Manuscripta Islandica in Rostock

Today, the task of cataloging manuscripts that contain fornaldarsögur brought me to the pretty Hanseatic city of Rostock in Northern Germany. My starting point was the information that there were one, or possibly two, manuscripts in Rostock containing Hálfdanar saga Brönu- fóstra and Göngu-Hrólfs saga. There was no catalog description of these manuscripts to be had, nor did the otherwise so valuable box labeled “Manuscripta obscura“ in the manuscript reading room of the Arnamagnæan Institute provide me with any additional information. So I got in contact with the university’s library in Rostock, where the staff was able to reassure me that they possess the texts in question and that they reside within one and the same manuscript. Moreover, I received the promising news that they might hold more objects of interest for us, since there is a total of five Icelandic manuscripts in Rostock.


The special collection of the university's library in Rostock

The treasures I was to look at appeared in the shape of thick paper codices bound in white parchment. Mss. philol. 78, the manuscript which contains the two sagas I came for, has a stout total of 699 folio leaves and weighs approximately two kilos. As it turns out, there were even more fornaldarsögur to be found on these pages, namely Sörla saga sterkaHrólfs saga kraka and Hálfdanar saga Eysteinssonar. These five fornaldarsögur are all given in a Swedish translation, and Johan Peringskiöld is referred to as translator of Göngu-Hrólfs saga. Moreover, there are Íslendingasögur and riddarasögur, some in Old Norse and some in Swedish, as well as excerpts of Eddic poems translated into Latin and German. According to the title page, this part of the manuscript was written in Stockholm in the year 1725.


Mss. philol. 78

Not accounted for in the initial register are various genealogies, comments on the Edda and a short account on a grave mound in Uppland written by a certain C.L. von Schantz. These last items haven‘t been dated, but it can be assumed that they are contemporary to the rest or slightly later as Schantz’s text deals with the excavation of a burial mound on 8 June 1724. The leaves are also written on the same material as the other leaves of the manuscript. Except for Schantz’s hand, however, none of the twelve hands in the codex can be associated with a name.
As if Mss. philol. 78 were not enough, there is a second manuscript containingfornaldarsögur. The codex with the shelf mark Mss. philol. 78/2 is a sister manuscript of Mss. philol. 78. With a total of 524 leaves, it is slightly thinner than the former but still of an impressive size. Next to Íslendingasögur and historical texts, it contains the complete text of Völsunga saga and Norna-Gests þáttur, again in Swedish, and German Excerpts of Ragnars saga loðbrókarHálfs saga og HálfsrekkaHrómundar saga Gripssonar and Áns saga bogsveigis. On the contrary to Mss. philol. 78, this manuscript is only written by four different scribes, none of which has been identified.

Opening of Mss. philol. 78/2

At the end of the day, I leave Rostock with a total of seven complete fornaldarsögur and excerpts of another four sagas in my records. On top of that, the librarian provided me with an overview of the five Icelandic manuscripts in the university’s library in Rostock. This I will now add to the „manuscripta obscura“-box in our manuscript reading room, hoping that it might provide somebody with necessary information and possibly even lead him or her to the Northern German repository, which itself is already worth a journey.

Many thanks to the staff at Universitätsbibliothek Rostock, and in particular Heike Tröger, for their support.

Beeke Stegmann, 12 August 2013.