Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

The use of Latin in Iceland and the west Nordic region

The EU funded a two-year project targeting the development of a comprehensive description of Latin letters in mediaeval Old Norse-Icelandic manuscripts. The work resulted in an analytical database presenting the remains of Latin literacy in Iceland, including Latin authors and known works.
The use of Latin in Iceland and the west Nordic region
Work on the project ISLANDIA LATINA (Latin in Old Norse-Icelandic Manuscripts) focused on Latin works, composed, copied, translated or otherwise utilised by Old Norse-Icelandic scribes. Research outcomes have produced a useful research tool for the relevant academic community as few original texts in Latin are preserved in Old Norse-Icelandic manuscripts.

Collaborative research examined sources and entered new data to build the database of XML-encoded documents related to the use of Latin. It is compatible with and supplementary to the online Dictionary of Old Norse Prose and the Online Electronic Catalogue of Icelandic Manuscripts. Both are projects currently running at the University of Copenhagen.

The team placed great emphasis on the registration of Latin manuscript fragments, the provenance of which can be traced to Iceland, and identifying the source texts of Old Norse-Icelandic translations.

Part of the project involved training in extracting information from digitised and non-digitised sources as well as in methods of codifying information and making it available online. A technician joined the team to help execute and encode the collaboratively designed ISLANDIA LATINA database.

To date, the project has identified works by 288 named Latin authors as well as 123 anonymous works. Some of these were not previously known to have existed in Iceland or the west Nordic area as a whole in the mediaeval period. New source material – included directly from the photographic manuscript collection of The Arnamagnæan Collection – considerably expands the reach of registration. It has also significantly improved the coverage and quality of the ISLANDIA LATINA database.

The project's impressive work challenges a popular idea that mediaeval literacy in Latin was radically exceptional in western and central Europe. As such, the results of this project offer new insights into Icelandic-Norwegian literacy during that era.

Related information


Latin, Iceland, west Nordic, mediaeval, Old Norse, Icelandic manuscripts
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