Hauksbók og alfræðirit miðalda

Hauksbók and Medieval Encyclopedias

  • Gunnar Harðarson Sagnfræði- og heimspekideild Háskóla Íslands
Keywords: Alfræðirit, Hauksbók


Medieval encyclopedias are organized according to different principles: some follow the ordo rerum, others the ordo artium, still others take the form of hexaemera or combine a description of space, time, and history. Some of these texts (such as Isidore’s Origines, Honorius’ Imago mundi, and Vincentius’ Speculum historiale) were known and used in medieval Iceland. However, no such encyclopedias were written in the vernacular. So-called Old Icelandic encyclopedic manuscripts only contain parts or fragments of material that entered into the great medieval encyclopedic tradition. Hauksbók is often considered to be an encyclopedia and scholars have interpreted its nature in different ways: it is intentionally modelled on the Liber floridus, it is of a clerical nature, it is an expression of the world view of lay chieftains. Instead of interpreting the nature of Hauksbók in an abstract way with reference to external criteria, the present article offers an alternative explanation based on the analysis of the relationship between the text preserved in the manuscript and the codicology of the manuscript itself. Most of the encyclopedic material in Hauksbók is found in three quires that were not written by Haukr Erlendsson, and were incorporated into the manuscript. It is argued that the order of material in two of these quires resulted from a quire having been misplaced in their exemplar. Thus, the scribe of these Hauksbók quires could not have intentionally placed the material in the present order. Consequently, the order of the encyclopedic material in Hauksbók does not reflect an intentional mirroring of the structure of a continental encyclopedia. For this reason, even if it contains some encyclopedic material, Hauksbók ought not to be considered an encyclopedia, nor is it necessarily of a clerical nature as it contains material produced for a lay audience. It is further argued that the adaption of the third quire to the size of the manuscript can be shown to have happened prior to the copying of Völuspá. Hauksbók is the result of the combination of different works or opuscules that were manufactured as separate units, some of which may have circulated independently before being bound into one codex, probably as early as the middle of the fourteenth century.