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CREATING THE MEDIEVAL SAGA:
VERSIONS, VARIABILITY AND EDITORIAL
INTERPRETATIONS OF OLD NORSE
SAGA LITERATURE
Edited by
JUDY QUINN .xr EMILY LETHBRIDGE
UNIVERSITY PRESS OF SOUTHERN DENMARK
2010
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The Words on the Page:
Thoughts on Philology, Old and New
M. J. Dniscott
Only a very few works from Antiquity or the Middle Ages survive in ori-
ginal, autograph or authorially sanctioned manuscripts. The vast majority
have come down to us in copies, or copies of copies, lying at an unknown
number of removes fromthe originals and varying in their trustworthiness,
whether due to physical damage, scribal fallibility or deliberate revision.
And while some works survive in unique manuscripts, most are preserved
in dozens, hundreds or in some cases even thousands of copies. With very
few exceptions, no two copies of the same work are ever exactly alike.
There are, at the very least, always dierences in punctuation (of which
there is usually very little in manuscripts anyway), in spelling, reect-
ing both scribal caprice and changes in pronunciation, and in lexis, where
new words are substituted for others no longer current. Scribes are also
capable of error, miscopying words or sentences, writing them twice or
leaving them out altogether. Scribes, particularly in vernacular traditions,
frequently make deliberate changes too, correcting what they perceived to
be errors or infelicities, shortening the text (either for stylistic reasons or
to t the amount of space available), or expanding it, either stylistically,
through rhetorical elaboration, or materially, through the addition of new
episodes or descriptive passages. Sometimes dierences between the ex-
tant texts of a given work are so great that we are obliged to view them as
representing separate versions or redactions. Occasionally these versions
are so dierent that it is impossible to imagine how they could go back
to a single original, and here it has been customary to see them as repres-
enting separate manifestations of an underlying (oral) tradition. In other
cases it is necessary to speak of separate works treating similar material,
rather than of separate versions of a single work.
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M. J. Driscoll
When dealing with the transmission of classical and patristic literat-
ure, and indeed of the Bible itself, the gap between the surviving witnesses
and the originals is generally very great, as is the number of witnesses:
oo6oo in the case of popular Roman writers such as Terence or Juvenal,
,ooo6,ooo in the case of the Greek New Testament. Scholars working
with other ancient literatures with long histories of chirographic transmis-
sion, Sanskrit, for example, face similar problems, as do those working in
certain vernacular traditions. In the case of Old Norse-Icelandic literature,
the relative stability of the language meant that in Iceland, unlike most of
the rest of Europe, medieval works were still copied and read well into
modern times, even into the rst decades of the twentieth century. The
more popular sagas, principally romances like Mgus saga jarls but also
some of the slendingasgur such as Njls saga, and some of the eddic and
sacred poems, like Slarlj, can thus be preserved in as many as sixty or
seventy manuscripts, spanning up to six centuries.
To make sense of these oceans of exemplars, scholars have employed
the science, or perhaps rather art, of textual criticism, generally under-
stood as the technique of restoring texts as nearly as possible to their ori-
ginal form (Kenney :q8: 6:(). Modern textual criticism was developed
in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries chiey by and for classical and
biblical scholars, but began fairly quickly to be employed by scholars in
other elds. As Haugen and Johansson have discussed in the previous two
essays, the method most commonly employed, the genealogical or stem-
matic method, is normally associated with the name of the German philo-
logist Karl Lachmann (:qj:8:). Lachmann himself, however, never
presented a stemma,
:
and his method had already been anticipated by
scholars such as the Germans Friedrich August Wolf (:q:8z(), Carl
Gottlob Zumpt (:qz:8q() and Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl (:8o66),
and the Dane Johan Nicolai Madvig (:8o(86).
z
The association of Lach-
manns name with the method may be due, in part at least, to his having
: Although the rst published stemma codicumis attributed to Carl Zumpt in his edition
of Cicero from :8j:, it was in fact preceded by that of the Swedish scholars Carl
Johan Schlyter and Hans Samuel Collin in their edition of the laws of Vstergtland
(Westgta-Lagen, the rst volume of Samling af Sweriges Gamla Lagar), published
in :8z; on Schlyter see Holm (:qz) and Frederiksen (:qq:, :qq( and zooj).
z See further Timpanaro (:q:).
