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14. Manuscripts and Palaeography

Guðvarður Már Gunnlaugsson

Subject Literature » Medieval Literature

Place Northern Europe » Scandinavia

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631235026.2004.00017.x


This chapter contains an account of Norse medieval manuscripts, the beginning of manuscript production in the Nordic linguistic area and the development of script to the end of the Middle Ages. The term ‘manuscript’ is used to refer to hand-written texts, irrespective of whether they are complete or fragmentary, on vellum or paper. The treatment of Icelandic manuscripts and script covers the period down to the Reformation in the mid-sixteenth century; the section on Norwegian manuscripts covers the period down to about 1370, after which the production of Norwegian manuscripts went into a substantial decline and few were written in Old Norse. The main focus will be on manuscripts and documents in Old Norse (the term ‘document’ referring here to writings of a relatively official or legal character). These are written in a modified form of the Latin alphabet. From the point of view of palaeography per se , it makes no difference whether they are in Old Norse or Latin; nevertheless the language is a consideration in the present discussion because we can be fairly sure that manuscripts in Old Norse were written by native speakers, while manuscripts in Latin could have been imported from England or other countries. Nordic people came into contact with the Latin alphabet before it was adopted in their countries. A coin inscribed with Old Norse names was struck in York before the middle ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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