Discovering women's manuscripts

Description and cataloguing of women's manuscripts in the National and University Library of Iceland 1600-1900

Exhibition in the National Library

21.10.2020 - 31.12.2020

The manuscript collection of the National and University Library of Iceland holds about 15,000 manuscripts of which 13,747 are described in published catalogues of the collection, published in the years 1918-1996. Recent research has shown that the role of women has been underrepresented there, whether in the case of women as owners of manuscripts, scribes or otherwise. This biased cataloguing of the role of women in the manuscript culture has hindered the research of women's manuscripts and given a distorted picture of the position of women within the collection.

In the summer of 2020, Arnheiður Steinþórsdóttir worked on the project Discovering women's manuscripts. Description and cataloguing of women's manuscripts in the National and University Library of Iceland 1600-1900, that received a grant from The Icelandic Student Innovation Fund. The project consisted of cataloguing women and manuscripts related to them in the electronic database handrit.is with the aim of making women's role in the manuscript culture more visible and thus contributing to increased research in that field. The result of the project was, among other things, that 318 women were added to the website's name list, but Arnheiður catalogued or improved the description of 250 manuscripts.

The exhibition shows a selection of the manuscripts that Arnheiður catalogued this summer. The selection of the manuscripts on display here is intended to shed light on how diverse the role of women is in Iceland's manuscript culture. Here are manuscripts written by women or for women, manuscripts marked with women's names, manuscripts written according to women's oral narrative and much more. It should be noted that some of these manuscripts have been photographed and pictures of them are available on handrit.is.

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