Invisibilia's first three months

1 May 2017 was not only the first day for Invisibilia as a research project. It was also my first day back at work after 42 weeks of maternity leave, and it was my first day at the University of Copenhagen.

Settling in

The first few days of a new project are always very exciting. You usually start fully energised and ready to shoot, yet so many practical things have to be attended to that you hardly get any research done. In this case, it was nice that I was actually returning to a place where I had worked before, so I knew many colleagues and was able to find my way around.

According to schedule, I was supposed to have a kick-off meeting with my supervisor. He turned out to be on leave until September, so the meeting had to be re-scheduled, which in turn affected the development of the database and the homepage. Planning in general took up a lot of time, since having an up-to-date schedule leaves me better organised and more productive.

I spent some time brainstorming outreach activities, as these are important to the MSCA funding scheme, and watched some useful Youtube clips for inspiration.

Catalogue work

The catalogue work began in the middle of May and took roughly a month.

The first catalogue was, where I used the power search function to identify medieval AM manuscripts that had been catalogued with Latin as a first or second language. Some things were a bit odd concerning the search. For one thing, the drop-down menu listed Latin twice, so I actually had to do each search twice. The other thing was that the search yielded no single manuscripts from the Reykjavík collection. When I gained access to the xml files that handrit is based on, I found that those files actually contained markup for Latin language, but that those could not be found. I therefore had to combine the online search on handrit with a search across handrit’s xml files.

Next, I took the manuscript catalogue of the Arnamagnæan collection by Kålund and noted down all medieval manuscripts. As a second step, I compared the information in Kålund with eventual updates on handrit. This gave me one long list of manuscripts, which I then split up in three lists. List A contained 146 manuscripts known to contain Latin text. The 58 manuscripts on list B are likely to contain Latin text. And list C comprises 425 manuscripts, which probably don’t contain any Latin text, but which I will have to browse through anyway. Therefore, list C is divided further by format and content, so I will progress by representative selections in case I run out of time.

Digitised manuscripts

From list A I inspected the digitised manuscripts on and noted down where any Latin text occurred. As I went along, I discovered that not all Latin text had actually been indexed in the catalogues. Especially marginalia and pen-trials had not been noted. I also found general tendencies. Many law codices contained legitimising gospel quotations either in the front or in the back. Almost all kinds of manuscripts – from saga to canon law – feature short lines of prayer as later additions, most commonly the Hail Mary. And a few manuscripts were composed bilingually with Latin and Old Norse text side-by-side. Most of these are faith-related.

I then turned to the individual manuscripts, a work which will continue until December next year. I created XML files for the transcription of each manuscript and transcribed the facsimile and diplomatic level of the Latin contents. In many cases a normalised edition does not make sense, simply because the Latin is so faulty or the text incomplete. The following transcriptions are now more or less finished: AM 45 fol., AM 62 fol., AM 226 fol., AM 233 a fol., AM 235 fol., AM 344 fol., AM 350 fol., AM 519 4to, AM 619 4to, AM 677 4to, AM 696 XXX 4to, AM 696 XXXI 4to, AM 732 b 4to, and AM 736 I 4to.

Out of these, AM 732 b 4to has really caught my attention. What an exciting manuscript of only eighteen pages! I am currently studying it in more detail and will write more about it in next week’s post.