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The Words on the Page
worked with such a broad range of languages and texts, including the
Greek New Testament, Lucretius and the Nibelungen Not. As detailed in
Paul Maass book, Textkritik,
j
the method essentially involves reconstruct-
ing on the evidence of the surviving manuscripts the earliest recoverable
form(or forms) of the text that lies behind them. First one must identify all
the surviving witnesses, date and localise themif possible, and then estab-
lish the relationship between them through collation, where all the variant
readings they contain are registered and compared. Errors and omissions
made by the scribes when copying provide the most valid means of work-
ing out the relationships between the manuscripts. Witnesses which are
demonstrably derived from earlier existing witnesses are without value
and are therefore eliminated. The established relationship of the witnesses
remaining is then usually given in the form of a family tree or stemma
codicum. At the head, or root, of this tree is either a single surviving ma-
nuscript from which all others descend, or, more commonly, a lost copy,
which can be reconstructed on the basis of the surviving witnesses. This
hypothetical ancestor is called the archetype, and should not be, but fre-
quently is, confused with the original, to which it may obviously be at
some remove. Some textual critics, particularly in earlier times, choose to
emend a non-authentic or corrupt archetype through conjecture, or divin-
ation (divinatio), as it is called, in order to get closer to the original.
Although the stemmatic method is all very neat and its logic nothing
short of majestic, it has a number of shortcomings, the most signicant be-
ing that it hardly ever works with real textual traditions, since it assumes,
among other things, that no two scribes will ever independently make the
same mistake, which they frequently do, that they will always work from a
single exemplar, which they frequently do not, and that most scribes will
tend to reproduce their exemplars exactly, which they almost never do, at
least in the case of vernacular literature. And, indeed, criticism of the me-
thod has chiey come from medievalists working in vernacular traditions,
most notably the French scholar Joseph Bdier (:86(:qj8), who rejected
the claims of stemmatic analysis to scientic objectivity and advocated an
editorial policy which involved choosing a single best text and reprodu-
j The third edition of Maass work was published in :q and translated into English
the following year. It was rst published as part III of Gercke and Norden (:qz).
8q
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M. J. Driscoll
cing it conservatively, that is, with as little emendation as possible (only
in cases of obvious scribal error). Something not wholly dierent from
the genealogical method could be used to identify families of related ma-
nuscripts, but, according to Bdier, one should refrain from attempting to
postulate the existence and reconstruct the texts of lost manuscripts
(Bdier :qz8). Although initially criticised by many, Bdiers best-text
method
(
has the advantage of reducing damage to the text through sub-
jective editorial emendation (by editors, who, Bdier alleged, tended to
see themselves as collaborators with the author), and presenting the reader
with, if not the text, then at least a text which had actually existed.
The New Philology
The principal innovation in the area of editorial theory in recent years
has been the so-called new or material philology, the call to arms
for which was the publication in :qqo of a special issue of Speculum: A
Journal of Medieval Studies edited by the Romance philologist Stephen
Nichols of Johns Hopkins University.

The immediate inspiration for this


new philology came from Bernard Cerquiglinis polemical essay loge
de la variante (:q8q), which marked a clear turning point in the history of
medieval textual studies by arguing that instability (variance) is a funda-
mental feature of chirographically transmitted literature: variation is what
the medieval text is about. The following may be said to be among the
key principles of new or material philology:
Literary works do not exist independently of their material embod-
iments, and the physical form of the text is an integral part of its
meaning; one needs therefore to look at the whole book, and the
relationships between the text and such features as formand layout,
illumination, rubrics and other paratextual features, and, not least,
the surrounding texts.
