• Heynesbók

The Book of Heynes

artist unknown 1400-1500

The illustrated margins of Icelandic manuscripts have a diverse selection of material, spanning the range from amateur scribbles and copies to images that are clearly made by gifted artists. Few books are as heavily decorated in various and colourful lifestyle illustrations as a small manuscript of Jónsbók from the end of the 15 th century, named after the farm Heynes. Almost every page of the Book of Heynes is fully used up where the illustrations on the margins decorate all of the non-text spaces on the page. The margins are illustrated with images of the ways of old and the lives of the commoners, of butchering, people drinking, ships, horse and dog fights, making hay and much more. These illustrations have documental value since they depict scenes from cultural history. Looking at these illustrations we get a certain idea of people's clothing and lifestyles at the time. In addition to these lifestyle illustrations, the occasional creature of wonder pops up here and there.


Underneath an illustration of freshly butchered cattle is an inscription that reads: dead is the cow. Tools for measuring and some measurements are depicted elsewhere. Next to the first illustration it reads: correct be the measure, the next one reads: wrong pound and the third one: this is a pail. A woman is seen lying with her eyes closed while another woman brings her a pitcher of brew. Underneath the lying woman is written: I can drink no more. A man is seen lying in a bed, shielding his eyes. Another one sits with his eyes closed and looking weary. Under the lying man it reads: Here I lie drunk and under the sitting man: Here I sit sleeping and befuddled. Men are seen hunting fish and fowl and picking eggs. One man has captured a good bird, another has been attacked by a bird trying to protect his eggs and the third has got his hands on some fish. A man is seen rowing from his farm in a row boat. At the bank on the other side is a man waiting with a sheep. In a frame in front of the sheep it says written in the style of a cartoon: do you want to move sheep



Heynesbók (AM 147 4to)

The Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies