A collector at work
Árni Magnússon’s rearrangement of paper manuscripts
Þriðjudaginn 19. maí 2015 kl. 16.30
Árni Magnússon (1663-1730) famously collected Icelandic manuscripts and put the bits and pieces of dismembered medieval parchment manuscripts back together. Many of his younger manuscripts, however, were subject to the opposite fate: he frequently took them apart and rearranged them with parts of other manuscripts. This fact is obscured by the work of later librarians and conservators, who counteracted Árni’s efforts by rebinding and cataloguing his compilations based on the origins of their multiple parts.
My talk focuses on Árni Magnússon’s habits and working processes with respect to the younger manuscripts in his collection. Using the manuscripts AM 615 a-o 4to as examples, I trace when they came into Árni’s possession, which physical form they had then, and how Árni rearranged the parts.
Today, AM 615 a-o 4to form fourteen separate paper manuscripts containing rímur and related material. In 1730, however, right after Árni’s death, all the texts were kept together in one bundle. Keeping them in a bundle and adding newly incoming material over many years, Árni created an ‘open’ compilation, which could be augmented with the latest acquired material. Having many such bundles and folders with multiple works inside them, his collection was easily changed and improved. Not only could the separate manuscripts and compilations be moved around, but the texts inside them could be relocated as well as complimented by new material. Thus, Árni Magnússon’s library should be understood as a work-in-progress, a collection designed to constantly increase and improve.
Beeke Stegmann studied at the University of Bonn (Germany) and the University of Iceland. Currently she is a PhD fellow at the University of Copenhagen (Denmark), where she investigates paper codices that were rearranged by Árni Magnússon. In her research, she combines approaches of Material Philology with Digital Humanities.