, deutsche Gegenwart aus der Vergangenheit herausholen.

(The new series of publications wants to serve the fight for the German way in our law. It wants to help develop our living law in the spirit of our nationality, to bring German present out of the past.)

In their context of origin – the Old Norse writing culture of medieval Iceland – the legal narratives that have survived in manuscripts, which we know today as Grágás, have as little to do with National Socialist ideology as early printed and most modern editions of them. In the present case, this ideological stance does not emanate from the Old Norse legal text, or even necessarily from the German translation produced by Heusler. It is, instead, based on the framing of this text by the National Socialist publication context in which Heusler willingly placed his translation. Through the paratextual embedding evident here, which is unmistakably intended to carry an ideologically oriented discourse, Heusler’s translation becomes part of the supposedly Germanic understanding of law that Nazi Germany wanted to give itself and all the occupied states and its people. The fact that such contemporary documents as Heusler’s translation can also be handled quite differently is shown by the examples of the same book from Berlin, Oslo and Basel. Of course, one can argue that the continuous text of Heusler’s translation is denazified if one removes the brown cover and sticks a piece of white paper over the problematic, still recognisable part. Nevertheless, it should be clear from my discussion that this problematic passage of the Grágás translation also belongs to Andreas

Figure 11: Isländisches Recht. Die Graugans. Cardboard cover front recto, Basel copy.

Heusler’s paratextual realignment in favour of the National Socialist conception of the law of GKS 1157 fol. Consequently, this reverberates into medieval Old Norse-Icelandic literature.

Conclusion – Paratext is context

In this article, I used Andreas Heusler’s translation Isländisches Recht. Die Graugans as an example to show how profoundly paratexts influence our perception and thus our understanding of a text. Paratexts always form and provide contexts that expand the continuous text, and thus guide our reception of what we read. As I pointed out previously, the text chosen for the discussion is a translation of a legal text, which makes it, to a large extent, a highly structured and, to a certain degree, standardised text.

Figure 12: Isländisches Recht. Die Graugans Cardboard cover front verso, Basel copy. Figure 13: Isländisches Recht. Die Graugans Cardboard cover back recto, Basel copy.

At the beginning I showed that in the first instance, Heusler’s work on the translation must not be considered unproblematic, since he did not actually translate a medieval text. Rather, his translation was produced on the basis of various editions, and with the help of other translations. Thus, a version of a text was created which does not exist as an independent, singularly manifested Old Norse-Icelandic text. Consequently, one may ask whether it can be referred to as a translation at all. On the contrary, it seems that a German text was created, which, as I argued based on various archivalia, was intended to serve the overarching interest of the series editor in his efforts to create an allegedly medieval Germanic law. It could be confirmed quite clearly that with Isländisches Recht. Die Graugans, a text is made available which is not actually a translation of the medieval text presented in GKS 1157 fol., but, rather, a creation from the hand of Heusler. The interventions in the text, not in the medieval one but in those of his edited sources, could best be shown by the paratexts that Heusler added with the aim of structuring his text as he saw fit. Indeed, he saw this lack of structure as a deficiency in medieval Old Norse-Icelandic texts in general. Thus, Heusler does not even attempt to find a historical approach to the text, because, in true text-critical fashion, it seems as if he believes he would know better what the ultimate archetype of the text should have been.

This led me to my third line of argument, regarding the publication context of Isländisches Recht. Die Graugans . To this end, I analysed three versions of Heusler’s creation, held in the university libraries of three countries, Germany, Norway and Switzerland. Using these three copies – all of which contain the same text of the edition published in 1937 – I illustrated how differently libraries treat the books they archive. Again, I focused on paratextual features, this time the series title on the flyleaf as well as the binding, to show that the publication context was censored to different degrees in two of the three copies. Only the copy from Basel is still in its original condition, and from this copy, it becomes quite obvious how this alleged translation was integrated into the propagandistic construction of a legal history influenced by National Socialist-Germanic ideology. In the case


of the Norwegian copy, however, which was bound in a new binding, it is recognisable from the library stamp of the time that this, too, was used during the occupation of Norway by Germany as part of an acculturation process. The copy from the HU Berlin holdings shows the strongest intervention of paratextual censorship, as the binding was renewed and the series title pasted over. Thus, these three copies of the book discussed in this article also show how important the archival preservation of texts can be, since the publication context for this supposed translation of an alleged Old Norse-Icelandic legal text from the Middle Ages was, and is, of central importance. Without these paratexts, today’s recipients simply lack access to the ideological context for which this book was produced. Without this paratextual context, which presents the text as a book to the world, one might simply read the text as a mere German translation of the Old NorseIcelandic Grágás instead of as the National Socialist propaganda tool it was intended to be.



