Centre for Medieval Studies Lecture Series

Silvia Hufnagel

Title Pages in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Icelandic Manuscripts

Thursday, October 25, 2018, at 16.30
Lögberg 101

Silvia Hufnagel

The new medium of print came around 1530 to Iceland but it was mostly religious and liturgical works that were printed due to the ecclesiastical ownership of the island’s sole printing press. This situation led to a certain dichotomy between the choices of medium in relationship to content.

Even though this division of media according to text type existed in Iceland, the two media influenced each other. The earliest printed books were strongly influenced by handwritten manuscripts, but as time went on, books developed their own design and layout and in turn influenced manuscripts. In post-medieval Icelandic manuscripts we thus find features of printed books, for example title pages, which were a novelty of print.

In this presentation, Silvia Hufnagel will present some of the results from her Marie Skłodowska Curie Project on title pages in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Icelandic manuscripts, conducted from 2015 to 2017 at the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna. She will focus on, first, the distribution of title pages over time, in different textual genres and within the book block of manuscripts, second, on the earliest title pages in the sixteenth century and, third, on title pages in both hymn manuscripts and saga manuscripts.

Most title pages, and all of the earliest title pages, are found in non-fictional genres, particularly computistic, religious-edifying and scientific texts and are a testament to the close connections between print and manuscript. The innovation of the title page came furthermore “top down”, as the scribes of the earliest title pages belonged to or were affiliated with the highest echelons of society. A surprisingly large number of title pages is found in the middle or towards the end of the book block, dividing either different parts of a compilation or text from register.

Hymn manuscripts often contain title pages. They hardly ever refer to the printed medium, though, even if they were copied from books, but rather mention the medium of reception. Although the – much rarer – title pages of saga manuscripts often mention the entertainment value of the sagas, they often invoke the glorious past that is depicted in the texts. They contain many rhetorical elements, such as accumulatio. As such, they are proof of the scribes’ and patrons’ learned environment, an environment that most certainly included printed works, even though the saga title pages do not mention them directly.

Silvia Hufnagel conducts research in the sociology of literature, manuscript studies and paper history. After her Marie Skłodowska Curie scholarship in Austria, she is now part of the project “Paper Trails: A Material History of 16th and 17th Century Icelandic Books from Paper Production to Library Collection” at the Stofnun Árna Magnússonar í íslenskum fræðum.

The talk will be delivered in English. All are welcome to attend.