( Bdiers term codex optimus is perhaps better rendered best manuscript, which is
what Odd Einar Haugen calls it (:qq: 8z and in his essay in this volume).
See in particular Nicholss introductory essay (:qqo); other important works are Nich-
ols (:qq() and (:qq).
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The Words on the Page
These physical objects come into being through a series of pro-
cesses in which a (potentially large) number of people are involved;
and they come into being at particular times, in particular places
and for particular purposes, all of which are socially, economically
and intellectually determined; these factors inuence the form the
text takes and are thus also part of its meaning.
These physical objects continue to exist through time, and are dis-
seminated and consumed in ways which are also socially, econom-
ically and intellectually determined, and of which they bear traces.
While the reaction among textual theorists to new philology has on the
whole been favourable, those involved in actual scholarly editing not
least within the eld of Old Norse-Icelandic have tended to be dis-
missive, though their criticisms have rarely found their way into print,
being conned instead to the corridor and coee room. The grounds for
their censure of new philology has generally either been that there is
nothing new in it, that it is even what we have been doing all along,
6
or
that while it might be possible as an ancillary to proper philology, and
might be better suited to some types of texts than others, new philology
cannot possibly replace traditional philology since it is patently ridiculous
to claim, for example, that some arbitrary eighteenth-century manuscript,
with all its errors and corruption, is every bit as good as one demonstrably
nearer to the original. To this latter objection all I can say is, well, quite.
No-one, to my knowledge, has ever claimed that all manuscripts of a par-
ticular work were equally good; from a new- or material-philological
perspective, on the other hand, one certainly can claimthat all manuscripts
of a given work are equally interesting (potentially at least), not for estab-
lishing the text, separating good readings from bad which is not what
6 This is essentially the argument of a recent article by Sverrir Tmasson (zooz); at
p. zoz, for example, he says that margt af v sem ar [sc. in the new philology] fram
kemur sr eldri rtur (much of what appears there [sc. in the new philology] has
older roots), and later, at p. z:j, he concludes: Hin svokallaa nja textafri hvlir
gmlu textafrinni, n eirra rannskna sem lsinir fllgar hafa gert um tveggja
alda skei vri nja textafrin ekki til. (The so-called new philology rests on old
philology; were it not for the eorts of sedulous philologists over the last two centuries
the new philology would not exist.). For a general critique of precepts underlying the
new philology see Pickens (:qq().
q:
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M. J. Driscoll
new philology seeks to do but rather for what they can tell us about
the processes of literary production, dissemination and reception to which
they are witnesses.

Nor am I aware that anyone has ever claimed that


with the advent of new philology there can no longer be any justication
for practising old philology. Most linguists would nowadays doubtless
prefer to discuss the meaning of a word in terms of the way it is used by the
actual speakers of the language in question, or a sub-group thereof, rather
than by reference to its etymology that is, from a synchronic rather than
a diachronic perspective but I am not aware that anyone has seriously
suggested that historical linguistics may no longer be practised.
To the former of these accusations, that there is nothing new in the
new philology, it can only be said that, like any other movement, trend
or school, the new philology did not spring fully formed ex nihilo. One
of its more obvious antecedents is Paul Zumthors Essai du potique m-
divale from :qz, which introduced the concept of mouvance, the mo-
bilit essentielle du texte mdival (Zumthor :qz: ::, the essential
mobility of the medieval text), without which Cerquiglinis ideas would
have been unthinkable. Another is to be found in developments within
Anglo-American bibliography in the :qos and early :q8os. These devel-
opments culminated, for some, in D. F. McKenzies :q8 Panizzi lectures,
published the following year as Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts,
which argued that since any history of the book must take into account
the social, economic and political motivations of publishing, the reasons
why texts were written and read as they were, why they were rewritten and
redesigned, or allowed to die, it is more useful to describe bibliography
as the study of the sociology of texts; sociology because it deals with
the human motives and interactions which texts involve at every stage of
their production, transmission and consumption (McKenzie :q86: ).