Unprinted sources

Reykjavík, Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies

GKS 1157 fol. (Konungsbók Grágásar, Codex Regius of Grágás). Accessed 14 September 2023. https://handrit.is/manuscript/view/is/GKS02-1157/

Basel, Universitätsbibliothek (University Library)

Nachlass Andreas Heusler III: UBB NL 26 52n

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Bibliography 327


administration 20, 21, 102, 191, 286

Akademie für Deutsches Recht 315, 317

Anders Sæbjørnsson (lagmann, d. 1528?) 194–195, 214

Anne Pedersdotter (wife of Absalon Beyer, d. 1590) 172

Antikvitetskommisjonen (Commission for Antiquities) 24, 31

Anuld of Nordland (sheriff, 16th century) 68, 70

Arnamagnæan Collection, Copenhagen 232, 239, 247, 266

Árni Magnússon (scholar and manuscript collector, 1663–1730) 21, 231, 232n, 235, 236, 236n, 239, 239n, 240, 240n, 242, 249, 250, 251, 251n, 266, 266n

Árni Magnússon í Bolungarvík (lögréttumaður, c.1625–1698) 223n

Árni Sigurðsson, Bishop of Bergen (1304–1314) 105

Árni Þorláksson, Bishop of Skálholt (1237–1298) 44, 81, 83, 138, 236

Arreskov Manor 162, 174, 176, 181, 182

Ásgeir Jónsson (scribe, c.1657–c.1707) 236n, 248, 248n, 249, 250, 251

Aslak Bolts Jordebog 282, 282n


Basel 295n, 304

Basel University 295, 309

Basel University Library 310, 315, 317, 318

Belgsdalsbók (AM 347 fol.) 118–119, 126, 129, 131, 137–139

Bergen 19, 31, 38, 50, 51, 55, 61–72, 117, 118n, 119–122, 125, 125n, 132, 140–142, 144n, 160, 163, 164, 165–167, 170, 172, 173, 177, 179, 181, 182, 183, 197, 285

Bergen Katedralskole (Bergen Cathedral School) 64

Beyer, Absalon Pedersson (clergyman, 1528–1575) 64–69, 163, 167, 172–173, 181–182

Bille, Claus (d. 1558) 51

binding 16, 22, 31, 33, 55–63, 86, 89, 93, 121n, 170, 234, 237, 238, 242, 242n, 244, 250, 263–264, 284–285, 290, 317, 321, 322

328 Index

Bjarni Pálsson (1719–1779) 242

Böhlau (press) 301

Bologna 102

Bolt, Aslak, Archbishop (c.1377–1450) 120

Borgarthing 81, 83, 104, 117, 117n, 193, 201, 203, 204, 265

Bæjarlǫg (town laws) of King Magnus the Lawmender (1276) 79, 142n, 167, 169, 243, 244, 246–249, 260, 280


Christian I, King (r. 1450–1481) 48, 120, 154, 156, 191

Christian II, King (r. 1513–1559) 156, 193, 194

Christian III, King (r. 1537–1559) 52, 166n

Christian IV, King (r. 1588–1648) 14n, 88n, 177, 192, 196, 197, 214, 256

Christian V, King (r. 1670–1699) 193

Christian Laws See Kristinréttr

Christiania (Oslo) 24, 31, 260, 266, 275, 279, 289, 291

Codex Hardenbergianus 14–16, 19, 24, 32, 35, 41, 112–158, 159–188

Codex Rantzovianus 14n, 17, 128n, 249, 250n

columns 20, 32, 46, 47, 58, 115, 116, 121, 132, 135, 190, 196, 225, 228, 229, 232, 236n

Copenhagen 20, 24, 55, 61, 62, 63, 64, 71, 173, 191, 232, 236n, 237, 242, 247, 265, 266, 267, 270, 273, 280, 285

Corpus of Canon Law (Corpus iuris canonici) 102, 102n

DDaði Jónsson (sýslumaður, 1630–1682) 230, 232

Danish (language) 20, 24, 60, 70n, 80, 104n, 173, 189–194, 203, 204, 205, 210, 214–116, 259, 301

Den tekniske Forening, Christiania 289

Denmark 63, 67, 69, 122n, 162–165, 165n, 168, 169, 172, 174–183, 191, 196, 198, 258–260, 262, 263, 267, 269, 317

Det Kongelige Bibliotek, Copenhagen 14n, 33n, 112, 122n, 160n, 239, 242, 266

Det Kongelige Frederiks Universitet 31, 260

Det Kongelige Norske Videnskabers Selskab 279

Deutsche Informationsbibliothek, Oslo 317

Dines Pederssøn (sheriff, d. 1571) 65

Diplomsamlingen 274

Dolmer, Jens (philologist, c.1611–1670) 230, 230n

329 Index

Dominican order 57, 58


ecclesiastical laws See also Kristinréttr 18, 47, 79, 80, 85n, 104, 120, 129, 138, 139n, 140, 160, 237, 239

