The oldest Svartebok manuscript, Norway 1480-1520
NB Ms.8° 3725
Vinjeboka is the oldest preserved handbook of magic in Norway. There are approximately 100 “black books” (“Svarteboker“) in Norway dating between 1650 and 1850, but the paper in Vinjeboka is from 1480 and the text no later than 1520. It was found under the floorboards in Vinje Stave Church in 1796. The Vinje book is also unique in that it documents religiosity and mentality from before the Reformation in Norway. The content includes herbal medicine recipes and medical advice for common aliments of the time such as Jaundice. Also present is “the pentacle of Solomon the King” and numerous prayers and orations in Latin, all of which are heavily Catholic.
The manuscript measures a mere 4.8 x 7.0 cm and was without moisture damage when it was found. The pages are well preserved and the writing is fully legible. Historian Oskar Garstein believes that the good condition indicates that it was hidden under the floorboards closer to 1796. Vinjeboka has 106 pages, but Garstein assumes that two leaves have been torn from the original. Four of the paper manufacturer’s watermarks are visible which have been traced to France or Luxembourg in the years 1477-1486. There are at least 12 different scripts in the book, both older and younger Gothic. The language also varies but primarily late medieval Norwegian-Danish with orations in Latin. Garstein assumes that the original owner was Hans Larensson who was parish priest in Seljord in 1480 and Vinje from 1492. It has since been kept at Oslo Cathedral School Library.