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Distributed Cognition in Medieval and Renaissance Culture$
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Miranda Anderson and Michael Wheeler

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781474438131

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474438131.001.0001

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Medieval Icelandic Legal Treatises as Tools for External Scaffolding of Legal Cognition

Medieval Icelandic Legal Treatises as Tools for External Scaffolding of Legal Cognition

(p.44) 3 Medieval Icelandic Legal Treatises as Tools for External Scaffolding of Legal Cognition
Distributed Cognition in Medieval and Renaissance Culture

Werner Schäfke

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter examines the medieval Icelandic law book Grágás as it is contained in the medieval manuscripts Staðarhólsbók (AM 334 fol.) and Konungsbók (GKS 1157 fol.), and explores in what ways the two manuscripts can be considered to function as external tools of legal cognition. The aim of the chapter is to explore how the modern concept of distributed cognition can aid us in understanding historical phenomena, in this case, the function of two medieval Icelandic codices containing collections of laws. The chapter outlines what lines of thought and reasoning the examined medieval codices support when used for finding relevant legal norms or charting applicable law. In order to clarify the relation of the historical development of distributed legal cognition and its textual tools, the chapter’s conclusion compares the Grágás manuscripts to an early modern Icelandic legal manuscript (AM 60 8vo), and to modern statute collections. This comparison shows how the distribution of legal cognition to textual tools slowly developed within the textual culture of a formerly predominantly oral society without a significant domestic administrative literacy.

Keywords:   Medieval Iceland, Legal History, Distributed Cognition, Jurisprudence, Grágás, Law and Language, Legal Sociology, Literacy, Book History

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