PREFACE. v

down to us in a form which may justly be called classical. In Sweden and Norway the
old Scandinavian tongue is preserved in writing only on the scanty Runic monuments.
The earliest Danish and Swedish written laws are believed not to be earlier than the
middle and end of the I3th century, by which time the common language in these lands
had already undergone great changes, although the modern Danish and Swedish were
not yet formed. In Norway, however, a considerable literature of the I3th century
survives; and the old language lasted longer there than in the sister countries. This
literature consists of laws, diplomas, homilies, and translations of French romances;
and these works are quoted in this Dictionary together with the Icelandic. These
documents belong to the period embraced by the reign of King Hakon, A.D. 1216-1263 ´
but, though valuable, they do not make an original literature. Only in Iceland did
a living literature spring up and flourish; there alone the language has been handed
down to us with unbroken tradition and monuments, from the first settlement of the
island to the present day.

It is believed that the present Dictionary will furnish not only a complete glossary
of the words used in this old classical literature, but also a full account of the forms and
inflexions of the verbs, with copious citations of passages in which each word occurs,
with references carefully verified, and explanations given whenever they seem to be
required; and, at the same time, though the Dictionary is mainly intended for the
old authors, both in prose and poetry, it endeavours to embrace an account of the
whole language, old and new.

A few words must be added to explain the origin and history of the work.

Many years ago, RICHARD CLEASBY projected a General Dictionary of the Old
Scandinavian Language; and in 1840 he left England to settle in Copenhagen, the
chief seat and centre of Scandinavian learning and the home of the best collection
of Icelandic MSS., for the purpose of preparing himself for his work and of obtaining
the assistance of Icelandic students in collecting materials; among these Mr. Konrad
Gislason's name ought especially to be mentioned. Mr. Cleasby was a man of inde-
pendent means, an excellent scholar, held in high esteem by foreign scholars, devoted to
his work, and shunning no labour to make it perfect. He reserved for himself the
old prose literature ; while Dr. Egilsson was engaged on the poetical vocabulary, towards
the expenses of which Mr. Cleasby promised to contribute, so that he may be said
to have been the chief promoter of that work also. The MS. of the Poetical Dic-
tionary was ready for publication in the year 1846. In the following year Mr. Cleasby
caused five words—brag­, b˙a, at (conjunction), af (preposition), and ok (conjunction)
—to be set up in type as specimens of the projected Prose Dictionary. These
he sent to several foreign friends, and among others to Jacob Grimm, who returned
a most kind and friendly answer, warmly approving of the plan as indicated in the
specimens, and adding many good wishes that Mr. Cleasby might have health and
life to complete the work. Unhappily these wishes were not to be realised, In the