Eggert Ólafsson (scholar, poet and civil servant, 1726–1768) 242–249

Eidsivathing 81, 85, 90, 94, 99, 169, 246n, 265

Eiríkr II Magnússon, King (r. 1280–1299) 50, 80, 99, 99n, 156

Eiríkr Þróndarson (scribe, 13th century) 37

English manuscripts 115, 123, 131–132

Erik of Pomerania, King (r. 1396–1439) 52


Farmannalǫg of King Magnus the Lawmender (maritime law) 37, 116n, 244, 246n, 247

Faroe Islands 117n, 177, 177n

fasts 101, 103, 104, 107

feast days 101, 107

foliation 87, 89, 90, 91, 225, 225n

font See typeface

Forschung zum Deutschen Recht (book series) 317, 318

Frank, Hans (1900–1946) 315–317

Frederik I, King (r. 1524–1533) 193

Frederik II, King (r. 1559–1588) 52–53, 55, 61, 71, 164, 165, 166n, 173, 177

Freie Universität Berlin 303n, 310

French manuscripts 123, 131, 134

Fríssbók (AM 45 fol.) 41

Fritzner, Johan (scholar, 1812–1893) 287–288

Frostathing 14, 43, 53, 82n, 83, 84, 117, 117n, 121, 154, 190n, 246n, 249, 265, 272, 281

Frostaþingslǫg 14, 53, 121, 248n, 249, 249n, 272, 281

Fyn 164, 174, 181


Gavnø Castle 182

Genette, Gérard (scholar, 1930–2018) 298–299

330 Index

German (language) 22, 88, 173, 295–299, 303–309, 312, 314, 317–318, 321, 322

German manuscripts 115, 132, 135, 136, 140

Germanenrechte (book series) 310

Germanisches Seminar, Freie Universität Berlin 310

Germany 19, 55, 56, 89, 132, 145, 281, 309n, 311, 312n, 314, 314n, 321, 322

Gisbrikt Erlendsson, Bishop (14th century) 139

Gjeble Pederssøn, Bishop (1490–1557) 122

Goffredus of Trano, Cardinal (d. 1245) 104–107

Görvel Fadersdotter (noblewoman, d. 1605) 179

Gøstaff Olson (chaplain, 16th century) 67–69

Grágás 17, 22, 139n, 220, 222–237, 246n, 295n, 296, 296n, 298n, 299, 300–309, 318, 322

Gram, Hans (1685–1748) 232

Greifswald 88, 96, 98

Grunnloven (Norwegian Constitution, 1814) 259, 298n

Grøndahl (press) 257, 274, 276, 279, 281–285, 289

Gulathing 41, 71, 81, 117, 117n, 128, 129, 129n, 141, 156, 159, 246, 246n, 247, 265

Gulaþingslǫg 17, 239n, 244, 244n, 249, 249n, 250, 250n

Gyldenstjerne, Karen (1544–1613) 168n, 173


Hákon IV Hákonsson, King (r. 1217–1263) 50–51, 78, 79, 85n

Hákon V Magnússon, King (r. 1299–1319) 43, 48–53, 54, 80, 96, 99, 99n, 154, 156, 167, 179, 180, 180n, 204

Hákon VI Magnússon, King (r. 1355–1380) 48, 156

Hålogaland 31, 50, 54, 71

Hamar 18, 78–108

Hardenberg, Eiler (nobleman, d. 1565) 164, 165, 176

Hardenberg, Helvig (noblewoman, 1540–1599) 19, 64, 65, 66, 120, 122, 122n, 159–183

Hardenberg, Jakob (nobleman, d. 1542) 164

Heise, Arnold (1837–1915) 162, 163

Hertzberg, Ebbe (scholar, 1847–1912) 257, 258

Heusler, Andreas, I (jurist, 1802–1868) 295n

Heusler, Andreas, II (jurist, 1834–1921) 295n

Heusler, Andreas, III (philologist, 1865–1940) 22, 25, 295–322

331 Index

Hirðskrá of King Magnus the Lawmender 79, 140, 192, 222, 222n, 223n, 228–230, 229, 236, 236n, 237, 244, 246, 246n, 247–250

Historisk Tidsskrift (Denmark) 287

Hitler, Adolf (1889–1945) 309, 309n, 314–315, 314n

Hofnagel, Michael (diarist, d. after 1670) 70, 70n

Holberg, Ludvig (1684–1754) 239

Huitfeld, Paul (c.1520–1592) 69, 70

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin 310

IIceland 17, 19–21, 20, 24, 32, 37–41, 48, 119, 123, 124, 126n, 137n, 138, 145, 166, 223, 230, 242, 242n, 243, 247, 261, 296, 299n, 318

Icelandic (language) See also Old Norse 242, 302

iconography 119, 124–126, 128–132, 135, 140 illuminations 14, 15, 19, 113, 115, 116, 123, 126, 127, 128n, 129n, 130, 131, 133, 138, 171

