Renæssanceforum 5 • 2008

Lars Boje Mortensen
Before historical 'sources' and literary 'texts'. The presentation of saga literature in Tormod Torfæus' Historia rerum Norwegicarum (1711)

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The monumental four-volume Historia rerum Norwegicarum (1711) by Tormod Torfæus is the first modern attempt to capitalize on the rich Old Norse saga-literature of the 13th and 14th centuries in order to construct a narrative of Norwegian medieval history. The present paper makes the point that Torfæus's project should be seen in its proper context of the early modern learned republic and its antiquarian framework. Torfæus did not share the modern concepts of medieval 'sources' or medieval literary 'texts': in line with contemporary usage he spoke of 'monuments' which were to be represented through his Latin paraphrases – to emulate a number of other 'national' collections of medieval chronicles. This gave the monuments of the past their proper voice.