Straight From the Heart: The Hjertebog

“If music be the food of love, play on,” so said Duke Orsino in the first act of the Shakesperean play Twelfth Night. Love has always been one of the most celebrate themes in literature, music, dance, and more. It has been trilled over, moped over, cried over, fought over, and even killed over. Millions of love songs are written and played over the airwaves. Every crop of new films will always have the romantic story in there somewhere, whether it be a straight-up romantic comedy, a tear-jerker drama, or even the current favorite genre, the fantasy romance. How else would movies like Twilight and Warm Bodies become box office hits?

It is well and good we started today’s feature with a line from one of The Bard’s works. Around the same time Shakespeare began his illustrious career, a very special book was being compiled and created on Danish shores.

The Hjertebog, or The Heart Book, is the oldest Danish manuscript of ballads. It dates back to 1550, and houses 83 ancient ballads, all written by hand. The 83 poems were all compiled within the courts of King Christian III. Pages are also embellished with illustrated patterns and decor But perhaps its most noteworthy feature is its very unusual shape. Closed, the book might seem like an odd shape to the onlooker. A leaf, perhaps? A petal of a flower? However, once opened, the book itself transforms into the ever-familiar shape of a heart – the classic symbol of romantic love. It is a most fitting shape for its contents.

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