Centre for Medieval Studies Lecture Series 2016–2017

Már Jónsson

Creativity or clumsiness?

Scribal discrepancy in seventeenth and eighteenth century Iceland

Thursday January 26, 2017, at 16.30
Odda 101

Már Jónsson

Post-medieval manuscripts containing medieval texts are currently the subject of increased scholarly attention as a means, firstly, of extending our understanding of the development of Icelandic literary culture, and, secondly, as possible witnesses to vellums that are no longer extant. In both instances, scholars need to determine the relationship between extant manuscripts, making use of appropriate methodologies based on current and earlier research on stemmatic affiliations. Such an approach requires an understanding of the nature of scribal innovation, error, and other voluntary or involuntary variations. In this lecture, I will address these issues by means of (1) some general reflections on the principles of textual criticism developed by Paul Maas over some thirty years from 1927, and (2) three relevant and (hopefully) illuminating case studies. The benchmark will be several copies of Ari fróði’s Íslendingabók, all of which certainly derive from two copies (AM 113 a fol., AM 113 b fol.) made in 1651 by Rev. Jón Erlendsson, who had access to an early vellum text that inexplicably disappeared soon afterwards. The second case study will be a group of manuscripts that appear to derive from Vatnshyrna, a vellum that was destroyed in the 1728 Great Fire of Copenhagen, and that contained several Sagas of Icelanders, including Laxdæla, Eyrbyggja, Vatnsdæla, Hænsa-Þóris saga and the shorter version of Flóamanna saga. The third case study involves the manuscript progeny of a lost vellum of Njála, the so-called Gullskinna, which was copied in several locations between 1640 and 1680, but which then vanished without trace.

Már Jónsson is professor of history at the University of Iceland and has written on Árni Magnússon and his vellums and other manuscripts. His main field of interest is the social and cultural history of Iceland from the late thirteenth-century to the end of the nineteenth century.

The talk will be delivered in English. All are welcome to attend.