Others might point to Jerome McGanns A Critique of Modern Textual
Criticism from :q8j, which also proposed a sociological, rather than an
intentionalist, approach, arguing that literary works are fundamentally
Hans Walter Gabler (zoo: qob), points out that Through the rekindled interest of
the medievalists in a material philology, it has been brought to fresh attention, for
instance, that it is often the exemplars disqualied under stemmatological premises as
derivative, textually unreliable, and corrupt that, in the high variability of their texts,
hold immediate information about the cultural life and afterlife of works.
qz
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The Words on the Page
social rather than personal or psychological products (McGann :q8j:
(j().
8
Nor should we underestimate the inuence of French (and French-
inspired) work in histoire du livre,
q
work in the German-speaking world on
the history of transmission, berlieferungsgeschichte,
:o
and the extensive
work in orality and literacy on both sides of the Atlantic in the late :qos
and :q8os
::
in fact pretty much everything that went on in literary and
cultural studies from the late :q6os onwards, subsumed under the general
heading post-structuralism, which, among other things, de-emphasised
the importance of the author, focusing instead on the inevitably collabor-
ative nature of literary production, dissemination and reception and the
cultural, historical and ideological forces at work in these processes.
It is necessary, before trying to assess how new the new philology is,
to distinguish between three basic concepts: the work, the text and the
artefact.
:z
To take a simple example: Hamlet is a work. The New Swan
Shakespeare Advanced Series edition of Hamlet by Bernard Lott, M. A.
Ph. D., published by Longman in :q68, is, or presents, a text. My copy of
Lotts edition, bought from Blackwells in Oxford in :qq and containing
my copious annotations, is an artefact.
:j
The work, being an abstraction, is perhaps hardest to pin down. By
Hamlet, the work I mean simply the sum of all the Hamlets that have
8 Although coming out of similar intellectual traditions, McGann and McKenzie ap-
pear to have operated largely independently of each other (cf. Greetham :qqq: (o).
McGann rst posited his idea of bibliographical codes in a review of McKenzies
book (McGann :q88, subsequently developed in McGann :qq:), and says in a recent
article that he sees his own work as a critical pursuit of McKenzies ideas (McGann
zoo: zz6).
q The seminal work here is Febvre and Martin (:q8).
:o See, for example, Ruh (:q8).
:: For example works like Ong (:q8z) and Goody (:q8), to name only two.
:z I am not the rst to make these distinctions, and other names are possible for the
concepts; these are simply the ones I prefer. My chief inspiration is Shillingsburg
(:qq6: (::) although Shillingsburg uses the term document for what I prefer to
call artefact.
:j While the distance between work, text and artefact is obviously not always so great
as in the case of Hamlet where, for example, a poem has been jotted down on the
back of an envelope and then forgotten, so that there is only a single text, preserved
in or on a single artefact, of that particular work the distinction between the three is
nevertheless real enough.
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ever been, printed, staged, lmed or otherwise manifested.
:(
Those of the
intentionalist school, on the other hand, would argue that Hamlet, the
work is whatever Shakespeare originally intended Hamlet to be, what
Shakespeare wrote. Yet in the case of Shakespeare, and many, many other
writers, it is frequently impossible to establish what the authors original
intention might have been, or indeed whether the author had a single
original intention. King Lear, for example, famously exists in two quite
distinct versions, both apparently equally authentic. And what of works
for which there is no author, or where the notion of authorship is highly
problematic, for example those originally oral in nature: what did Homer
intend the Odyssey to be?
The text may be dened as a series of words in a particular order,
which seems straightforward enough. It is, however, very much a coin with
two distinct sides. W. W. Greg famously divided the text into substant-
ives, which aect the authors meaning or the essence of his expression,
on the one hand, and accidentals, mainly presentational features such as
spelling, punctuation, word division et cetera, on the other (:qo:: z:).
