The names of several scribes are known from manuscripts in Magnús í Vigur’s library.  The evidence that they left in their colophons, title pages, and notes to their readers and patron indicate that Magnús tended to look to one main scribe at a time, with minimal overlap between them. That is to say, while it is clear that several people worked for him, and sometimes concurrently or in collaboration, it is also clear that the task of copying texts was divided among the scribes in Magnús’s employ, with a single copyist usually carrying out the bulk of the transcription work when a new volume was commissioned from scratch. Other scribes then had auxiliary tasks, such as creating the paratextual material necessary for the book – the title pages, tables of contents, and indexes, for example – or compiling existing copies (many of which were likely unbound) into new miscellanies or more coherent collections. Some otherwise complete manuscript volumes even had more texts added to them several years after the main copying work had been completed. This appears especially to have been the case toward the end of Magnús’s life, perhaps in an effort to organise his vast and growing collection into a coherent library, with each volume as full of texts as possible in the most literal sense – the fewer blank pages, the better.

Four scribes in particular can be identified as having occupied the role of main scribe in the course of their careers. The dates given here and in Figure 1 correspond to the earliest and latest surviving scribal attribution in colophons, notes, or title pages, and the information provided is an overview. More details about their lives, and lists of the manuscripts they copied, can be seen on their individual pages, linked here.

  1. Þórður Jónsson: 1654–1660, 1667–1680
  2. Magnús Þórólfsson: c. 1662–1667
  3. Jón Þórðarson: 1679–1699
  4. Magnús Ketilsson: 1696–1700
Timeline of Scribes

Figure 1. Timeline of Scribes.

1654–1660: Þórður Jónsson

The scribe first employed by Magnús í Vigur is a man by the name of Þórður Jónsson, whose time as his patron’s main copyist was significant, though it came in two phases, the first from 1654 to 1660. The first book Þórður copied for Magnús may have been at the behest of Magnús’s father Jón Arason, for whom Þórður also worked, and this may in turn point to Magnús having perhaps “inherited” Þórður’s services from his father before switching to a different main scribe around the time that he married and left his father’s household.

c. 1662–1680: Magnús Þórólfsson and Þórður Jónsson (again)

This second scribe to occupy a primary role for Magnús, working in between the two periods of Þórður’s tenure, is Magnús Þórólfsson, main scribe from at least 1662 until his death in 1667. Very little is known so far about his time in Magnús í Vigur’s service. After his death, Þórður Jónsson once again copies texts for Magnús í Vigur, from 1667–73. Between 1673 and 1679 there is no record of Þórður’s work, but he may well have continued during those years. The last trace of him comes in a copy from 1680, which may have been his final text for Magnús í Vigur.

1679–1699: Jón Þórðarson

After Magnús í Vigur looked again to Þórður Jónsson for a time, the third scribe to work as a primary copyist for him was Jón Þórðarson. He was the son of his predecessor Þórður Jónsson and presumably grew up watching his father copy manuscripts. Jón’s career in Magnús í Vigur’s service spans twenty years, from 1679–99. Besides having such a long career, Jón is the scribe that identifies himself the most in his work. His colophons and notes to his patron and reader sometimes span several lines.

1696–1700: Magnús Ketilsson

After Jón Þórðarson, the final scribe that Magnús employed in a main role was the young man Magnús Ketilsson. Magnús worked from 1696–1700; in addition to copying texts and manuscripts in their entirety (from about 1698) he prepared paratextual and supplementary material for several volumes. Magnús’s relationship to his patron was also rather different from that of the other scribes, as he was fostered by Magnús í Vigur after his own father died around 1690.


Last updated: 2018-04-26