11 December 2017

11th of December

Manuscript Advent Calendar

A Christmassy jester

The Christmassy jester (Click on the picture for a larger version)

AM 22 4to is a Danish legal manuscript from the late 15th century containing various regional laws and decrees. On f. 58v there is a Danish translation of the so-called Haandfæstning (literally 'Handbinding', sometimes called a Coronation Charter) of King Christopher II, which was signed in Viborg on the 25th of January 1320. This haandfæstning was a king's written oath that he would uphold certain rules and limitations. Each king would have his own haandfæstning, which applied to him specifically, and they were used from 1288 to 1660, when Denmark was an elective monarchy and the king was chosen by the nobility.

Christopher II succeeded his brother Eric VI Menved (1274-1319), whose reign had left Denmark bankrupt, and in order to be chosen as king Christopher had to agree to sign an unusually restrictive haandfæstning, which also gave greater privileges to the nobility and the church.

The rubric is written in red and reads: ”Hærtugh Cristoffers handfestningh som wor giuæn i viborgh” (Duke Christopher's haandfæstning which was given at Viborg)
The big initial "I" is also written in red and is decorated with stylized plants, which run down along the text and into the lower margins where a drawing of a dog marks the end of the decoration. On the side of the initial is a man's head wearing a (very festive!) hat and sticking its tongue out.

A jocular decoration such as this one is not uncommon in medieval manuscripts and its presence in AM 22 4to may be entirely conventional. But since no other texts in the manuscript contain a similar decoration, it could also be the writer's own comment on the text.

(Click on the picture for a larger version)