The accidentals, the words on the page (or screen) in front of us, we
might refer to as the real text, and the other, the substantives, as the
ideal text, its gaze xed rmly upwards, toward the work.
The artefact would seem to be the least problematic of the three,
as any text-bearing object is, by its nature, unique. This is self-evidently
true of manuscripts, slightly less self-evidently so of early printed books
(since no two copies are ever exactly the same). But in the age of mass
reproduction is it really possible to claim that every copy of a text is a
unique artefact? Anyone who has, for example, read a book previously
annotated, even slightly, by another reader (or even by oneself at some
remove), or encountered a copy of a book in an unlikely place (Hamlet in
an airport kiosk) will, I think, agree that it certainly can be. And what of
electronic texts? Are bits on disks and pixels on screens not as material
:( Zumthor dened the oeuvre as lunit complexe [] que constitue la collectivit
des versions en manifestant la matrialit; la synthse des signes employs par les au-
teurs successifs (chanteurs, rcitants, copistes) et de la litteralit des textes (:qz:
j, the complex unity constituted by the collectivity of its material versions; the syn-
thesis of the signs employed by the successive authors (singers, reciters, copyists)
and of the literality of the texts).
q(
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The Words on the Page
as ink on paper? Is a digital document really the same when accessed on
two dierent computers?
The focus of traditional textual criticism has always been the work,
of which one can, through the rigorous interrogation of the extant wit-
nesses, be aorded a glimpse. In so far as traditional textual criticism
recognises artefacts at all, it has tended to despise them. The best-text
edition presents just that, a text, a series of words in a particular order,
without trying to say too much about the work although there is ob-
viously some value inherent in the word best, and some signicance in
the fact that text is in the singular. But the interest has been rmly on
the substantives, the upper side of the textual coin, rather than the acci-
dentals. In new philology, however, the focus is entirely on the lower,
the artefactual, side, on the interplay between the text and the text-bearing
artefact, the way in which the bibliographic codes aect are part of
the texts meaning, just as much as its lexical content. And it is here,
in this shift in orientation, that the new in the new philology is to be
found.
Jn Helgason and the Arnamagnan School
In his recent article Er nja textafrin n?, Sverrir Tmasson says saga
norrnnar textafri er v miur enn sg (zooz: zoo, the history of
Old Norse textual criticism sadly remains untold). It is not my intention
here, any more than it was his there, to write that history. I should, however,
like at least to look at the history of Old Norse textual criticism in the light
of the suggestion that what we, which I take to mean scholars working
in the Arnamagnan tradition, have been doing all along is essentially
new philology, a suggestion which, in view of the distinction between
work, text and artefact just presented, is something of an overstatement at
best.
Scholarly editions of Old Norse texts began to appear under the aus-
pices of the Arnamagnan Commission in :j with the publication of
Kristni saga, but by the Arnamagnan tradition I mean in particular the
publications in the two series inaugurated by Jn Helgason (:8qq:q86),
professor of Old Norse at the University of Copenhagen from:qzq to :q6q.
Jn, who was secretary of the Arnamagnan Commission from :qz and
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M. J. Driscoll
a full member from :qj6, began in :q(: a series of scholarly monographs
under the title Bibliotheca Arnamagnana and a new series of critical
editions of Old Norse texts, Editiones Arnamagnan, ten years later (al-
though the rst volume of Byskupasgur, published in :qj8 and containing
Jns edition of Hungrvaka, is to all intents and purposes to be regarded
as part of the series). Although Jn was himself responsible for only a
handful of these editions (the second volume of Byskupasgur, published
in :q8, and the eight volumes of slenzk fornkvi, published between
:q6z and :q8:), he was involved, directly or indirectly, in all of them
even from beyond the grave: the most recent volume of Editiones to ap-
pear, Egils saga Skallagrmssonar III, edited by Michael Chesnutt (zoo6),
is, as stated on the title page, efter forarbejder af Jn Helgason (based
on preliminary work by Jn Helgason). Jns inuence is also manifest
in the series of editions and monographs published from :qz onwards by
the Arnamagnan Institute in Reykjavk, most of the original members of
sta of which had studied in Copenhagen under Jn. Members of the older
generation of Old Norse textual scholars in other countries have also gen-
erally spent lengthy periods under Jns tutelage as well, while the younger
generation has in turn been tutored largely by them. So while Jn himself,
having been that sort of person, would doubtless have been quick to deny
it, there is therefore a discernible Helgasonian school which has domin-
ated Old Norse textual-critical practice from the middle of the twentieth
century onwards.
