Sheet numbers occur in the bottom margin, perhaps from the time when the manuscript was bound; fol. 1v A (A i?); 2v Aij; 3v Aiij; 4v Aiiij; 8r Bj; 9r Bij; 10r Biij; 11r Biiij; 16r Ci; 17r Cij, 18r C iij; 19r Ciiij; 22r Di.
A pagination, 1-76, has been made in black ink, beginning with the first written page (fol. 1v); it jumps from 35 (= fol. 18v) to 40 (= fol. 19r), as allowance is made for two lost leaves between fols 18 and 19. Although the pagination is in a hand from the eighteenth century, or more likely the nineteenth, it is at all events later than the lacuna. Line numbers for every fifth line seem to be also from the nineteenth century. Furthermore, there is a foliation in red ink by Kristian Kålund: (1a) (the first fly-leaf) + 1-37 + (38)-(39).
The manuscript is written in long lines. There are no titles, either for the saga itself, or for the individual chapters. There are generally 35 lines on a page, but 34 and 36 also occur. On fol. 37, where the saga ends, there are 30 lines. Red and green colours are used for the initials (majuscules), but otherwise they occur in the same colour as the writing. Most of the initials are plain, but some of them are flourished.
The bottom part of fol. 37, where the text ends on the recto side, has been cut off. Damage to the parchment which is older than the writing is found on fols 5 (a hole), 6 (a tear), 7 (a tear, which may however be later), 23 (a tear) and 26 (two holes). Corners have been torn off on fols 1, with damage to the initial, and 37, where the ends of the three lowest lines are missing. When the manuscript was bound, it was trimmed, particularly at the top; in the fourth gathering, fols 22-29, the trimming has touched the upper part of the top lines.
On fols 31 and 32 the writing is indistinct, particularly in the lower lines, but also in some places higher up, especially on fol. 32v. It looks as if these leaves have come into contact with some substance which has dissolved the colour in the ink, so that in places all that remains of the letters is the scratch made by the pen; for this reason, and also because there has been an attempt at a later time to touch up some of the indistinct places, the reading is occasionally not quite certain.
The manuscript is written in a fine, clear and regular Icelandic Gothic bookhand and the size of the writing varies a bit. There is no doubt that the manuscript was written by an Icelander, but the scribe was under strong Norwegian influence which gradually increased as the copy proceeded.
In various places in the manuscript, but chiefly in the first part of it, there are late additions, explanations of words and so on, which clearly have been written with non-Icelandic readers in mind. Jón Helgason ( Alexanders saga s. xvi-xvii ) groups the marginalia in three 3 kinds:
There are copies of the indistinct parts of fols 31 and 32 at the end of the manuscript. fol. 31r:25-v:1 (from oc friða to yfir ) have been copied on the previously blank last page, fol. 37v. On fol. 31r, A followed by ✝ has been used as reference sign; this is repeated on fol. 37v. There is a B in the same fashion on fol. 31v: 33. This shows that the four lowest lines on this page were also copied, but this copy must be on a seperate slip and is lost.
Fols 32r:29-v:8 and 32v:18-33r:1 have been copied on two conjugate paper leaves, foliated (38) and (39) by Kålund, which are inserted in the manuscript after fol. 37. C, and D followed by ✝, are used as reference signs. The copy is not exact.
