AM 344 fol.

AM 344 fol. is a large manuscript from the late fourteenth century. It contains secular and ecclesiastical law together with a couple of additions – and a gospel pericope with prayer up front.

Facts

AM 344 fol. measures 28 x 20 cm, which is a bit smaller than A4 size. It is only 79 leaves thick. Although the last page is only fragmental, it seems that this was the ultimate page. The manuscript originally had a woodboard binding with a leather spine, which both are preserved after restauration.

The manuscript has been dated to the late fourteenth century, and it was written in Iceland. The text is set in two columns with wide margins on the outside and the bottom. There are red rubrics throughout and coloured initials with contrasting ornament to mark new sections or chapters. The book has clearly been produced with accessibility and legibility in mind. While looking nice and neat, one would not perceive of this manuscript as a representational exemplar.

Árni Magnússon obtained AM 344 fol. in 1686. Today, it is kept at the Stofnun Árna Magnússonar á Íslandi. You can browse the digitisation here.

Contents, Language & Usage

The manuscript contains a copy of the secular law codex Jónsbók (2r–58r), additions and emendations to Jónsbók (58r–63v), the ecclesiastical law of Bishop Árni (63r–74v), and ecclesiastical decrees until the middle of the fourteenth century (74v–79r). Around ca. 1400, a gospel pericope and a prayer were added on the originally empty fol. 1r. While all other texts are in Old Norse, these additions are in Latin. On fol. 1v, there is an large illumination showing the crucified Christ accompanied by the Virgin Mary and John the Evangelist. Inscriptions reveal who is depicted.

The Latin parts are fairly standard. There are no errors to the text or obvious misspellings. It must be noted, however, that both texts are fairly easy regarding their grammar and lexis, and one would expect especially the gospel text to be correct. What I find striking is the high number of abbreviations, which is significantly different from what we find in liturgical books.

Legitimising the Law

The gospel pericope is the beginning of the Gospel of John, John 1:1–14. It stresses the importance of the word that comes from God and is God through Christ. Placed in the beginning of a codex of law, it stresses the importance of the words to follow as given by God. The law text represents the rules for the good life on earth mentioned in the prayer, which is a common closing prayer for Mass according to some uses. The prayer calls upon God, the ruler of our life, for guidance through life in this world. At the same time, it shows the ultimate goal of abiding by the rules: eternal life.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
Protector of those who believe in you, God without nothing is valid, nothing is holy: multiply your grace upon us, so that we may by your ruling and guidance thus proceed through a good worldly life, so that we don’t forsake eternal life. Through our Lord Jesus Christ…

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Manuscript description at handrit.is

Krister Kålund, Katalog over den Arnamagnæanske håndskriftsamling, København 1889–1894,I: 279-280.

Images taken from www.handrit.is.