Illugi Sigurðsson (c.1724–1759) 236n

Ingerd Erlendsdotter (noblewoman, 1440–1526) 178

initials (in manuscripts) 18, 31, 35, 39–41, 71, 115n, 121, 121n, 124–132, 135, 137, 139n, 158, 171, 197, 201, 210, 225, 227, 229, 236n, 243–244, 244n

Irgens, Johannes (1763–1829) 31

Irgens, Ole, Bishop (1724–1803) 30, 31, 72

Isländisches Recht. Die Graugans (1937) 301, 309, 310, 320, 321

Ívarr Andrésson (sýslumaðr, fourteenth century) 19, 114, 141–144, 141n J

Járnsíða (1271) 17, 44, 220, 222–229, 222n, 223n, 225n, 231n, 232, 232n, 236, 243, 246n

Jens Pederssøn (lagmann, d. 1575) 18, 31, 61–70, 71

Jón Arason í Vatnsfirði (priest and author, 1606–1673) 232

Jón Gíslason (scribe, 1665–1724) 248n, 249

Jón Marteinsson (scribe, 1711–1771) 232, 233

Jón rauði (the Red), Archbishop (1268–1282) 80, 82, 94, 100, 105

Jon Simonssøn (lagmann, 1512–1575) 61, 69

Jónsbók (1281) 17, 20, 126, 126n, 129, 137, 138, 139n, 140n, 223n, 236, 237

Jyske lov (1241) 193

332 Index

KKeyser, Rudolf (scholar, 1803–1864) 21, 22, 41n, 83, 87, 154n, 199, 242n, 256–291, 256–291

Kommisjonen for Utgivelse av de Gamle Norske Lover 257, 258, 260, 262, 263, 264, 265n, 268, 270, 274–280, 282, 283, 285, 286, 290

Kongelige Selskab for Norges Vel 31, 261

Konungs skuggsjá 53, 140

Konungsbók Grágásar (GKS 1157 fol.) 225n, 232n, 296n, 299, 300–309

Krabbe, Anne (noblewoman and manuscript collector, 1552–1618) 168–169, 168n, 174

Kristinréttr Árna biskups Þorlákssonar (1275) 31, 44, 45, 46, 47, 71, 81, 83, 138, 139, 139n, 236

Kristinréttr Hákonar konungs og Sigurðar erkibiskups 79, 80–83, 99, 108

Kristinréttr Jóns erkibyskups 82–86, 82n, 90, 92, 93, 95, 97–101, 97n, 100n, 103–105, 107, 108, 120, 121, 140, 154

Kristinréttr Magnúsar Lagabætis 79, 80–83, 80n

Kruckow, Anna (noblewoman, d. c.1607) 166

Kungliga biblioteket (National Library of Sweden) 82n, 87, 87n, 88n, 98, 266

LLachmann, Karl (scholar, 1793–1851) 262

Landslag of King Magnús Eiríksson (c.1341) 87

Landslǫg of King Magnús the Lawmender (1274) 13, 14, 17–19, 23, 24, 31–36, 41–43, 47, 55, 71, 79, 80, 81, 85, 86, 90, 92, 93, 95–97, 100, 101, 108, 114–117, 114n, 115n, 116n, 117n, 118n, 120, 122, 124n, 125, 126, 137–140, 139n, 140n, 142, 159, 160, 162, 166, 167, 169, 171, 178, 180–182, 189–216, 246, 263, 265, 266, 270, 273, 278

Langebeks kvart (NKS 816 4to) 173

Liber Capituli Bergensis 163

Liber extra 102

literacy 162n, 168, 174

Loe, Hans Jacobsson (1528–1581) 196, 200

Lübeck 113, 132, 135, 140n

Lübisches Recht (Lübeck Law, early 13th century) 113, 132, 135

Lund 266–268, 285

Lundarbók (Lund University Library, Mh. 15) 124n, 125, 139n, 140n

Lundh, Gregers Fougner (scholar and civil servant, 1786–1836) 259–260, 261, 280

Lykke, Sophie (administrator and noblewoman, d. 1570) 162, 164, 166n, 176

333 Index

Magnús IV Eiríksson, King (r. 1319–1355/64) 50, 53, 80, 81n, 141, 156

Magnús VI Hákonarson ‘the Lawmender’, King (r. 1263–1280) 14, 78, 80, 114n, 125, 126n, 159, 179–180, 195, 204, 231n, 246, 257, 258, 263, 290

Magnús Jónsson í Vigur (manuscript patron, 1637–1702) 222, 223n, 230, 230n, 232, 236

Magnús Stephensen (manuscript collector, 1762–1833) 223n

Malmø Castle 164

marginalia 18, 19, 22, 31, 42, 61, 71, 85, 86, 89, 90, 94, 94n, 97n, 98, 99, 100–104, 107, 108, 119, 122, 122n, 131, 142, 143, 144n, 171, 201, 205, 215, 231n, 238, 240, 248n, 270

