February 18, 2016

Legends of Saints

The codex Helgonlegender (Legends of the saints) consists of fragments of 26 different legends in Old Icelandic, written by two different scribes. The Legends of the Saints genre represents a major part of early Nordic literature, particularly in the 14th century. The codex is bound in stout wooden boards and is rather badly worn by soot and smoke. It was bought in Iceland in 1682 by Jón Eggertsson (1643‒89) on behalf of the Swedish Antikvitetskollegium (College of Antiquities) and was brought to Stockholm in 1683. Since 1780 it has been part of the manuscript holdings of the National Library of Sweden. The codex contains the following texts: 1. The Saga of Archbishop Thomas; 2. The Saga of Bishop Martin; 3. The Saga of Archbishop Nicholas; 4. The Saga of Bishop Ambrose; 5. The Saga of Dionysius; 6. The Saga of Sylvester; 7.The Saga of Gregory; 8. The Saga of Augustine; 9. The Saga of Blaise; 10. The Saga of Stephen; 11. The Saga of Lawrence; 12. The Saga of Vincent the Deacon; 13. The Saga of Benedict; 14. The Saga of Paul the Hermit; 15. The Saga of Maurus; 16. The Saga of Mary of Egypt; 17. The Saga of Martha and Mary Magdalene; 18. The Saga of Catherine; 19. The Saga of Barbara; 20. The Saga of Lucy; 21. The Saga of Cecilia; 22. The Saga of Agatha the Virgin; 23. The Saga of Agnes the Virgin; 24. Faith, Hope, and Charity; 25. Flagellation of the Cross; and 26. The Saga of Maurice.

East Indian Journey during the Years 1748 and 1749

Ost-Indisk Resa 1748 och 1749 (East Indian journey during the years 1748 and 1749) is a journal written by Gustaf Fredrik Hjortberg (1724‒76). It is one of the remaining extant journals and shipping records from the Svenska Ostindiska Companiet (SOIC—Swedish East India Company), which existed from 1731 to 1813. The Dutch, British, and Portuguese were the first naval powers to trade profitably with the East Indies, and from its beginning the SOIC was also very successful. It was the largest mercantile company of its day in Sweden, trading primarily in tea, but also in porcelain, silk, spices, and other wares. Hjortberg was a ship’s doctor on three of the company’s journeys between 1748 and 1753. He left reports from his journeys to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences; among the reports are some zoological observations. After Hjortberg’s return to Sweden, he was appointed vicar in Vallda, a parish in the south of Sweden. The manuscript is bound in a red speckled paper volume of quarto size. It consists of 179 pages, among which are three maps. It was formerly a part of the library of Drottningholm Palace (catalogue number 50), the private residence of the Swedish royal family. It was at some point transferred to the library of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. It has been a part of the manuscript collection of the National Library of Sweden since 1942.

Rålamb Book of Costumes

Rålambska dräktboken (The Rålamb book of costumes) is a part of the Rålamb Collection in the manuscript holdings at the National Library of Sweden. The founder of the collection was Baron Gustaf Rålamb (1675‒1750), one of the most well-known manuscript collectors of the 18th century. The book of costumes was bought by Gustaf Rålamb’s father, Claes Rålamb (1622‒98), in Constantinople in 1657‒58. The Rålamb Collection was donated to the National Library in 1886. The book of costumes is a muraqqaʻ, a type of picture album usually put together from several different sources. This type of album was popular among collectors. The manuscript contains 121 colorful miniature drawings of Turkish officials, people of various occupations, different ethnic groups, and so forth. The drawings are in India ink with gouache and some gilding. Most of the leaves have notes in Swedish, French, Italian, or Latin describing the miniature in question as well as notes made by Claes Rålamb himself. After the miniatures is one leaf with portrait drawings in six medallions. Four of the portraits are of Sasanian rulers, and one is probably of a Byzantine ruler (whose name has been erased, but it is likely that it shows Heraclius, who was the eastern Roman emperor when Islam emerged in Arabia). The remaining painting is that of ‘Abd Manaf (an ancestor of the Prophet Muhammad).

