Renæssanceforum 3 • 2007
Locus porro, de quo quæris, Saxonis nostri Grammatici … – glimpses of
Stephanius's and Pontanus's philological discussions of Saxo in the late
1620s: In 1645 the Danish historian and philologist Stephanus Johannes
Stephanius (1599-1650) was able to publish his critical edition of Saxo
Grammaticus's history of Denmark (c. 1200), to which he added a substantial
volume of commentaries, the Notæ uberiores in Historiam Danicam
Saxonis Grammatici. Stephanius's edition and commentary was first and
foremost an impressive achievement by one man and the result of many
years' work. But he also consulted friends and colleagues about difficult
passages in Saxo's text. By its many references to his correspondance with
contemporary men of learning the Notæ uberiores bears witness to the wide
range of Stephanius's learned network.|
One of the persons whose name we meet again and again in Stephanius's commentary, is Johannes Pontanus (1571-1639). He was of Dutch-Danish extraction, professor in Harderwijk (the Netherlands), and, since 1618, engaged as royal Danish historiographer at the court of Christian IV. In the 1620s Pontanus was occupied with the task of writing a new history of Denmark covering the period from the earliest times up to 1448, and in this project Saxo's history of Denmark was of course a central text.
Stephanius and Pontanus established contact during Stephanius's stay in Leiden 1626-30. Saxo's history was a strong common interest. From this period we have a number of letters from Pontanus to Stephanius – unfortunately no letters from Stephanius to Pontanus have survived – and here discussions of difficult passages in Saxo's text are a recurrent theme.
These philological discussions form the subject of the present article. Read together with the Notæ uberiores and with Pontanus' own history of Denmark (published 1631), Pontanus's letters to Stephanius provide us with glimpses of the considerable interpretational and textual problems Stephanius faced when preparing the new edition of Saxo's text. The contact with Pontanus seems to have been an important source of inspiration for Stephanius in his pioneering work on Saxo, including his demonstration of Valerius Maximus' influence on Saxo's prose.