Jóns saga Hólabyskups ens helga, edited by Peter Foote.

Editiones Arnamagnæanæ, Series A, Vol. 14.

Redactors: Michael Chesnutt, Jonna Louis-Jensen.

2003. XXXV + 273* + [1] + 191 pp., 4 b/w plates.

Jóns saga Hólabyskups ens helga is a vernacular vita et miracula of Jón Ögmundarson, bishop of Hólar in the North of Iceland at the beginning of the twelfth century. The saga was written not long after Bishop Jón had been declared a saint at the alþingi in 1200 and survives in three recensions, the archetype of which was either the original Icelandic text or an early revision of it. One of these recensions, here designated S because it occurs in manuscripts associated with Skálholt, is already attested in a fragment from c. 1300. Another, designated L because its style is strongly marked by Latinate floridity, is extant from around the middle of the fourteenth century and displays particular affinity with the Dunstanus saga of Árni Laurentiusson byskups Kálfssonar, composed in the third decade of that century. The third recension, designated H because of its association with Hólar, is only preserved in manuscripts of the seventeenth century but probably shares a hyparchetype with the L recension. Both L and H are preserved in a defective state, though the former contains characteristic interpolations about Sæmundr fróði and Gísl Illugason and the latter many additional miracles as compared with S. However, since S has the appearance of an abridged text it remains uncertain whether the extra miracles of H were in the original saga or were taken over by the H redactor from a separate dossier.

The primary manuscripts of S are AM 221 fol. (S1, fragmentary), AM 234 fol. (S2, copied from S1 while the latter was still intact), Oslo NRA Norrøne fragmenter 57 (S3, one leaf only, with the beginning of the tale of Sæmundr fróði introduced from the L recension), and AM 235 fol. (S4, fragmentary). S1-2 and S4 are most likely in one line of descent from the S archetype, S3 in another. The text presented in this edition is that of S1 to the extent that it is legible, supplemented by S2; variants are given from the latter where it does not provide the main text, and from S3-4 throughout their length. The secondary manuscripts of the S recension, 16 in number and divisible into four groups, are systematically reviewed in the introduction; all of them go back to S2.

The primary manuscripts of L are Stockholm perg. fol. nr 5 (L1), AM 219 fol. (L2, fragmentary), and NRA Norrøne fragmenter 57 (the Sæmundr fróði passage, cf. S3 above). In addition, the tale of Gísl Illugason and the beginning of the tale of Sæmundr fróði occur as an appendix in the manuscripts of the H recension, which are Stockholm papp. 4:o nr 4 (here L3; cf. H1 below) and AM 392 4to (here L4; cf. H2). L1 seems to be in one line of descent from the L archetype, L2-4 and NRA 57 in another. The text presented is that of L1 with variants from the first two extant folios of Jóns saga in L2 and from L3-4 and 57 throughout their length; after the L1 text follows supplementary matter from the last two extant folios of the saga in L2. The 14 secondary manuscripts of the L recension are reviewed in the introduction; all of them go back to L1.

The two primary manuscripts of H (there are no secondary copies) are, as already stated, Stockholm papp. 4:o nr 4 (H1, written by Þorleifur Jónsson not later than the 1630s) and AM 392 4to (H2, here argued to have been written about the same time, or only a little later, by sr. Jón Pálsson). The activity of both scribes is associated with the historical interests of Bishop Þorlákur Skúlason, and they evidently worked from an older exemplar available at Hólar. Jón Pálsson's copy was consulted by Árni Magnússon and his friend sr. Jón Halldórsson of Hítardalur in the early eighteenth century. Linguistic peculiarities shared by the Jóns saga texts in H1 and H2 but foreign to the normal practice of the two scribes suggest a date around 1500 for their common source.

In addition to the points summarized above, the introduction provides detailed codicological, palaeographic, and linguistic analyses of the primary manuscripts and a survey of the testimony to knowledge of Jóns saga in various pre- and post-Reformation sources. These sources range from late medieval Icelandic church inventories to the writings of the Norwegian historian P. A. Munch.

The present critical edition of Jóns saga Hólabyskups supersedes that published in Biskupa sögur I (1858) and is a companion volume to the synthetic text published by Peter Foote in Íslenzk fornrit XV (2003).

About the editor

Peter Foote was born in England in 1924 and after service in the Royal Navy graduated in English in 1948. After a year at the University of Oslo he became a research student in University College, London, where he remained for the rest of his career, latterly (1963-83) as Professor of Scandinavian Studies. The Arnamagnæan Institutes in Denmark and Iceland have benefited from many years of collaboration with Peter Foote.

His previous work on medieval Scandinavian hagiographical texts includes the facsimile editions of Stockholm perg. fol. nr 2 and Stockholm perg. 4:o nr 19 that appeared in Copenhagen in 1962 and 1990 (Early Icelandic Manuscripts in Facsimile, Vols. IV and XIX).