Contents, Language & Usage
AM 431 12mo contains two textual units, Margrétar saga on fols. 1r–21r, and a text entitled “Release for a woman in labour” on fols. 21r–25v. Margrétar saga is in Old Norse throughout; there are hardly any variants to other copies, and the text is complete. The other text, however, is more complex. It consists of prayers in corrupted Latin, which are accompanied by instructions in Old Norse. These are more or less correct. They are visually set apart through script: the Latin is written in a bookhand, the Old Norse in a cursive.The texts are complementary in that the Latin could not be used without the Old Norse and vice versa. From the current state of the Latin, it is clear that the scribe did not know enough in order to produce a coherent text or amend it. While each word is an acceptable Latin word, there is virtually no functional grammatical structure in most sentences. Sometimes the meaning is unclear or absurd.
Once you know what text the scribe should have written down, the errors clearly stand out as copying errors deriving from the misinterpretation of a pattern of minims, ascenders and descenders. This means that this copy was not written down from oral transmission (although that may have occurred further down the transmission history), but from an exemplar that the scribe couldn’t read that well. While being unprecedented in other Old Norse manuscripts, the childbirth formula adhere to continental and insular patterns and traditions. What also becomes clear, is that the user of the manuscript, probably a woman acting as some kind of midwife, did not know the formulae well enough to amend them herself. It is debatable in how far the manuscript was actually read from during childbirth, or if it did not more function as a token.