There would be no modern reception of Norse antiquities today if it were not for the rediscovery of Old Norse sources by early modern antiquarians.
From the times of Saxo Gramaticus (1160–1220), the author of the monumental Gesta Danorum, Danish historians have used Old Norse-Icelandic sources for their studies of the Scandinavian past. It was not until the seventeenth century, however, that these sources became the subject of intensified scholarly interest in mainland Scandinavia. The rediscovery of Old Norse-Icelandic sources and the scholarly interest they awakened had a profound influence on the transmission history of many texts presumed long forgotten. A number of Old Norse-Icelandic texts were translated into Latin and vernacular Scandinavian languages, making these texts available to wider audiences. Antiquarian interest in this literature gave impulse not only to the collecting of Icelandic manuscripts, but also to the writing of new adaptations of medieval texts that were no longer available in manuscript form. Some of these texts became widely popular and have a fascinating history of transmission that continues even today.
This exhibition explores the beginnings of the scholarly reception of Old Norse-Icelandic literature in Denmark in the seventeenth century, when the authority of Saxo Grammaticus and his Gesta Danorum became increasingly challenged by the rediscovery of Old Norse-Icelandic sources. With this scholarly rediscovery previously forgotten sagas gained new life as they were revitalised or reinvented by early modern antiquarians.
Selection of items in this exhibition
Kapitan, Katarzyna Anna. 2021. “Writing (hi)stories,” Reception and Reinvention: Old Norse in Time and Space, accessed dd/mm/yy, https://oldnorsereception.omeka.net/exhibits/show/writing-histories.