Eyrbyggja saga. The Vellum Tradition, edited by Forrest S. Scott.

Editiones Arnamagnæanæ, Series A, Vol. 18.

Redactor: Jonna Louis-Jensen.

2003. XIV + [1] + 156* + 339 pp., 8 b/w plates.

Eyrbyggja saga is one of the more important Íslendingasögur, telling the story of the people of the area comprising Þórsnes, Eyri and Álptafjörður in the northern part of Snæfellsnes. Loosely constructed, the saga deals principally with disputes which in one way or another involve Snorri goði. The saga is thought to have been composed in the mid-13th century.

All existing editions of Eyrbyggja saga — scholarly as well as popular — have been based on 17th-century copies of the lost vellum known as Vatnshyrna (formerly Membr. Reseniana 5 in the University Library of Copenhagen). Scholars have, however, come to realise that the four existing vellum fragments of the saga contain an older redaction (known as the B text) — or possibly two (B and C) — of the saga, and editors have tended not to keep exclusively to their basic Vatnshyrna text, but to adorn it with "old and rare words" from the vellums. Professor Scott's edition is the first to give the vellum texts in their full extent, not merely plucking out the choicest bits.

The four vellum fragments of Eyrbyggja saga are AM 162 fol. E (E, 13th century), the Wolfenbüttel saga manuscript (W, 14th century), Melabók (M, 15th century) and AM 309 4to (G, written 1498). W and G are sister manuscripts as far as Eyrbyggja saga is concerned; they supplement each other and cover almost the whole saga between them, while all that remains of Eyrbyggja saga in E is two leaves, and in M seven (plus a small strip, found in a Reykjavík attic in the mid-20th century). Fortunately, readings from M when it was in a more complete state were copied into a paper manuscript belonging to the Vatnshyrna class of manuscripts in the 17th century.

The edition contains diplomatic transcriptions of the saga in the four vellum fragments, while the M readings are given in an apparatus to a ‘Vatnshyrna-type' text, which is printed alongside the M text.

Earlier editors of Eyrbyggja saga regarded Vatnshyrna as belonging to a special ‘A class', while the vellum fragments E, W, and G were termed the ‘B class'. M was regarded as a third branch of the tradition, and by some scholars as the manuscript nearest to the original. Professor Scott argues that the textual transmission of Eyrbyggja saga has two branches, not three. On the one hand, E, W and G can be shown to derive from the archetype through a common lost intermediary (*B), and on the other, M and Vatnshyrna share another lost exemplar (*C). In many cases, the B class has preserved an older wording, while the C class seems to have been subject to successive revision and modernization.

About the editor

Forrest Scott (1920-2006) was born in Hartlepool, England. He attended Jesus College, Cambridge, completing the degree of MA, and was awarded a Dame Bertha Phillpotts Memorial Scholarship in Icelandic. In 2005 he received a PhD. from Cambridge University for his work.

He wrote a biography of Earl Waltheof (published in Archæologia Æliana) for an MLitt degree. After teaching at Sheffield University he was appointed in 1964 Professor of English Literature at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.He published, with others, English Grammar in 1968. He also translated poems by Victor Hugo into English.

He had a long-standing interest in Eyrbyggja saga, and published articles on it in the journal Parergon and in Opuscula.