26 April 2017

Mirrors of virtue: Manuscript and print in late pre-modern Iceland

New publication

As a departure from previous practice, this volume of Opuscula presents ten articles on a single theme: manuscript and print in late pre-modern Iceland

Margrét Eggertsdóttir and Matthew James Driscoll (eds.): Mirrors of virtue. Manuscript and print in late pre-modern IcelandBibliotheca Arnamagnæana XLIX. Opuscula XV. 2017. Museum Tusculanums Press.

Mirrors of Virtue

Pre-modern Iceland is understood as the period between the advent of print in the early sixteenth century to the establishment of the Icelandic State Broadcasting Service in the early twentieth. Throughout this period, manuscript transmission continued to exist side by side with print, the two media serving different, but overlapping, audiences and transmitting different, but overlapping, types of texts. 

The authors take their point of departure in recent developments within literary and cultural studies which focus on the artefactuality of texts and the social, historical and cultural contexts in which they are produced and consumed.

The volume's title, Mirrors of virtue, refers not only to the popular late medieval and early-modern genre of exemplary and/or admonitory 'mirror' literature – several examples of which are discussed – but also to the idea that both manuscripts and printed books are reflections of 'virtue' in a broader sense.

While some of the manuscripts dealt with here were clearly compiled with the intent of encouraging virtuous behaviour in their readers, the theme of virtue is also to be found in others intended rather for entertainment than instruction. The manuscripts also reflect the diligence of the scribes in their efforts to preserve for posterity not only the literature they transmitted but also more generally the very practice of copying and reading texts aloud at a time when this tradition was rapidly losing ground to other forms of literary production, dissemination and reception.