5th cent.6th cent.7th cent.8th cent.9th cent.10th cent.11th cent.12th cent.13th cent.14th cent.15th cent.16th cent.17th cent.18th cent.19th cent.20th cent.


A chronological list of events in the development of the written culture in Europe and the North. You can go down to the desired century by clicking on the numbers above. 

 5th century   
  • Parchment codices become common in the Roman empire, thereby taking the place of papyrus scrolls.
  • The Latin language is introduced in Ireland through the arrival of biblical and liturgical manuscripts.
  • Ireland welcomes the written culture and develops its script - the insular minuscule.
  • The fall of the Roman empire after the barbaric invasions means that the few remaining literary works are taken into custody by the church.
 6th century
  • Montecassino529: the Benedictine order is founded by Saint Benedict of Nursia with Montecassino as its motherhouse. 
  • Books have as a main focus churchly needs, and book production becomes a common practice in the European monasteries with both Irish and Benedictine monks. The concept of a scriptorium thereby begins to develop.
    Iona monastery
  • The Irish monks begin to spread Christianity in the British Isles by taking up residence on the island Iona off the Western coast of Scotland (ca. 563).
 7th century
  • Lindisfarne castleCa. 635: the Monastery Lindisfarne is established by Irish monks on an island off the Northeastern coast of England. 
  • The English monks continue the spreading of Christianity towards the East under the influence of Irish and Benedictine monks.
  • Numerous literary works are imported from the continent into the Anglo-Saxon world.
  • The first minuscule is developed in Franconia.
 8th century
  • Reichenau724: the Benedictine abbey of Reichenau is established by a Benedictine monk. This was an important centre for travelling pilgrims, and its name register from later centuries shows several Nordic names.
  • 744: the Benedictine monastery of Fulda in Saxony is established by English monks.
  • 793: the monastery on Lindisfarne off the English coast gets destroyed and pillaged by Danish Vikings. Among the stolen treasures there was a great collection of books.
  • 768-877: Artistic blooming of manuscripts, i.e. the Carolingian renaissance, from the beginning of Charlemagne's imperial reign (800-814) to Charles the Bald's death in 877.
  • The Carolingian minuscule is developed. The letters are rounded and regular and cursives are removed. The classical Latin works written in capitals are rewritten during the imperial reign with the more economical minuscule script, which thereby becomes more popular. In this way, book culture becomes more accessible to the people in Western Europe.Border
  • The decoration of manuscripts finds inspiration in art from olden times and becomes more popular. The revival of this practice includes the renewed use of borders
  • 795: The church in Lambey in Ireland is pillaged by Vikings, which marks the beginning of more Viking raids on the island.
  • End of the 8th c.: A story tells of a Viking who took a book with him back to Norway from a raid in England. Its richly decorated cover was given as a gift to a woman in Hjørundfjord in Norway. The book itself hasn't been preserved, but the cover is kept at the University Museum of Bergen.
 9th century
  • 826: The Danish king Harald Klak lets himself be baptised in Mainz. Among the gifts, he received from emperor Ludwig were many liturgical books which he took home to Denmark.
  • 848: The first church is built in Hedeby by the monk Ansgar (801-865). This is the starting point for the further spreading of Christianity in the North, for which reason Ansgar is known as the "apostle of the North".
  • 853The Vikings attack Nantes on the western coast of France and steal several books from churches and monasteries.
  • 865: The Vikings disembark in England and begin the colonisation of the Danelaw, the Danish kingdom in England. The war to conquer the entire country lasts throughout the entire century.
    York Cathedral
  • 867: The Vikings conquer York, where its cathedral school makes it an essential place for spiritual life.
  • 874: The Norwegians begin their colonisation of Iceland. 
  • 871-99: King Alfred the Great's reign marks the revival of religion's importance in the country. The written culture works as an aid in the religious and cultural war against the invasion from the Vikings.
10th century
  • Jelling stoneIn continental Europe, the entire century is spent rebuilding monasteries and churches after many years of raids and pillages from, among others, Vikings, Saracens and Hungarians, which allows book culture to blossom anew.
  • 960: Harald Bluetooth is baptised and Christianity becomes Denmark's official religion.