:
It is a school without a manifesto, however, in that Jn Helgason never
produced any kind of guidelines to editorial practice or engaged in any the-
oretical or methodological discussion of its precepts. In a conference paper
from :q8 Helle Jensen, who edited Eirks saga vfrla for Editiones
: Cf. Jakob Benediktsson: Med sine udgaver fra :qjoerne og senere skabte han en
helt ny standard for udgivelsen af norrne tekster som siden er blevet et mnster for
andre udgivere pa dette omrade. (:q8o: zo8, With his editions from the :qjos and
later he set a whole new standard for the editing of Old Norse texts, which has since
become a model for other editors in this area.). See also Jonna Louis-Jensen: hans
udgiverpraksis har dannet skole, saledes at den bl. a. flges i alle tekstkritiske udgaver,
der udsendes af de to arnamagnanske institutter i Kbenhavn og Reykjavk (:q86:
z8, his editorial practice has established a school, one which is followed in, among
others, all the textual-critical editions published by the two Arnamagnan institutes
in Reykjavk and Copenhagen).
q6
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Arnamagnan, describes with some humour how she had been intro-
duced or rather not to textual-critical practice by Jn Helgason, who
told her all she had to do was bare lige se pa alle handskrifterne og nde
ud af, hvordan de var skrevet af efter hinanden (Jensen :q8: oo, just
have a look at all the manuscripts and nd out how they were copied from
each other). Following Jns advice and looking at other Arnamagnan
editions, she said, she was able to deduce the methods employed, and it
was not until much later that it occurred to her that theoretical discussion
of the precepts of textual criticism must exist.
:6
Four years later she re-
turned to this theme in an excellent article in Forskningsproler: For det
er en ejendommelighed ved nordisk lologi i almindelighed og norrn
lologi i srdeleshed, at der har vret meget lidt explicit teoretiseren
omkring disse emner (Jensen :q8q: z::, For it is a curious fact that in
connection with Nordic philology in general and Old Norse philology in
particular there has been very little explicit theorising of these matters).
One assumes this reluctance to theorise about editorial practice was
because Jn, who had, or professed to have, an antipathy to most things,
regarded it as something self-evident, common sense, simply what one did
with texts. One can, as Helle Jensen did, read what one did with texts
out of Jns own editorial work and out of the editions published under
his auspices. From Jn himself the only thing approaching a statement
of principles, apart from a few remarks in the book Handritaspjall (:q8,
especially :o6:o) was a paper entitled Om udgivelser af islandske tek-
ster (On the editing of Icelandic texts) given at a seminar, Synspunkter
p tekstudgivelse, held in :qq, when Jn received an honorary doctorate
from the University of Copenhagen. The full text of this has unfortunately
though perhaps not surprisingly never been published, but there is a
:6 The introduction to textual criticism received by the present writer when a graduate
student in Reykjavk was equally brief, consisting in fact of only two words: samei-
ginlegar villur (shared errors).
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summary in English in the Arnamagnan Bulletin for :qq (:().
