Biskop Eysteins Jordebog: Den Röde Bog

Fortegnelse over det geistlige gods i Oslo bispedömme omkring Aar 1400

Huitfeldt-Kaas, H.J., ed. Biskop Eysteins Jordebog : (Den röde Bog) : Fortegnelse over det geistlige Gods i Oslo Bispedømme omkring Aar 1400.
Oslo: Børsum, 1958-1959.

The following is a brief summary/translation of information given in the introduction in the first hefte (volume), pages III-XV:

Bishop Eystein took the post of Bishop of Oslo in 1385 CE.  He seems to have started the process of collecting material for an inventory of the Church’s assets shortly thereafter.  Sometime around the years 1399-1401 CE notations from various parishes were collected and bound together to form a land register, which at some point was red and lead the volume to be known as “The Red Book (Den röde Bog).”

The original texts, copies of local parish records, were written in many different hands.  These copies were heavily annotated, primarily in the early years, though some comments may have been added as late as the first third of the 16th century.  Huitfeldt comments that some properties have been edited out/erased so thoroughly that it is impossible to read the inscription, and others have been later overwritten.  Where it has been possible to decipher the text, it has been included in this printed edition of the book. 

Under the orders of King Frederik II in 1580, official copies of the Red Book were created and distributed to parishes.  There is further discussion in the introduction about the provenance of various copies of the information, both official and unofficial copies of the Red Book, as well as references to the original documents from which the Red Book was copied.(1)  This work was performed by Canon Claus Berg (b. 1546-d. 1614).  Huitfeldt comments that Berg seems to have been particularly adept at reading older script, but sadly not equally skilled at understanding the older language.

The original Red Book remained in Oslo until it was sent ca. 1698 CE to Archivist Arne Magnussen in Copenhagen, officially on loan.  The Red Book had not been returned at the time of Magnussens death in 1730.  Skipping forward to 1806, the Red Book was on loan to Christiania (Oslo) for a period of half a year, and perhaps in conjunction with this has been rebound, resulting in some bits of text being trimmed away.  Two partial transcriptions and registers over names and parishes from 1835-6 and 1841-2 have informed Huitfeldt’s work with the current transcription.  He also thanks a number of academics for assistance in proofreading and other linguistic matters.

Huitfeldt describes the Red Bok as consisting of 205 pages in folio, some bound in the wrong order.  The sides of each page are named ‘a’ and ‘b’ and most have two columns of script, denoted ‘1’ and ‘2’ in his transcription.  There are also many loose pieces of parchment attached to the pages, and Huitfeldt gives a detailed description of the various leaves and quires.

(1) For the purposes of onomastic use, this refers to documents, all existing before 1600 CE.

 This work, bound in 4 volumes (hefte), is comprised of:

  • Bishop Eystein’s Land Registers
  • A pastoral letter by Bishop Eystein dated November 11, 1395 to the parishes of upper Telemark.
  • Royal Privileges and Statutes for Oslo Chapter (1598)
  • Several older notes about Chapter privileges
  • A Land Register for Frauns Chapter in Follo (not included in Bishop Eystein’s register) in a hand from the 15th C.
  • Registers of personal names, bynames, saints, churches, and place names, compiled by Ingvald Undset in December 1879.


On Huitfeldt’s linguistic approach (introduction pp XV-XVI, hefte 1)

Huitfeldt wished stated a desire to maintain the historical and linguistic integrity of the documents.  Where abbreviations could be extended, these are denoted by cursive script.  Where abbreviations could not be extended with certainty, the decision was to depict the denotations graphically using a given set of symbols (p. XVI).  Use of differing typefaces demarks the original text, early notations and notations of a much later date.

On Undset’s linguistic approach to the Registers (p. 778)

The orthography used in the registers has been standardized towards Old Norse somewhat for ‘ease’ of use, but not consistently.  Information included in parentheses is not part of the original text, but is used to ease identification, primarily using the aid of property lists.  This has not been done for Bohuslen, as these property lists were not available in published form.

-end summary/translation-

 Biskop Eysteins Jordebok was returned to the Norwegian National Archives from the Arnemagnæanske Collections in Copenhagen in 1937. (from, accessed January16, 2015).

 USER BE AWARE: It is important to state a timely reminder that Old Norse and Middle Norwegian were inflected languages.  Middle Norwegian is also a period of major linguistic transition, and the orthographic (spelling) system is not standardized.  Names cannot be automatically lifted from the text and used as printed without considering their grammatical role.  For 'ready to use' names, please consult other sources, such as the name articles found here.   .

 This resource is published in a 4-volume set:

  • Hefte 1 (volume 1) is a facsimile of the original published in Christiania (Oslo) b J. Chr. Gundersens Bogtrykkeri in 1879.  Contains Introduction (pp. I-XVI), Pages 1-192, and an index of place names.
  • Hefte 2* (volume 2) contains pages 193-400.
  • Hefte 3* (volume 3) contains pages 401-596, and Register of Names (pp. 597-608)
  • Hefte 4* (volume 4) continues the Register of Names (pp. 609-626), Register of Bynames (pp. 627-631), Register of Saints’ Names (pp. 632-633), Register of Place Names (pp. 634-777), Undset’s Postscript (778), Supplements and Corrections (p. 779-782), List of facsimiles included to show the various scribal hands (783), Table of Contents (XVII-XXIII), Facsimiles (to end of book)

*Hefte 2-4 are only available to Norwegian IP-addresses as of January 18, 2015.