Author Archives: K. J. Lewis

Skaldic Poetry and The Skaldic Project

Although my internship is over, I couldn’t resist sharing this new site I found with the rest of you. While looking for Arthurian manuscripts, I stumbled across a website called The Skaldic Project. On their homepage, they describe themselves as “an international project to edit the corpus of medieval Norse-Icelandic skaldic poetry.” They are also the writers of the series Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages, a nine-volume compilation of Skaldic poetry. Five of those nine volumes have been published, and three are available on their website.

Now some of you are presumably thinking, “But wait. What is skaldic poetry?” I’m glad you asked! This is actually the topic of one of the pages on the website, linked here if you want to read more. In general, early Scandinavian poetry can be split into eddic and skaldic poetry. However, both these are modern terms.

There are several different ways to find what you’re looking for on the website. First, there’s an index of first lines.

The first lines are categorized by the first letter of the first line. The letters are on the left, and the number of first lines are on the right. If you click on a letter, it then brings you to a page where you can see all the first lines under each letter. An important note is that most letters with accent marks such as “a” and “á” are considered separate letters and lead to separate pages.

Once you go to each page, it brings you to a handy listing of all first lines starting with that letter. And if you accidentally clicked on the wrong letter, no worries! Simply click on the words next to the arrow up top that read “first lines,” and you’ll go back to the list of first letters.

Say you’re looking for all the poetry by a specific skald. There’s another directory listing all skalds alphabetically. Like the previous directory, you have to be careful about any accents on the name.

Also like the previous directory, you can see that the righthand column lists how many poems in the corpus are attributed to each skald.

If you click on the name of a skald, it redirects you to a page with additional information on the skald and poetry. If the skald’s poems are included in multiple different texts, these are all listed as collapsible headers. As always, on the righthand side there is a number of how many poems are included in each. At the bottom is any other relevant information about the skald.

There are additional directories for Manuscripts, Poems (including only named poems), Prose Works, and Runic Poetry. The first three are lists, just like the lists of First lines and Skalds. The latter, however, is split into several different sections.

If you are looking for any runic poetry, you can search based on period, region, siglum, or place.

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Searching for Arthurian Manuscripts: German Edition

One of the projects my fellow interns and I have been working on is making a list of names in Arthurian literature and finding relevant manuscripts. A couple weeks ago, my fellow intern Adelia made a post about the website arthurianfiction.org. This website has been invaluable when we’re looking for manuscripts. However, the information isn’t always the most up-to-date. However, when it comes to German manuscripts, I found the website handschriftencensus.de. Unfortunately, the website is entirely in German.

Now, if you’re like me and don’t speak a lick of German, that might be discouraging. But not to worry! I’m going to go through how I’ve been using it to find manuscripts. A huge perk of learning how to use this site is that you don’t have to look through a bunch of German-language websites to find the manuscript you want. If you can find the manuscript on the Handschriftencensus website (literally “manuscript census”), it often includes a link to any digitization.

On the front page of the website, you will see the following header:

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You’ll see that I’ve highlighted the section titled “Verzeichnisse” (“Directories”). If you hover over this, you’ll see the following options:

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Here you want to click on the option “Autoren/Werke” (“Authors/Works”). This will bring you to a long page that has all works in alphabetical order. The title of each is often in the format Author’s name: Name of work. Next to each title is a number in parentheses followed by the word “Eintrag” or “Einträge” (“Entry”/”Entries”). This tells you how many manuscripts the Handschriftencensus has on record for each work. As an example, we’re going to look at Gottfried von Straßburg’s Tristan.

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Since I knew the title of the work that I was looking for, I used Ctrl+F to search for the word “tristan.” If you are using a Mac, this might be Command+F instead. In parentheses next to the title, it says “30 Einträge,” which lets us know that there are 30 entries on the site. When we click on the name of the work, it brings us to a page with all the manuscripts listed.

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The entries are color-coded depending on if they are a more complete manuscript or a fragment of one. From here, I’m clicking on the entry “Berlin, Staatsbibl., mgf 640” to go to the information page. The information page appears as follows:

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As you can see, I have certain words highlighted. The first of these, Aufbewahrungsort, tells us where the manuscript is located and under what shelf mark.

The next, Inhalt, tells us what the manuscript contains. In the case of this manuscript, there are several different works within it. When there are multiple works, the Handschriftencensus lists in which part of the manuscript each work can be found. I’ve underlined in red the relevant portion of this manuscript.

The third, Entstehungszeit, tells us when the manuscript was written. This manuscript has a specific year, 1461, but often the year is an approximation. You might see something like “2. Hälfte 14. Jh.,” “2. Drittel 13. Jh.,” or “um 1300.” If the entry says “um 1300,” this means it was written around the year 1300. If it says “13. Jh.,” this means it was written in the 13th century. “Hälfte,” “Drittel,” and “Viertel” mean “half,” “third,” and “quarter,” respectively. Put this together and you get that “2. Hälfte 14. Jh.” means the second half of the 14th century, or 1350-1400.

The final one, Abbildung, is where any relevant links are put. For this manuscript there is a hyperlink on the word “Codex,” which will bring us to a digitization of the manuscript.

All screenshots and highlights are my own.

Busch, Nathanael, and Jürgen Wolf. Handschriftencensus, Philipps-Universität Marburg, 2017, http://www.handschriftencensus.de/.

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