Margrete I Valdemarsdatter, Queen (r. 1387–1412) 51, 53

Mats Størssøn (lagmann, d. 1569) 61, 63

mise-en-page 115, 116n, 118, 121, 137, 223, 225, 225n, 232, 236n, 249

modification of manuscripts and books 16–17, 31, 43–63, 87, 86, 119–122, 160, 170–171, 193, 222, 225, 230, 237, 249–251, 263–265, 267–273, 285, 310–320

Møllmann, Bernhard (librarian, 1702–1778) 239, 239n, 242

Morgenbladet 269, 289

Munch, Nathalie (wife of P. A. Munch, 1812–1900) 267, 268

Munch, Peter Andreas (scholar, 1810–1863) 21, 22, 41n, 87, 154n, 199

Munkeliv Abbey 119–120


Nasjonalbiblioteket 17, 21, 23, 24, 25, 30, 33n, 79, 85, 89, 112, 122n, 182, 189, 190, 191, 196, 198, 200, 210, 219, 225n, 232, 237, 251 national socialism 295–299, 309–320, 312n, 321, 322

Nazi Germany 22, 309, 314, 314n, 315, 317, 318

Nidaros 43, 53, 79, 80, 80n, 84, 191, 240n

Nissen, Martinus (librarian, 1817–1850) 288

Nordeuropa-Institut, Berlin 310

Norges gamle Love indtil 1387 21, 22, 87, 195, 256–291

Norsk Tidsskrift for Videnskab og Litteratur 287, 288

Norske Lov (1604) 192, 196, 197, 214, 256

Norwegian (language) 210, 262, 287

Nuremberg Trials 317

334 Index


Oddur Jónsson (scribe, 1734–1814) 246, 246n, 247n

Odense 174, 176, 181, 182

Óláfr II Haraldsson, King, St (r. 1015–1028, d. 1030) 128, 129n, 171, 195, 231n

Old Christian Law of Borgarthing 81, 83

Old Christian Law of Eidsivathing 81, 83, 85, 86, 90, 93, 94, 95, 99, 100, 108

Old Christian Law of Frostathing 82, 83

Old Christian Law of Gulathing 83

Old Norse (language) 24, 37–41, 86, 90, 94, 97, 101–103, 104–107, 117, 118, 167, 189–190, 191, 196, 202–205, 214, 215, 219, 240, 259, 260–261, 279, 280, 282, 287, 301–309, 312, 314, 317–322

Oldsakssamlingen (Collection of Antiquities) 261

Oluff Siurdssøn (sheriff, 16th century) 67, 68, 70

Ordo iudicarius 140

ornamentation 56, 123, 126, 131

orthography 37, 39, 117–118, 118n, 119n, 208, 263n, 277

Oslo See also Christiania 24, 25, 33n, 51, 53, 67, 89, 100, 118n, 179, 191, 194, 244, 318


palaeography 119n, 120, 144, 227, 302

Páll Vídalín (1667–1727) 223n

paper 16, 22, 31, 48, 54–55, 62, 71, 87, 89, 98, 197, 205, 207, 210, 222, 222n, 225, 237, 238, 242, 244, 249, 260, 264, 270, 276, 278–279, 283, 290, 315, 318

paratext 16, 18, 197, 295–322

parchment 16, 21, 30–32, 36–37, 43, 44, 48, 52, 54–55, 57, 58, 58n, 71, 87, 88n, 98, 121, 242

Paus, Hans (scholar, 1710–1770) 259, 290

Peregrinus of Opole (d. c.1333) 57–59, 61

philology 17, 84, 144, 220, 237–242, 250–251, 262, 289, 303, 306, 317 printing 226, 229, 274–277, 278, 279, 281, 283

Pros Lauritssøn (lagmann, d. 1596) 68–69, 70

provenance 16, 18, 24n, 85n, 99, 114–122, 118n, 191, 239

Qquires 33–34, 43–46, 71, 86, 89–90, 90n, 93–96, 244, 246

335 Index

RRanisch, Wilhelm (1865–1945) 300, 301, 304, 309, 309n

Rantzau, Christian (nobleman and manuscript collector, 1684–1771) 243

reading 20, 172, 307

Reise igennem Island (1772) 242

réttarbætr (royal statutes and amendments) 17, 18, 31, 43–44, 48–53, 85, 95, 114, 115n, 120, 121, 154–156, 193

Revelations of St Birgitta 119

Rigsrådet 141, 164, 165

Rosenblad, Bernhard (chamberlain and collector, 1796–1855) 87, 87n, 88n, 98, 278–279, 278n

Rosenkrantz, Erik (1519–1575) 62, 63–64, 120, 160, 164–166, 165n, 167–168, 170–171, 170n, 173, 175, 177n, 178–180

