A rare first edition of Ole Worm’s Runir, seu, Danica literatura antiqvissima (Runes, or, the ancient literature of the Norse people) has come to the University of Manitoba.
More commonly referred to as Literatura Runica, the book is one of the most significant early scholarly texts on medieval Scandinavia. It was purchased by the University of Manitoba’s Libraries, Archives & Special Collections, and will be a valuable addition to the library’s collection of Icelandic runology and magic publications.
“In addition to this work being of value to Icelandic students, it could also allow Latin students a closer inspection of medieval Latin as it was written by Northern Europeans during the 17th century,” says Peter John Buchan, head of Icelandic studies at the University of Manitoba.
The book was written in the 17th century by Ole Worms, an influential Northern European antiquarian, best known as the caretaker and namesake of an extremely important Old Icelandic manuscript — Codex Wormianus.
The book consists of three Old Norse texts in Icelandic (rendered in runes) and Latin:
- Krákumál (Speeches of the Crow) is a monologue of the legendary Viking hero, Ragnar Loðbrók as he dies in a snake-pit.
- Hǫfuðlausn (Head’s Ransom) is attributed to the Icelandic poet Egill Skallagrímsson in the anonymous Icelandic saga that bears his name.
- Skáldatal (Catalogue of Poets) is considered the first literary history of Iceland and translated in Latin only in the book.
“It is also an important work for the history of print, representing early print culture. The typefaces for printing runic letters were unavailable and had to be created to produce this work. It may very well be the first work to print runes with movable type,” adds Buchan.
This book is currently housed in the Archives & Special Collections Rare Book Room in the Elizabeth Dafoe Library. Contact Katrín Níelsdóttir, Special Collections Librarian to schedule an appointment to view the content, and visit the library catalogue for more information.
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