Georg Stiernhielm's Edition of 1671

View the edition

Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie donated the Codex Argenteus to Uppsala University in 1669, to be kept in the University Library. Both from his deed of gift and from the iconography of the silver cover he had specially made for the codex, we can understand the symbolic value he associated with this book.

This was God’s Word such as it had once been revealed to the Goths, our ancestors and the original inhabitants of Sweden. Now repatriated by De la Gardie, this book - "Wulfila’s manuscript" - was an incarnation of the invisible link that united the Gothic heroic antiquity and the present Swedish Age of Greatness.

Junius’ edition was clearly related to Sweden through the swelling dedication to De la Gardie, but De la Gardie still thought that there should be made an official Swedish edition of this Wulfila monument. In November 1666 he pays Georg Stiernhielm 600 Swedish dollars, "riksdaler", in silver from public funds for preparing a printed edition of the Codex Argenteus. In December he presents the plan for a civil service department with responsibility for national archaeology: Collegium Antiqvitatum, "Antikvitetskollegiet", an early model of today’s Swedish National Heritage Board. Stiernhielm becomes the first director of this institution when it starts to work in 1667. It is obvious that the Wulfila edition is one of its first tasks. In 1667 De la Gardie also procures a scholarship for the student Abraham Tornæus to assist Stiernhielm with proof-reading the edition.

Georg Stiernhielm (1598–1672) made a career in Swedish public service, but he was also a poet, and went down to posterity as the "Father of Swedish Poetry". His great hexameter poem Hercules was for decades well known by Swedish pupils. His linguistic philosophy included ideas of text creation by means of replaceable language modules, a preliminary stage of transformation grammar. In the 1640s he developed a "Gothic" (in a Swedish chauvinistic sense) view of the Swedish language, which he looked upon as the original language with sound values directly representing the essence of things. Stiernhielm’s linguistic ideas are expressed in Gambla Swea- och Götha måles fatebur 1643 (Treasury of the Old Swedish and Gothic Languages).

Stiernhielm’s edition 1671 was published together with a glossarium. This was essentially Junius’ dictionary, now completed with Swedish words by Stiernhielm. The title page of the 1671 edition does not mention Stiernhielm’s name; the editor is supposed to be the institution, Antikvitetskollegiet. In the dedication to the Swedish King, on the other hand, Stiernhielm’s work is mentioned as well as his revision of the glossarium. The printing of the glossary had been completed already in 1670 with its own title page. In the publishing process in 1671, however, a considerable part of the edition got a new title page for the glossary. The title leaf of the 1670 glossary has on its verso page some alphabets in woodcut, while the 1671 title leaf of the glossary, which has a more ambitious title, has on its verso page alphabets and Gothic text samples in copperplate.

The frontispiece page in Stiernhielm’s edition is a copperplate depiction of the front cover scene from the silver cover De la Gardie had ordered for the Codex Argenteus when he donated it to Uppsala University in 1669. »Dav: Klöker. S.R.M. Pictor: Inv: Dionysius Padt-Brugge. Fecit. Stockholmiæ«.

Stiernhielm’s edition is quadrilingual. Each opening has four columns, one for each language: Gothic transliterated with Latin letters, Icelandic, Swedish and Latin. Icelandic was in Stiernhielm’s days supposed to be the old Swedish language. The Latin text is from Latin Vulgate, Versio Vulgata. The Gothic text is exactly the one presented by Junius, though transliterated.

Anders Grape says that Stiernhielm follows Junius in detail, and so slavishly – including Junius’ misreadings and unsolved lacunae – that his edition is, in reality, an edition of Junius’ text, not of the text of the Codex itself. The deviations from Junius – misprints as well as supposed improvements – are all nothing but deterioration. Grape questions Stiernhielm’s closer acquaintance with the Gothic language. The edition is more of a patriotic deed than of a philological one. Stiernhielm’s introduction to the edition, on the other hand, not very much dealing with the Gothic language, and not at all dealing with the Codex Argenteus, is quite an important contribution to the question of relations between languages and principles for linguistic development, all this vividly debated at this time.