Rosenkrantz, Holger (1517–1575) 165, 173

Rosenkrantz, Jørgen (1523–1596) 176–177

Rosenkrantz, Otte Holgersen (d. 1525) 178, 183

rubrics 14n, 39, 42, 58, 71, 99, 100, 117, 138, 197, 202, 205–208, 210, 225, 229

SSachsenspiegel (c.1220–1235) 113, 132, 135, 136

Samling af Gamle Norske Love (1751–1752) 259

Scavenius, Matthias (translator, 16th century) 195

Schildener, Karl (scholar, 1777–1843) 88, 88n, 98

scribes 20–21, 35–42, 43, 45, 52, 58, 71, 114–122, 118n, 124, 126, 137–138, 155, 157, 172, 196–197, 220, 232, 242, 246, 247n, 248, 248n, 249, 250, 251

script 37, 43–44, 48, 96, 116, 116n, 117, 119n, 122n, 137, 142, 144n, 202, 208, 225, 229–230, 244, 248n, 288, 314

Selskabet for Norges Vel 31, 261

Sigurðr Eindriðason, Archbishop (d. 1252) 79, 80, 99

Skálholt 304

Skálholtsbók (AM 351 fol.) 240, 241n

Skarðsbók Jónsbókar (AM 350 fol.) 236n, 249, 250n

Skeel, Mads (lensherre, 16th century) 64–65, 68

Skriver, Jens (sheriff, d. 1570) 65, 70

Sophia, Queen of Denmark (1557–1631) 173

Søren Pederssøn (lagmann, d. 1565) 61

spiritual kinship 98, 105, 106, 106n, 108


St Birgitta 119, 154

Staðarhólsbók (AM 334 fol.) 17, 35, 223–226, 225n, 229n, 232, 236, 303, 306

Steffen Anderssøn (lagmann, d. 1564) 31, 61–62, 63–64, 71

Steig, Hålogaland 31, 50–51, 53, 54, 61–70, 71

Stockholm 268, 285

Storm, Gustav (scholar, 1845–1903) 37, 39, 42, 43–44, 48, 57, 61, 63, 84n, 85n, 89–90, 89n, 93–94, 94n, 96, 97n, 98n, 106n, 107n, 118n, 139, 171n, 190–203, 205, 209, 214–216, 258, 263, 264–265, 269, 291

Stortinget 260, 266, 274

Suhm, P. F. (1728–1798) 232

Summa titulorum (1240s) 105, 106

Svalbarðsbók (AM 343 fol.) 37n, 126, 127, 129, 138

Sweden 24, 32, 58, 63, 81n, 89, 141, 165n, 191, 196, 259, 262, 263, 265, 266, 273, 317

Sættargerðin í Túnsbergi (1277) 104, 120, 121n, 154


table of contents 115, 118, 119, 119n, 132, 137, 138–139, 139n, 158, 197, 207, 210, 223, 225, 225n, 244, 245, 247, 248, 311–313

Teiste, Hans (lagmann, d. 1591) 166

Thott, Birgitte (author and manuscript collector, 1610–1662) 169

title pages 221–222, 230–231, 231n, 235–237, 236n, 306, 309, 313

Torfæus, Thormod (scholar, 1636–1719) 232, 236, 248, 249, 250–251

town laws See Bæjarlǫg

transcriptions 21, 25, 251, 258, 263–270, 272–275, 277, 290–291, 302

translation 16, 20–25, 70n, 80, 81, 88, 98, 104–107, 139n, 167, 169, 178, 189–216, 239n, 240, 242, 259, 287, 295–322

travel 13, 32, 37, 61, 64, 177, 177n, 232, 266–270

Trondheim 43, 52, 55, 63, 69, 84, 99, 104n, 120, 121, 274, 279, 285 typeface 21, 22, 113, 260, 264, 272, 275–276, 279–282, 288, 290, 312–314

Tønsberg 44, 50, 156, 196, 201


Ulfstand, Truid Gregersen (1487–1545) 51

Universitetsbiblioteket, Christiania/Oslo 24, 31, 48, 52, 88, 88n, 98, 191, 264, 274, 291, 310, 315, 317

Uppland Provincial Law 87

Uppsala University Library 266

337 Index

Valdemar II, King (r. 1202–1241) 193, 246n

Valdres 117n, 178

Varberg Castle, Halland 164–165, 165n

vellum See parchment

Vilhjálmur Finsen (scholar and judge, 1823–1892) 300–301, 301n, 304–307 W

Wallenius, Jacob (scholar, 1761–1819) 88–89, 88n, 98


Þorgeirr Hákonarson (scribe, 14th century) 124

Þormóður Torfason See Torfæus

Þorsteinn Eiríksson, Bishop (d. 1349) 139

Þórður Jónsson í Skálavík (scribe, d. 1680) 222, 222n, 223n, 232, 237

Þórður Sveinbjörnsson (scholar, 1786–1856) 300–301, 301n Æ

Æfe Eggerts Ólafs Sonar (1784) 246

Øster Hæsinge Church 182

338 Index

List of manuscripts

Bergen, Universitetsbiblioteket – Spesialsamlingen

Dipl. 34 141, 142, 144n

Bergen, Universitetsmuseet – Historisk Museum

MA 128 (Årdal I) 125n

Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum

MS 242 (Pabenham-Clifford Hours) 132

Copenhagen, Det Kongelige Bibliotek

E Don. Var. 137 4to (Codex Rantzovianus) 14n, 17, 128n, 249, 250n

GKS 1154 fol. (Codex Hardenbergianus) 14, 33n, 112, 114, 114n, 118, 122, 122n, 123, 154n, 159, 160, 160n, 168, 168n, 170, 171n, 174, 181, 182

GKS 3669 8vo 121

NKS 120 fol. 135

NKS 816 4to (Langebeks kvart) 173

NKS 1640 4to 33n

NKS 1642 4to (Codex Tunsbergensis) 200–201, 204, 205, 239n

Copenhagen, Københavns Universitet, Den Arnamagnæanske Samling

AM 45 fol. (Fríssbók) 41

AM 302 fol. 32, 33n

AM 304 fol. 33n

AM 305 fol. 32, 33n, 244, 247, 248n

AM 307 fol. 33n, 244, 248

AM 309 fol. 33n, 140n, 169, 171, 171n, 174, 179

AM 310 fol. 249n

AM 322 fol. 33n, 72, 244, 247, 248, 248n

AM 324 fol. 236n, 237, 249n

AM 326 fol. 248n, 249

AM 327 fol. 249n

AM 355 a fol. 239n

AM 56 4to 33n, 166


AM 60 4to 32, 33n, 199, 263, 270n

AM 62 4to 32, 33n

AM 66 4to 250n

AM 69 4to 33n

AM 71 4to 33n

AM 73 4to 248n

AM 76 a 4to 248n

AM 76 b 4to 248n

AM 78 4to 33n

AM 103 4to 236n

AM 104 4to 236n, 237, 250, 250n

AM 105 4to 236n

AM 106 4to 236n

AM 185 4to 236n

AM 435 b 4to 249, 249n, 250n

AM 34 8vo 236n, 237

Dresden, Sächsische Landesbibliothek – Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek

Mscr.Dresd.M.32 135

Lavanttal, St. Paul Stiftsbibliothek

XXV/2.19 (Ramsey Psalter) 132

Linköping, Stifts- og amtsbibliotek

J7 194

London, Lambeth Palace Library

MS 233 (Bardolf-Vaux Psalter) 132

Lund, Universitetsbiblioteket

Mh 15 (Lundarbók) 124n, 125, 139n, 140n

New York, Morgan Library and Museum

MS M.302 (Ramsey Psalter) 132

Oslo, Deichman Library

33 4to 194

Oslo, Kulturhistorisk museum, Universitetets Oldsakssamling

C. 17806 (Øye) 125n

Oslo, Nasjonalbiblioteket

Ms.fol. 5 190, 196

Ms.fol. 30 232, 233–235

List of manuscripts

List of manuscripts

Ms.fol. 86 219, 221–232, 236–237, 248

Ms.fol. 87b 219, 237–242, 247, 249, 251

Ms.fol. 230 196

Ms.fol. 370 196, 197n

Ms.fol. 530 190n

Ms.4° 1 17, 18, 24, 30–72, 274

Ms.4° 58 198, 206–210, 213, 214, 215

Ms.4° 314 190, 198, 207–210, 213, 214, 215

Ms.4° 317 17, 18, 24, 33n, 78–112, 278n

Ms.4° 377 190n, 198, 200–205, 209, 214, 215

Ms.4° 507 196

Ms.4° 553 190, 190n, 196, 198, 200–205, 208–210, 214, 215

Mss.4° 681–690 263–273, 277, 290–291

Ms.4° 4331:C 239

Ms.8° 66 219, 242–249, 251

Ms.8° 296 191, 199, 210–215

Ms.8° 3121 191, 199, 210–215

Oxford, Bodleian Library

MS Douce 366 (Ormesby Psalter) 135n

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France

MS Lat 10435 134

Reykjavík, Landsbókasafn Íslands – Háskólabókasafn

JS 4 4to 243

JS 6 4to 223n

JS 65 8vo 243

Lbs 1401 8vo 223n

Reykjavík, Stofnun Árna Magnússonar í íslenskum fræðum

AM 334 fol. (Staðarhólsbók) 17, 35, 224, 225, 225n, 226, 229n, 232, 236, 303, 306

