Thursday 18 June 2015

A ‘new’ manuscript of the Life of Anskar in Stockholm

Dr Paul Gazzoli writes:

Following up from my previous announcement of a new manuscript, I can now report on another manuscript of Rimbert’s Life of Anskar, this one the first Latin manuscript of the text from Scandinavia.

Last month I went to Stockholm in order to have a closer look at the medieval Old Swedish translation of the Life, which is in the Royal Library (Kungliga Biblioteket) with the shelf-mark A 49. While there, I decided also to take a look at K 92:2, which was listed by Sven Helander in his work on Anskar’s cult in medieval Scandinavia (Ansgarkulten i Norden, 1989) as an abbreviated version of the Life. From his description (on p. 38), I had expected the very short version of only a few pages which circulated in the later middle ages, which I have seen in manuscripts from Hamburg and Bordesholm.

Kungliga Biblioteket, Stockholm

I was very pleasantly surprised then, to find that this version of the text occupies folia 30v–49v, and although it is indeed abbreviated, leaving out several chapters and longer passages as well as sentences and individual words in places, it does nonetheless belong among manuscripts of the Life rather than the few-page abbreviation. Its readings show a similarity to Cuijk, St Agatha C 13, which has similar (but not always the same) omissions, and once the ‘new’ Bordesholmmanuscript has been restored, I suspect that too will have similar readings (as the number of pages the Life takes up in it indicate that it too was a version with omissions).

Another pleasing realisation was that K 92:2 had belonged to Stephan Hansen Stephanius (1599–1650), a Danish philologist and historian who produced an edition of Saxo Grammaticus. In the latter, he references in a note a manuscript of the Life of Anskar, which previous editors believed lost. That manuscript does indeed seem to be lost – but K 92:2 contains what must be a transcript of it, in an elegant and legible seventeenth-century hand. Anna Wolodarski of the Royal Library has informed me that the manuscript came to Stockholm from the Kalmar Gymnasiebibliotek in 1919, and it is not known how they acquired it. It is a collection of texts that Stephanius copied or had copied at various times, mostly relating to Danish history, saints and the Churches of Lund and Aarhus.

Over the past three years I have been working on manuscripts of the Life, I have been able to develop a fuller picture of its transmission throughout northern Europe, and this new manuscript, even though it is the furthest removed from the original text, as the only known Latin manuscript from Scandinavia, does much to complete that picture.

If you want to hear more about this (and the other) manuscripts, my work on a new edition of Anskar, and much else about Hamburg-Bremen and its mission besides, come to Mission,Empire and the North in ASNC on 4 July 2015! Click on the link to register by 25 June.

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