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Old Icelandic literature

  • Grégory CATTANEO, 15 January 2013 | 14 December 2010


    This section proposes a catalogue of the written medieval Icelandic production (old Icelandic or old Norse). Most of these texts come from an oral tradition inherited from the old Germanic culture. The writing of these texts was mostly done from the XIIth to the XIVth century in Iceland.
    The island has been settled during the Viking expansion from 872 to 930 by Norwegians settlers and Celtic slaves from the British isles. Among the Viking World, only Iceland produced and preserved the Scandinavian literary culture in vernacular.
    Some literary masterpieces such as the prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson, the saga of Burnt-Nial or even the Sayings of the High One could cross the time and offer a living testimony of the Medieval Scandinavian culture.
    Note on the abbreviations :
    AM = Árni Magnússon (Árni Magnússon Manuscript collection, Denmark and Iceland) and GkS = Gammel kongelig samling (Old Royal Manuscript collection Denmark)

    Narrative texts

    - Sagas des Islandais (Íslendingasögur), written from the half of the XIIIth century until the XIVth century cf. Möðruvallabók 1350.
    - Sagas royales (Konungasögur) written between 1180 and 1280.
    - article 1715 (Fornaldarsögur) probably written between 1250 and 1400.
    - Sagas de chevaliers (Riddarasögur) probably written around the half of the XIIIth century until the XIVth century.
    - Saga des Sturlungar (Samtiðarsögur) written during the XIIIth century
    - article 1725 (Byskupa Sögur) and Saints lives cf. AM 655 IX 4to. written around 1150. AM 645 4to. XIIIth century. AM 623 4to. First half of the XIIIth century. AM 652 4to. Second half of the XIIIth century. Codex Scardensis, XIVth century.
    - Edda in prose written by Snorri Sturluson around 1220.


    - Poèmes eddiques (Eddukvæði) : mythical and heroical poems cf. Codex Regius (1270); AM 748 I 4to XIVth century; Hauksbók by Haukr Erlendsson (1265-1334).
    - Scaldic poems. Probably composed since the VIIth century and written from the XIIth century.

    Historical texts

    - Book of the Icelanders (Íslendingabók) original version written by Ari fróði Þorgilsson (1067-1148) cf. Two manuscripts from the XVIIth century copied from the XIIth century original text written by Jón Erlendsson.
    - Book of the Settlement (Landnámabók) cf. Three versions: Sturlubók original version written by Sturla Þórðarson (1214-1284), Hauksbók written by Haukr Erlendsson (1265-1334), Melabók written by Snorri Markússon (d. 1313) or Þorsteinn Snorrason (d. 1351). It exists two post-medieval versions from the XVIIth century: Skarðsárbók by Björn Jónsson (1574-1655) and Þórðarbók by Þórður Jónsson (1609-1670).
    - Saga of the Christianization (Kristni saga) cf. Hauksbók.

    Sciences (mathematics and astronomy)

    - Algorismus (1302-1310) cf. Hauksbók composed by Haukr Erlendsson
    - Odda tala composed by Oddi Helgason during the XIIIth century, exists in three versions: GkS 1812 4to, Hauksbók and Rímbegla.
    - Rímtöl (1150) composed probably by Bjarni Bergþórsson inn tölvísi.
    - Rímtöl II composed during the last quarter of the XIIIth century.
    - Rímtöl III composed during the XIVth century.

    Legal Texts

    - Grágás (1122-1133) cf. AM 315 a, b and c fol. GkS 1157 (Konungsbók) 93 p. Composed around 1260. AM 334 (Staðarhólsbók) 108 p. Composed around 1270
    - Járnsíða (1271) Royal Code cf. Staðarhólsbók.

    Linguistics: the Grammatical Treatises (Málfrœðiritgerðirnar)

    - First Grammatical Treaty, probably around 1275.
    - Second Grammatical Treaty, 1250.
    - Third Grammatical Treaty, 1250.
    - Fourth Grammatical Treaty, first quarter of the XIVth century.
    Origin: Codex Wormianus (Wormsbók), AM 242 fol. early XIVth century.

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