AM 341 fol. 231, 232n

AM 343 fol. (Svalbarðsbók) 126, 127, 129, 138

AM 347 fol. (Belgsdalsbók) 118–119, 119n, 126, 131, 137–139

AM 350 fol. (Skarðsbók Jónsbókar) 236n, 249, 250n

AM 124 a 4to 231

AM 124 b 4to 231, 231n

AM 125 a 4to 231


List of manuscripts

AM 343 a 4to 37n

GKS 1157 fol. (Konungsbók Grágásar) 225n, 232n, 296n, 299, 300–310, 320, 321

Steph 9 223n, 231n

Stockholm, Kungliga biblioteket

Isl. Perg. 4to 29 124n

Isl. Perg. 4to 34 70, 198, 199, 202–205, 214, 216

Isl. Papp. 4to 66 232

Tórshavn, National Archives

Kongsbókin (previously Stockholm, Kungliga biblioteket, Isl. Perg. 33 4to) 33n, 36

Trondheim, NTNU, Universitetsbiblioteket, Gunnerus

XA HA Qv. 1 100, 104n, 274

Uppsala, Universitetsbibliotek

C 564 105

De la Gardie 8 116, 116n, 124



Stefan Drech S ler is a postdoctoral researcher in Old Norse philology at the University of Bergen.

a nna catharina h orn is senior lecturer in Old Norse philology at the University of Oslo.

Jóhanna Katrín f riðri KSD óttir is a research librarian at the National Library of Norway.

Már Jón SS on is professor of history at the University of Iceland.

l ena r ohrbach is professor of Old Norse philology at the Universities of Basel and Zürich.

lu K a S r ö S li is junior professor of Scandinavian and medieval studies at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

a n D er S Winroth is professor of history at the University of Oslo.

Mette ref S lun D Witting is a research librarian at the National Library of Norway.

r an D i bJ ør S hol Wær Dahl is professor of history at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.


Nota bene is the National Library of Norway’s channel for disseminating research findings built on its collections, and research of relevance to these collections. All manuscripts are peer reviewed. Nota bene has a wide thematic profile. In order to mirror the full breadth of our collection, the publications, which include monographs, critical editions and edited collections, may be based on manuscripts, printed material, film, photography, music, broadcasting, and digital media.

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Bibliography 344
Nota bene

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Notated Music in the Digital Sphere: Possibilities and Limitations

Margrethe Støkken Bue and Annika Rockenberger (eds.) | 2021

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Språk i arkivet. Historier om hvordan språk reflekterer samfunnet

Johanne Ostad and Elise Kleivane (eds.) | 2021

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Silent Ibsen. Transnational Film Adaptation in the 1910s and 1920s

Eirik Frisvold Hanssen and Maria Fosheim Lund (eds.) | 2022

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Old Norse Law Books from a Material Perspective

Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir and Lukas Rösli (eds.) | 2024

Nota bene

© National Library of Norway, Oslo 2024

ISBN 978-82-7965-578-7 (printed)

ISBN 978-82-7965-579-4 (e-book)

ISSN 1891-4829 (printed)

ISSN 2535-4337 (e-book)

Design: Superultraplus Designstudio AS, www.superultraplus.com

Print: Erik Tanche Nilssen AS

This book is published in connection with the research and communication project De norske middelalderlovene (“The Medieval Laws of Norway”).

The project is financially supported by Elvekallen, represented by Astrid Lærdal Frøseth.

This material is protected by copyright law. Without explicit authorisation, reproduction is only allowed in so far as it is permitted by law or by agreement with a collecting society.

Reformasjonstidens religiøse bokkultur cirka


tekst, visualitet og materialitet

Bente Lavold og John Ødemark (red.)


Reformasjonstidens religiøse bokkultur cirka 1400–1700:

tekst, visualitet og materialitet

This volume presents new research on manuscripts, archival material and printed books containing Old Norse laws from the high middle ages until the twentieth century. Here, some of the leading scholars in the field of Old Norse manuscript studies analyse their sources from a material point of view, exploring an array of books in different materials and formats spanning almost 700 years. The study begins with three fourteenth-century parchment codices: the illuminated Codex Hardenbergianus and two smaller, somewhat older volumes containing King Magnus the Lawmender’s Laws of the Land. It passes through sixteenth-, seventeenth- and eighteenth-century paper manuscripts containing the laws in Old Norse as well as in translation, and goes all the way to modern printed editions and translations as well as archival material. Each of the objects expresses the ideas of their makers and owners through its material, provenance and physical aspects such as paratext, and these features provide clues about how laws were regarded and used throughout history. The authors show how law books had many functions that could change over time: practical tools with which to navigate society and wield power, mediums through which to display wealth, cultural resources and/or ideology, and repositories of knowledge about the past.

Nota bene is the National Library of Norway’s channel for disseminating research findings built on its collections, and research of relevance to these collections. All manuscripts are peer reviewed. Nota bene has a wide thematic profile. In order to mirror the full breadth of our collection, the publications, which include monographs, critical editions and edited volumes, may be based on manuscripts, printed material, film, photography, music, broadcasting and digital media.

Bente Lavold og John Ødemark (red.)

ISBN: 978-82-7965-578-7


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