1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Adam of Bremen
ADAM OF BREMEN, historian and geographer, was probably born in Upper Saxony (at Meissen, according to one tradition) before 1045. He came to Bremen about 1067–1068, most likely on the invitation of Archbishop Adalbert, and in the 24th year of the latter’s episcopate (1043?–1072); in 1069 he appears as a canon of this cathedral and master of the cathedral school. Not long after this he visited the king of Denmark, Sweyn Estrithson, in Zealand; on the death of Adalbert, in 1072, he began the Historia Hammaburgenisis Ecclesiae, which he finished about 1075. He died on the 12th of October of a year unknown, perhaps 1076. Adam’s Historia—known also as Gesta Hammaburgensis Ecclesiae Pontificum, Bremensium praesulum Historia, and Historia ecclesiastica—is a primary authority, not only for the great diocese of Hamburg-and-Bremen, but for all North German and Baltic lands (down to 1072), and for the Scandinavian colonies as far as America. Here occurs the earliest mention of Vinland, and here are also references of great interest to Russia and Kiev, to the heathen Prussians, the Wends and other Slav races of the South Baltic coast, and to Finland, Thule or Iceland, Greenland and the Polar seas which Harald Hardrada and the nobles of Frisia had attempted to explore in Adam’s own day (before 1066). Adam’s account of North European trade at this time, and especially of the great markets of Jumne at the mouth of the Oder, of Birka in Sweden and of Ostrogard (Old Novgorod?) in Russia, is also of much value. His work, which places him among the first and best of German annalists, consists of four books or parts, and is compiled partly from written records and partly from oral information, the latter mainly gathered from experience or at the courts of Adalbert and Sweyn Estrithson. Of his minor informants he names several, such as Adelward, dean of Bremen, and William the Englishman, “bishop of Zealand,” formerly chancellor of Canute the Great, and an intimate of Sweyn Estrithson. The fourth (perhaps the most important) book of Adam’s History, variously entitled Libellus de Situ Daniae et reliquarum quae trans Daniam sunt regionum, Descriptio Insularum Aquilonis, &c., has often been considered, but wrongly, as a separate work.
Ten MSS. exist, of which the chief are (1-2) Copenhagen, Royal Library, Old Royal Collection, No. 2296, of 12th to 13th cents.; No. 718, of 15th cent.; (3) Leyden University, Voss. Lat. 123, of 11th cent.; (4) Rome, Vatican Library, 2010; (5) Vienna, Hofu. Staatsbibliothek, 413, of 13th cent.; (6) Wolfenbüttel, Ducal Library, Gud. 83, of 15th cent.
There are 15 editions of the Historia, in whole or part; the first published at Copenhagen, 1579 (the first of the Libellus or Descriptio Ins. Aquil. appeared at Stockholm in 1615), the best at Hanover, 1846 (by Lappenberg, in Scriptores Rerum Germanicarum; reissued by L. Weiland, 1876), and at Paris, 1884 (in Migne’s Patrologia Latina, cxlvi.). There are also three German versions, and one Danish; the best is by J. C. M. Laurent (and W. Wattenbach) in Geschichtsschreiber d. deutsch. Vorzeit, part vii. (1850 and 1888) . See also J. Asmussen, De fontibus Adami Bremensis, 1834; Lappenberg in Pertz, Archiv, vi, 770; Aug. Bernard, De Adamo Bremensi (Paris, 1895); Beazley, Dawn of Modern Geography, ii. 514-548 (1901).