Egils saga A-redaktionen – Københavns Universitet

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Egils saga Skallagrímssonar, edited by Bjarni Einarsson. Bind I. A-Redaktionen.

Editiones Arnamagnæanæ, Series A, vol. 19.

Redactor: Michael Chesnutt.

2001. lxxix + 231 pp. 1 colour plate.

The saga of the warrior and skald Egill Skallagrímsson is one of the most famous of all medieval Icelandic prose narratives. It survives in three distinct redactions. The chief witness to the A-redaction is Möðruvallabók, a vellum codex from the middle of the fourteenth century. This important manuscript, containing the largest single repertoire of Sagas of Icelanders from the Middle Ages, was brought to Denmark in 1684 and returned to Iceland in 1974 after the division of The Arnamagnæan Collection into an Icelandic and a Danish section. The chief witnesses to the B- and C-redactions respectively are a vellum codex (also from the fourteenth century) now in Wolfenbüttel, Germany, and two paper transcripts made by the clergyman Ketill Jörundsson in the middle of the seventeenth century.

While the A-redaction has the fullest prose text of the saga and preserves most of Egill's lausavísur, it lacks his two long poems, Höfuðlausn and Sonatorrek. On the other hand, apart from a few scattered verses in manuscripts of Snorra Edda and the Third Grammatical Treatise, the only medieval authority for Egill's third long poem, Arinbjarnarkviða, is the Möðruvallabók codex of the A-redaction. Though the wording of A is closer to that of C than to that of B, the two last-mentioned redactions display common omissions vis à vis A and share two short passages at the end which doubtless belonged to the original saga but are wanting in A.

In a fundamental study from 1956 Professor Jón Helgason demonstrated that lacunae in the Möðruvallabók and Wolfenbüttel codices can be filled out from surviving seventeenth-century copies. In the case of Möðruvallabók these copies were made from a no longer extant original copy that had been written prior to the loss of two leaves from the vellum. In this new critical presentation of the A-redaction the text of the missing leaves in Möðruvallabók is supplied from JS 28 fol. (written by the clergyman Jón Erlendsson of Villingaholt for his patron Bishop Brynjólfur Sveinsson) with a variant apparatus comprising ten other related manuscripts and the first Icelandic edition of the saga printed at Hrappsey in 1782. Previous editions, the most important of which is that of Finnur Jónsson from 1886-88, have supplied the missing text from the B-redaction.

Renewed scrutiny of all the manuscripts of the A-redaction has led to the discovery in late paper copies from the Eyjafjörður district of previously unknown portions of text of the same type as the oldest fragment of Egils saga, AM 162 A fol., fragm. θ. These portions of text are presented synoptically in the new edition, as are fragm. θ itself and two related fragments in the seventeenth-century manuscript AM 458 4to, which was originally part of a large saga anthology belonging to Bishop Þorlákur Skúlason. Appendices to the volume contain new diplomatic texts of Arinbjarnarkviða and the fifteenth-century fragments AM 162 fol. η and κ; an extract is also given from an eighteenth-century paper manuscript possibly related to fragm. κ. The editorial commentary is in Danish with a full English summary of the introduction.

About the Editors

Jón Helgason left behind extensive materials for a critical edition of all three redactions of Egils saga. After his death in 1986 The Arnamagnæan Institute in Copenhagen invited the late Bjarni Einarsson to assume responsibility for the publication of A. In the first instance Bjarni Einarsson studied the seventeenth-century copies identified by Jón Helgason with a view to filling out the lacunae where leaves have been lost from Möðruvallabók. This was a task that he had already begun on his own initiative, and some of the results were utilised in editions for the general reader published in Iceland as long ago as 1985 and 1992.

The edition was not far from completion when Bjarni Einarsson died in the autumn of 2000. The volume now published was prepared for the press by Michael Chesnutt of The Arnamagnæan Institute with assistance from Professor Jonna Louis-Jensen and Peter Springborg. It is envisaged that the edition will be continued in two volumes containing the B- and C-redactions of the saga, thereby fulfilling the plan drawn up by Jón Helgason half a century ago.