11th century
  • 1000: Christianity is adopted in Iceland and becomes the country's official religion.
  • 1000: Olaf Tryggvason, king of Norway, dies. His life story is told very accurately in Snorri Sturluson's Heimskringla.
  • 1020'erne: Gissur the white, one of the preeminent figures in the Christianisation of Iceland, sends his son Ísleifr (1006-1081) to Saxony to study Theology. Upon his return, Ísleifr becomes a priest in Skálholt.
  • 1050: The Carolingian script is introduced in Denmark.Carolingian script
  • 1056: Skálholt and Hólar in Iceland are chosen as the country's bishop's sees. Ísleifr Gissurarson is made bishop in Skálholt.
  • 1050-1100: The Dalby book, Denmark's (and the North's) oldest preserved manuscript, is written in Dalby in Scania.
  • 1060: Lund becomes the bishop's see for Scania.
  • Ca. 1080: The Benedictine monastery in Ringsted is established.
  • 1085: Canute IV (the Holy or the Saint) finishes the construction of the Lund cathedral, the oldest cathedral in the North.
  • 1095: Erik the Good imports Benedictine monks from the English monastery of Evesham to establish the monastery of St. Canute in Odense. 
12th century
  • Dissemination of monasteries in the North throughout the whole century.
  • Beg. of 12th c.: The works Landnámabók and Íslendingabók on the early history of Iceland are written by Ari fróði.
  • 1100-1110:The oldest preserved manuscript in Lund, Thott 22 4to, is written in Lund and contains the Four Gospels.
  • 1115: The Carolingian script arrives in Iceland.
  • 1133: The first monastery in Iceland is established in Þingeyri and follows the Benedictine order.
  • 1135: A Benedictine monastery is established in Næstved.
  • 1150: The Carolingian script arrives in Sweden and Norway.
  • 1150: Blossoming of the spiritual life in Denmark with Absalon as its main representative. AM 242 fol.
  • Ca. 1150: Along with the first grammatical work in Icelandic, the 'bókmál', i.e. Latin, is replaced by writing in the vernacular. More works in Icelandic are written from then on.
13th century
  • BorderCa. 1200: Development of the Gothic script in France. Its dissemination to the North begins around 1250 but reaches Iceland only around the year 1300. The illumination with floral patterns in the borders is also part of this new development. See an example in AM 71 8vo.
  • 1200-1210:Four leaves (NKS 869 g 4to), thought to be Saxo's original copy of Gesta Danorum, are dated to this period.
  • 1222: First Dominican monastery in Lund.
  • 1232: First Franciscan monastery in Ribe.
  • 1241: Fire at the monastery in Ringsted.
  • 1247: Fire at the monastery in Sorø.
  • 1250: First manuscripts were written in Danish, especially law manuscripts. The first medicinal books along with their cookbooks and prayer books in Danish are also written around this time.Gothic cursive
  • 1250: The Gothic script develops in Denmark and Sweden in two separate phases. First comes the old Gothic script which lasts until 1350 (Denmark) / 1370 (Sweden). Later on, this develops into the younger Gothic script.
  • Ca. 1250: The Gothic cursive starts to gain popularity in the North.
  • 1255: The Hamburg Bible (GKS 4 fol.) is written in Hamburg.
  • 1261: Fire at the monastery in Næstved.
14th century
  • 1300: Introduction of fleuronné initials.AM 4 4to
  • Ca. 1300: AM 4 4to, a manuscript with the Jutlandic Law, is from around this time. The manuscript can be seen in its entirety by clicking on the link above.
  • Ca. 1300: AM 28 8vo, also known as AM 28 8voCodex Runicus, containing the Scanian Law and other texts written entirely with runes, is from around this time. The manuscript can be seen in its entirety by clicking on the link above.
  • Ca. 1350: Möðruvallabók (AM 132 fol.) is written in Iceland and contains many Icelandic family sagas, among others Njáls saga and Egils saga.
  • 1359: Date of the first known Danish paper manuscript.
  • 1363: The law book Skarðsbók (AM 350 fol.) is written in Skarð in Iceland.
  • 1350/1370: The old Gothic script develops into the younger Gothic script in Denmark and Sweden.
