Virtual manuscripts

In the sixteenth and seventeenth century thousands of Norway's medieval manuscripts disappeared or were reduced to fragments. Today, the National Archives and other collections hold fragments from about a thousand ‘recycled’ manuscripts. The fragments form a giant book puzzle containing ca 6500 single pieces.

For more than a century scholars have been connecting pieces from the old manuscripts, and the work is still ongoing. In a digital format it is easier to visualize the book which once existed. The fact that the binding is gone and the fragments are kept in separate envelopes and boxes, or even still wrapped around paper booklets, is no longer an issue in itself.

We cannot get away from the fact that most of the manuscript is gone. But through digital reproductions we can once again leaf through some of the manuscripts from Norwegian book chests – however fragmentary they may be. To reconnect pieces from medieval manuscripts is one element of the research project ‘From manuscript fragments to book history’.

Please take a closer look at our selection of virtual manuscripts, and leaf through some of the pages! 

The Tønsberg Breviary

France, 13th century

This breviary consists of 14 surviving fragments taken from 9 different account books of Tønsberg. The reconstructed book contains chants and one reading text for several occasions: St Stephen, Epiphany, the feria 4 and 5 after the first Sunday after Epiphany, Dominica Quinquagesimae/Septuagesimae, Easter, Peter and Paul, and St Peter in chains. These occasions are spread throughout the year, indicating that all or most of the book was used as binding material in Tønsberg.

The reconstructed breviary is about 250 cm tall and 200 cm wide, with a one-column layout. The script is small, round and well-executed, with initials and capitals in blue and red. The music is noted with square neumes on staves, one clear sign that the book was made in the 13th century.