Louis Le Pontois Collection, Paris

A small trove of manuscripts containing fornaldarsögur now reside as part of a collection produced by Louis le Pontois (1838-1919) housed in the Bibliothèque Sainte Geneviève in Paris.


First page of Örvar-Odds saga (Bibl. St. Geneviève MS. 3724 fol. 66r)

After serving in the French marines during the late 19th century, Louis le Pontois returned around 1887 to his home region of Lorient in western France where he turned to the pursuit of local history. It is in this capacity that he achieved some notoriety, as he and his colleague, Paul du Chatellier, discovered the only known viking ship burial in France on the island of Groix. Details of the find were published in vol. VI of Saga-Book (1908-09, pp. 123-161) and elsewhere.

It must have been around this time that Mr. le Pontois became interested in sagas. Over approximately two decades, he produced at least 36 manuscript volumes of French saga translations. His interests were quite broad. Among his writings are translations of the Poetic Edda and Prose Edda, several konungasögur, Íslendingasögur and fornaldarsögur, as well as Hungrvaka and Konungs skuggsjá. Some of these appear to be the earliest known attempts to translate certain works into French, and it is a great pity that he never published any of them.

The translations are clearly scholarly endeavors. The pages are peppered with notes and glosses, and he provides citations for most of his source editions. Hand-colored maps also serve as helpful reference tools for a number of sagas.


Bibl. St. Geneviève MS 3719 fol. 227r (Hrafnkels saga Freysgoða)

Brief descriptions of the Le Pontois collection are available through Calames, the French University Archives search engine, and photographic archives obtained from Mr. le Pontois reside in the Préhistoire et Archéo- logie de l'Institut Culturel de Bretagne. More detailed catalog records of the volumes containing fornaldarsögur will soon be viewable on the Stories for All Time website.

* Many thanks to Florence Chapuis and the staff of the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève for allowing us to display these images.

Jeffrey Love, 29 May 2013.