Book Series Medieval Texts and Cultures of Northern Europe, vol. 25

Writing and Reading in Medieval Manuscript Culture

The Translation and Transmission of the Story of Elye in Old French and Old Norse Literary Contexts

Stefka Georgieva Eriksen

  • Pages: 262 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Illustrations:12 col.
  • Language(s):English, Old French, Old Norse
  • Publication Year:2014

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-54779-4
  • Hardback
  • Available

The writing, reading and reception of a crusade-story in medieval Flanders, Norway, and Iceland.


"Through encouraging a comparative study of a single story across different times and places, using a thorough, multidisciplinary approach, Eriksen has added a balanced voice to the often parochial field of manuscript studies, something which is imperative for achieving a holistic view of how books were read and understood throughout the medieval period." (Kelly Midgley, Cerae: An Australasian Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, 1, 2014, p. 186-188)

"With this monograph, Eriksen’s aim to make a contribution to discussions about writing and reading in the Middle Ages through a diachronic, multicultural, and interdisciplinary approach, is realised. Not only does the research demonstrate the dynamic relationship between, and relevance of, vernacular textual cultures, it provides a theoretical and methodological framework that others might apply. Eriksen’s insightful research method bridges philological methods in order to view the texts from within, while her historical approach looks outwards and situates the manuscripts in their political, literary, and cultural contexts. The result is a polyphonic study that will be relevant well beyond the spheres of Old Norse and Old French studies." (Kimberley-Joy Knight, in: Parergon 32.2, 2015, p. 290-292)

« Pour coller à la thématique de cette étude, nous appré­cierons sa mise en livre, avec dans les premières pages, de belles et utiles photographies des manuscrits étudiés. (…) En considérant les traductions courtoises médiévales d’un point de vue matériel et textuel, l’étude pluridisci­plinaire de l’A. a surtout le grand mérite d’élargir le champ de recherche des traductions norroises médié­vales ; un champ déjà bien étudié, mais qui n’en finit pas de nous surprendre agréablement, à l’image du livre de S. Eriksen. » (David Brégaint, dans les Cahiers de civilisations médiévales, 60/239, 2017, p. 295)


This book relates a story about the writing, reading, and reception of one text in three different cultural and political contexts across Europe. The focus is on the story of the Christian knight Elye and his Saracen princess Rosamunde, which was translated into Old Norse in the thirteenth century. This is a study of three of the manuscripts in which the work is preserved: one Old French manuscript from Flanders (BnF, fr. 25516, c. 1280) and two Old Norse manuscripts, one from Norway (DG 4–7 fol., c. 1270) and one from Iceland (Holm Perg 6 4 to, c. 1400). These manuscripts represent three different rhetorical and communicative situations and show how the writing and reading of the same text was conditioned by the respective cultural and political environment. The book innovatively conveys Old Norse culture as an active respondent, participant, and thus modulator of European literary tendencies. Tracing the translation, transmission, and transformation of the text throughout Europe redefines aspects of the Latin-vernacular nexus in the Middle Ages, and thus presents a new and valuable voice in the discussion of medieval European literary and cultural systems.


List of Illustrations




Chapter 1. Writing and Reading in the Middle Ages

Chapter 2. Elye de Saint-Gille in BnF, MS fr. 25516

Chapter 3. Elíss saga in De La Gardie 4–7 Fol.

Chapter 4. Elíss saga in Holm Perg 6 4to

Chapter 5. The Transmission and Transformation of a Text-Work: Comparative Analysis of Three Versions