AM 519 a 4to begins with a paper leaf, foliated (1a) by Kålund, on the recto side of which are the following verses: Jacob Pederssónn er mit naffnn, | Och thet gaffuis mig vdj daab, | Jesus Christus fóddis mig till gaffnn | Thill hannem staar altt mit haab: | Anno Christj 1594: | Huad paa deg sigis skót du eÿ om, | Der liugis dog paa saa mangen from, | Thend stund ieg haffde och kunde giffue, | Da meente ieg med wenner leffue, | Och for thennem baade dichte og schriffue, | Och ÿ andre maader thidenn fordriffue. | Menn nu min Vognn begÿnder att Halde, | Monne de mig och med alle fra falle, | De forachter S: Jórgenn for hand staar bar, | Menn gud och lÿcken kand igenn gióre Hannem klar, | Dennem till Sorig, Och mig till Nÿtte, | Saa pleÿer werdenn blant venner att bÿtte, | Si tibj sint Natj, nec opes, tunc Artibus illos Instrue, quo possint inopem defendere Vitam. O formosę puer nimium ne Crede Colorj | Paa ein dag kand hende sig | Att du faar magno dolorj. Vere schall mader, | Maadelig glader, | Raadig och róuster, | weinfaster och tróuster, | Och holde sig wdj alle middell maade | Ald hofferdighed schullum wÿ forlade | Huad heller werden ganger da apter eller fram | Tha haffuer du heder och ingen skam:. After this there is a runic alphabet which has been edited with notes in Finnur Jónsson, Aarbøger for Nordisk Oldkyndighed 1910 s. 305-306 .
The manuscript is bound in a blind stamped and tooled leather cover.
The stamp on the middle of the front cover is representing Justitia with a sword in her right hand, a balance in her left, and partly by a frame with four parts, in which there are pictures of Christ, St. John, St. Paul and St. David, subscribed respectively with the texts DATA EST M|IHI OMNIS (Matt. xxviii, 18), ECE ANGNVS | DEI QVI TO (John I:29), APARVIT BE|NIGNITAS (cf. Titus III: 4) and DE FRVCTV | VENTRIS TV (Palms. CXXXI: 119). The back cover is tooled like the front, only Justitia is replaced with foliate and geometric motifs.
Several parallels to the binding are known from Bergen in the years 1589-97.
As Alexanders saga was once bound with Ǫrvar-Odds saga, the original spine has been removed and another put in its place. Jón Helgason ( Alexanders saga s. xii ), however, assumes that it was put on before Ǫrvar-Odds saga was taken out of the binding.
There are three slips in Árni Magnússons's hand (designated a-c).
The history of the manuscript is unknown until it comes to light shortly before the end of the sixteenth century. It was then in Bergen in Norway. In Bergen in the year 1594 or shortly before, AM 519a 4to was bound with another Icelandic manuscript of the same format, the present AM 344 a 4to, which contains Ǫrvar-Odds saga.
When Árni Magnússon owned the volume containing the two manuscripts, he took Ǫrvar-Odds saga out, while Alexanders saga retained the original binding.
The first known owner was the author of the poem on the first fly-leaf (1a), Jacob Pederssøn of Bergen. The next known owner is CGarmannj who wrote his name on fol. 1r. He has been identified as Christopher Garmann (1639-1721), priest of Os in Hordaland, Norway, from 1668 onwards. According to Árni Magnússon's account in AM 435 a 4to, fol. 143v, the codex has belonged to Gert Miltzow, priest in Voss near Bergen, and Otto Ottosen, priest in Bergen: Alexandri Magni Saga, antiqvâ | Scripturâ. rvar oddz Saga 4to | þesse rvaroddz Saga er | nu Separerud hier fr, | og er sier i lage. | Bokina feck eg i Norege af Mag. | otta ottasyne preste i Bjrgvin, | hefur hana ätt Mag. Geert | Miltzow. prestur Voss.
In the years 1702-12, when Árni Magnússon was in Iceland except for the winters 1705-06 and 1708-09 which he spent in Copenhagen, he took this and several other manuscripts with him to Iceland. When he left Iceland in 1712, the situation was uncertain because of war between Denmark and Sweden, that he left behind in Skálholt not only these manuscripts but also others which he had acquired in Iceland during these ten years; they were not brought to Copenhagen until 1720. AM 519 4to was returned to him in 1721 by Ormur Daðasson. The a-slip (AM-slip) reads: Kom fra | Ormi Dada-|syne 1721.
Exhibited at the The Royal Library (Det Kongelige Bibliotek), Copenhagen, from 8 September 1963 to 6 January 1964.
Exhibited at Nordiska Museet, Stockholm from 12 September to 22 November 1972
Exhibited at Malmöhus museum, Sweden from 24 April to 11 May 1973.
The manuscript was restored by Birgitte Dall and got a new spine 25 January to 2 August 1967.