Treasures in the Royal Library

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The Angers fragment of Saxo’s History of Denmark. Denmark 1200-1210.
NkS 869g 4º. Parchment, 4 ff.

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Fol. 1r Fol. 2v

The Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus’ History of Denmark, Gesta Danorum, is the great classic of Danish medieval literature. Saxo wrote his history of Denmark about 1200, but the work in its entirety is only known from the first edition published by Christiern Pedersen in Paris in 1514. How closely this edition resembles the text which Saxo or his scribes wrote on parchment 300 years earlier, scholars got the opportunity to appraise when four leaves of a hitherto unknown manuscript containing a fragment of Saxo’s text were discovered in the library in the French town of Angers. The four leaves had been used as flyleaves in a manuscript from the 15th century.
The discovery was published already in 1863 in Lemarchand’s catalogue of the Angers Library’s manuscripts, but it was not until the internationally renowned mediaevalist Gaston Paris in a lecture in 1877 explained the unique character of the fragment that its importance became apparent. Additions and alternative formulations written between the lines and in the margin show that the leaves stem from Saxo’s own copy of the text.
The four leaves thus offer us a direct glimpse of Saxo at his desk. They show that he really strove to give the text the form which earned him his well-deserved reputation as a writer. At the same time they confirm that the text which Christiern Pedersen published in 1514 adheres quite faithfully to Saxo’s own wording.
The fragment was included in the Royal Library in 1878, in exchange for a manuscript of French origin.

21 x 16 cm.

See the entire fragment on the website of the Manuscript and Rare Books Department Saxo, Gesta Danorum, fragmentum Andegavense and see a first edition of the printed History of Denmark under “Printing in the Renaissance”.

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