Nybrogatan 32, Stockholm
Category: Western Medieval Manuscripts
BIFOLIUM FROM AN EARLY ANTIPHONER, with part of the Office for St. Olaf of Norway, including the opening words of the Passio Olavi, decorated manuscript in Latin on vellum [Scandinavia (most probably Sweden), last years of thirteenth century or fourteenth century].
Bifolium (complete except for trimming to blank areas of upper and lower borders), each leaf with 11 lines of a fine and angular early gothic bookhand (apparently following Anglo-French models, but with a pronounced tall and thin quality to some ascenders, as well as propensity for heavy wedge-shapes at end of ascenders; for a close hand compare Fr. 296 in the online 'MPO': medeltida pergamentomslag database, that from a contemporary
manuscript produced in Linköping), with music in square notation on a 4-line red stave, rubrics in red, capitals in elaborate penstrokes and touched in red (these perhaps showing debt to Rhineland forms, but compare the near identical initial 'S' formed from undulating strokes layered on top of each other in Fr. 29694; and for further close matches see those on Fr. 798, 20291 and 29767, all from antiphoners of the thirteenth or fourteenth century), initials in alternate red or blue with long trailing penwork (in French style, but compare contemporary Fr. 29694) in alternate colours, some slight scuffing and areas of discolouration from reuse as binding of later accounts (see below), but overall in excellent condition, each leaf: 235 by 220 mm.
1. Written and decorated for use in a Scandinavian community, most probably one in Sweden and perhaps in Dalarna. The script here as well as the form of musical notation owes a profound debt to Anglo-French hands of the late thirteenth and early fourteenth century, and the high grade of the script would suggest a wealthy and influential patron-community.
2. The parent manuscript was reused in the sixteenth century as wrappers for accounts, with this bifolium receiving an additional inscription (over an erased area of stave at the head of the first page, and that once in margin now partly cut away, unfortunately removing the estate name): "Register . /Båzmen som haffua waritt wthi för / ricksens fiender . anno 65", as well as "1565" at the foot of the same leaf.
3. Recently discovered in a Dalarna family library.
St. Olaf (also Olav/Olof, king of Norway 1015-1028) remains the quintessential saint of medieval Scandinavia. After the Christianisation of the region in the tenth century, and political consolidation of most of it under a handful of rulers in the tenth and eleventh centuries, the fledgling Scandinavian Church began to look to its own elites for saints who could aid the promotion of Christianity in the region. Within a few years of Olaf's death,
there is evidence that he was venerated as a saint, and his influence spread quickly throughout Scandinavia to the Norse colonies in England and Ireland. Some form of early liturgy for him existed then, ascribed to his own bishop Grimkell, and surviving now only in a mid-eleventh-century Anglo-Saxon manuscript (the Leofric Collectar, now British Library, Harley MS. 2961). Soon after the establishment of Trondheim as the archbishopric of Norway in the second half of the twelfth century, Olaf's legend (the Passio Olavi) and the chants for the various hours of the Divine Office for his feast on 29 July were organised into a fixed form
(edited and studied in G. Storm, Monumenta Historica Norvegiae, 1880 and E. Øystrem, The Office of Saint Olav: A Study in Chant Transmission, 2001), and in the main that is the text found here. The first leaf here opens with two antiphons for Vespers not usually found in the standard canon: "Sancte martyr olave tua deo placita ." and "Sancte martyr Olave te humiliter ." (Øystrem's V A2-3). They are followed by another two more common
antiphons: "Sancte Olave martyr domini preciose ." (V A4) and "O beate Olave pium dominum ." (V A5), and the responsory "Egregius martyr olavus nocte ." (R8) and its versicle "In admiracione aspectus .". The sixth and final antiphon for Vespers follows:
"Adest dies letitie ." (VE), before the service for Matins begins halfway down the verso of the first leaf, with the invitatory "Magnus dominus et laudabilis .". The text here ends withthe opening of the first antiphon for Matins, with a reading from the opening words of the Passio Olavi: "Regnante illustrissimo rege olavo aput norwegiam venerunt ." (see Storm, p. 127). The second leaf contains part of the office for the 'invention' or discovery of the relics of St. Stephen. The two antiphons here that are not commonly found in the standard office of St. Olav are of particular interest as they are drawn from the office for St. Martin as recorded in the Leofric Collectar. Thus, they would appear to descend from a lost version of the earliest office for St. Olaf, composed immediately after his death and adapted in part from the offices of other saints.
The importance of this fragment and its rarity on the market is hard to overestimate. Only a small number of surviving manuscript fragments and early print witnesses contain any part of this liturgy, and yet it was of fundamental cultural importance in uniting the populations of Christian Scandinavia in the Middle Ages, and in part allowed them to define their national identities. It bears sober consideration that this bifolium may date to only two and a half centuries after the death of St. Olaf himself, and its scribe wrote at a time when the Icelanders and Norwegians had only just begun to compose their sagas. Øystrem's survey records no
other witness to this fundamental text in private ownership, and nothing even comparable to the present fragment has appeared on the open market since records began.
Moreover, it seems virtually inconceivable that anything of this age and importance connected to St. Olaf will appear again.
We would like to thank Dr. Timothy Bolton for his cataloguing of the present lot.