Runic Almanac, 1560

The Runic almanac at the National Library of Sweden belongs to an exclusive group of illustrated almanacs on parchment dating from the late Middle Ages to the 16th century. It has the character of a perpetual calendar, and its content is similar to that of medieval calendars. However, some astronomical data and calculations are written in runes, linking the almanac to the tradition of Nordic runic calendars, or rune-staffs. The form of the almanac is similar to that of an accordion book; it is folded both lengthwise and crosswise and has opening flaps for each month. The months are illustrated by pictures showing the different kinds of agricultural work typical for each month. In addition to each picture, there is a wheel with spokes that indicate the hours of the day. Red spokes indicate the daylight hours, black spokes the night time. At the end is a picture of the Crucifixion. This almanac is closely related to another almanac, from 1513, which is held at the Royal Library in Copenhagen (shelfmark NKS 901 8:o). Both almanacs probably originated in Scania, which is now a part of southern Sweden but which at that time belonged to Denmark. The Runic almanac belonged to King Ericus XIV (1533–77) of Sweden. It was acquired by the National Library together with the Rålamb Collection in 1886.

Program of Mr. Noverre's Great Historical, Heroic, National, Moral and Allegorical Ballets, Volume 1. Costume Dress For the Execution of Mr. Noverre's Ballets, Volume 2

French choreographer and dance theorist Jean-Georges Noverre (1727–1810) is known as “the Grandfather of the Ballet.” He introduced the ballet d’action (dramatic ballet), in which all the elements of production (e.g., choreography, set design, and costuming) are subordinate to the plot and theme. According to Noverre, the ballet should involve expression of character and emotion through the bodies and faces of the dancers, rather than through elaborate costumes and form-pleasing patterns. Noverre presented his ideas in Lettres sur la danse, et sur les ballets (1760). At the end of the 18th century Noverre sought employment at the Stockholm Opera. At that time Stockholm was considered a dynamic and interesting place for new trends in ballet. Noverre was 64 years old and had had a long career as ballet master in France. In his application for the position, he donated to King Gustavus III two signed volumes containing various documents, some previously printed, concerning his contributions to the art of ballet, his observations on building a new opera house in Stockholm, as well as his Reflexions sur le costume. The volumes also contain 147 sketches made by Louis René Boquet, the costume designer at the Paris Opera and the marshal at the royal court, for the costumes for 19 ballets. After a nine-month delay, Gustavus sent a letter to Noverre expressing his gratitude for the gift, but the king chose not to appoint the Frenchman ballet master at the Stockholm Opera. The manuscript was deposited at the National Library of Sweden in 1882 and eventually acquired by the library.

Manuscript Catalogue of Thomas Jefferson's Library

Throughout his life, Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) collected books on a wide array of topics and in many languages. While serving as the United States minister to France during the American Revolution, he acquired thousands of books for his library at Monticello. By 1814, the final year of the War of 1812 in which the British burned Washington and the Library of Congress, Jefferson owned the largest personal collection of books in the United States. He offered to sell his library to Congress as a replacement for the collection destroyed by the British. Congress accepted the offer, and Jefferson was paid $23,950 for 6,487 volumes. In the 18th century, most libraries were arranged alphabetically. But Jefferson chose to organize his library using a modified version of a system created by British philosopher Francis Bacon (1561–1626). He classified his books according to the categories of Memory, Reason, and Imagination, which Jefferson translated as History, Philosophy, and Fine Arts, and further divided these categories into 44 chapters. Presented here is a catalog of Jefferson’s library, copied at his request by Nicholas Trist, who studied law with Jefferson, married one of his granddaughters, and served as an executor of his estate. Trist apparently worked from a copy of the printed 1815 Catalogue of the Library of the United States, prepared by George Watterston, Librarian of Congress, which Jefferson marked in order to restore, in place of its alphabetical arrangement of each subject category, the original order of entries that Jefferson preferred. Trist reported completion of the task in a letter from Louisiana dated October 18, 1823. A fire on Christmas Eve of 1851 destroyed nearly two-thirds of the 6,487 volumes Congress had purchased from Jefferson.