Research Group for Medieval Philology
The Research Group Presents

Law Manuscripts of Western Scandinavia: European Influences and Domestic Use

Stefan Drechsler presents his post-doc project "Law Manuscripts of Western Scandinavia".

AM 134 4to, f. 1r: Jónsbók. 1281-1294. Reykjavík, Stofnun Árna Magnússonar í íslenskum fræðum
AM 134 4to, f. 1r: Jónsbók. 1281-1294. Reykjavík, Stofnun Árna Magnússonar í íslenskum fræðum
Stofnun Árna Magnússonar, Jóhanna Ólafsdóttir

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The aim of the project "Law Manuscripts of Western Scandinavia" is to shed new light on an important area of medieval history: Icelandic and Norwegian law manuscripts in the period 1250–1650. These codices provide a detailed picture of a European society in a period of vastly expanding international contacts and are important first-hand examples of cultural frames of use. Being prestige objects of the elite, these law manuscripts are embellished with high quality book painting also served as initial references for literacy for generations. As such, Scandinavian law manuscripts are unfiltered, yet highly understudied mirrors of Nordic societies. While the transmission of these texts and their sites of production have been established through a good deal of previous research, the book painting and overall manuscript design has scarcely been examined. This project intends to resolve this state of neglect by investigating select Nordic examples.

The overarching ambition of this project is to shed light on the flow of concepts in the design of medieval legal manuscripts via a comprehensive and critical approach. I will examine the hypothesis that the manuscript design and legal iconographic programmes displayed in these manuscripts are not rooted in western Scandinavia exclusively, but also derive from two other areas which were in close contact with the North in the Middle Ages and Early Modern times: France and England. This project will be the first in the field to map the literary and artistic exchange between Scandinavian societies and other parts of Europe. Furthermore, the project will produce evidence for the strong cultural ties between the elite of Scandinavia and centres of legal education in Europe. Accordingly, this project will provide new insights into the international movements of medieval people through pictorial and textual evidence. In this respect, the project sets the Scandinavian laws within their wider European context.