  • Ca. 1350-1400: The Arnamagnæan medicinal book AM 187 8vo is dated to around this time.AM 187 8vo This must be a copy of an older and today unknown manuscript. The manuscript can be seen in its entirety by clicking on the link above.
  • 1387-1394: Flateyjarbók (GKS 1005 fol.), one of the greatest and most important Icelandic manuscripts, is written in Iceland. The manuscript contains among other texts Heimskringla and sagas about the discovery of Greenland and the Faroe Islands (Grœnlendinga saga and Færeyinga saga).
15th century
  • AM 76 8vo1465-1475: AM 76 8vo, also known as Per Ræv's manuscript, which contains the text of Lucidarius, is written in Denmark in this period.
  • 1482: The first printed news in Latin is issued in Odense.
  • 1495: The first book in Danish is printed: Gottfried of Ghemen's Rhyme Chronicle.
16th century
  • AM 421 12moBeg. of the 16th c.: AM 421 12mo, also known as Marine Jespersdatter's prayer book, is from this period. The manuscript can be seen in its entirety by clicking on the link above.
  • 1536: The Reformation takes place. The disputes between Catholics and Protestants destroy numerous libraries.
  • ca. 1550: The new Gothic script develops in the North. It appears in Sweden as early as 1526.
  • Danes and Swedes fight over the right to claim the Icelandic manuscripts.
  • End of the 16th c.: Iceland develops its type of script: the Icelandic script. It is used until the 18th century.
17th century
  • Beg. of the 17th c.: Many manuscripts are destroyed by using the parchment leaves as cartridges for fireworks and gunpowder.
  • 1660: Bishop Brynjólfur Sveinsson sends some Icelandic manuscripts to king Frederik 3rd, among which are Flateyjarbók (GKS 1005 fol.), the law book Grágás and Codex Regius (GKS 2365 4to).
  • 13th November 1663: Birth of Arni Magnusson.Árni Magnússon
  • 1683: Arni Magnusson graduates from Skálhóltsskóli and travels to Copenhagen. He enrols at the University of Copenhagen on the 25th of September.
  • 1685: Arni Magnusson begins his collection of manuscripts in Copenhagen upon finishing his theological studies. This happens in conjunction with his work for professor and book collector Thomas Bartholin.
  • August 1689: Arni Magnusson travels to Norway looking for old manuscripts.
  • 5th November 1689: Thomas Bartholin dies and his manuscript collection goes to Arni Magnusson.
  • 1694-1696: Arni Magnusson travels to Germany to places such as Stettin and Leipzig where he studies the manuscript collections.
  • 1697: Priest Jón Vídalín in Skálholt sends various manuscripts to Arni Magnusson, among which was the very important manuscript AM 227 fol., also known as Stjórn, now kept in Iceland, which contains the Old Testament in Icelandic.
18th century
  • Autumn 1720: Arni Magnusson's collection of manuscripts in Skálholt, collected during his work in Iceland from 1702-1712, is sent to Copenhagen. The collection reaches its destination in 1721.Trinitatis Church
  • 20th-23rd October 1728: A fire in Copenhagen destroys great parts of the city and several irreplaceable manuscripts from the University Library on the top floor of the Trinitatis Church.
  • 7th January 1730: Arni Magnusson dies and bequeaths his manuscript collection to the University of Copenhagen.
  • 10th September 1785: Otto Thott, owner of the greatest private collection of manuscripts in Denmark, dies, and his ca. 4.000 manuscripts are bequeathed to the Royal Library in Copenhagen.
19th century
  • The Latin script becomes the common script type in the North.
20th - 21st century
  • 1907: Iceland asks to have the Icelandic manuscripts returned to Iceland.
  • 1956: The Arnamagnaean Institute is founded in Copenhagen.
  • 1961: Denmark agrees with Iceland to send 1.666 manuscripts from the Arnamagnaean collection along with 141 from the Royal Library to Iceland.
  • 1962: Handritastofnun Íslands (Manuscript Institute of Iceland) is founded. 
  • 21st April 1971: The first manuscripts arrive in Reykjavík.
  • 1972: The Manuscript Institute of Iceland is renamed Stofnun Árna Magnússonar (the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies).
  • 19th June 1997: The last manuscripts are sent to Iceland.