:
The central part of this summary is as follows:
The essential foundation for all close study of a text is a crit-
ical edition. One can demand of an edition that it presents,
as far as is possible, an investigation of the whole manu-
script tradition. The numerous young copies of older works
must be examined because there is always the possibility
that they derive fromsources other than the surviving medi-
eval texts. The result of such an examination is often that the
younger copies prove to have no independent value, but this
must nonetheless be demonstrated. The editors aim must
be to present as concisely as possible everything that the
manuscripts themselves can tell us about a particular works
oldest form(that is to say, the oldest formwe can establish[,]
which is not necessarily the original mould), while also giv-
ing an account of the works history through the centuries.
Jn appears to have decided what it was one did with texts fairly early
on. Among the papers in the Commissions archives there is a Plan til
en ny udgave af Fornaldarsgur Nordrlanda from :qjq (Driscoll zooq).
This plan was unfortunately never realised owing to the outbreak of the
war, but the proposal, which although unsigned may be assumed chiey
to have been Jn Helgasons work, includes the following:
Hele Haandskriftsmaterialet undersges. Den oprindeligste
Tekst sges fastslaaet. Hvis en Saga foreligger i ere for-
skellige Redaktioner, aftrykkes de hver for sig. Hvor der fo-
religger mindre Afvigelser mellem Haandskrifter, som har
: Several of the articles in the book Tekstkritisk teori og praksis (Fidjestl et al. :q88)
attempt to provide some methodological background, in particular those by Jensen,
Olafur Halldrsson and Stefn Karlsson. Jonna Louis-Jensen gave a paper at a seminar
in :qqq in honour of Stefn Karlsson (who had been awarded an honorary doctorate
by Copenhagen University) on Jn Helgason og den kbenhavnske udgivertradition;
like Jn Helgasons contribution from :qq, this too has never appeared in print, but
an English summary can be found on p. :6 of the Bulletin for :qq8q. See also Louis-
Jensen (:q86: z8).
q8
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tekstkritisk Betydning, optages de i et Variantapparat. I Ind-
ledningen skal Overleverings-historien saavidt muligt udre-
des, ogsaa med Benyttelse af Afskrifter, som ikke har tekst-
kritisk Vrd.
:8
In an article from :qo on a planned new edition of the corpus of
skaldic poetry, Jn states that Der er en rkke krav, der er saa velkend-
te, at der nppe er grund til at opholde sig ved dem (:qoa: :jo, there
are a number of requirements which are so well known that there is hardly
reason to dwell on them). He does mention one specically, however: re-
degrelser for haandskrifternes forhold til hverandre (an explication of
the manuscripts relationship to each other), which was, he adds, et emne
som overhovedet ikke blev berrt i den gamle udgave (a matter which
was not at all touched upon in the old edition). Den gamle udgave is Den
Norsk-Islandske Skjaldedigtning (:q:z) by Finnur Jnsson (:88:qj(),
professor of Old Norse Philology at the University of Copenhagen from
:8q8 (ekstraordinr; he became an ordinary professor in :q::) to :qz8.
In fact, Jn Helgasons textual-critical programme could be seen in many
ways as a reaction to that of his predecessor. Finnur was without doubt
one of the most prolic text editors of all time, producing over a fty-
year period editions of a huge number of works, often more than one.
Without him, many of these works would have remained (and in some
case would still remain) unavailable to the scholarly community, so we
can only be grateful for his industry, but there are very few of his edi-
tions, in particular the later ones, that could not have been better. What Jn
objected to in particular was Finnurs tendency to dismiss younger manu-
scripts, often without having actually examined them, as uden nogen som
helst selvstndig verdi (Finnur Jnsson :8868: xxix, entirely without
independent value), manuscripts which subsequent scholars, not infre-
quently Jn himself, have occasionally found to be very valuable indeed
:8 All the extant manuscripts will be investigated and the most original text identied.
If a saga exists in more than one redaction these will be printed separately. Where
there are minor variations between manuscripts with textual-critical value these will
be included in an apparatus. In the introduction the history of [the texts] transmission
will be claried as far as possible, also including copies which have no textual-critical
value.
qq
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M. J. Driscoll
(Jn Helgason :qj(a: :o).
:q
Jns insistence that the entire manuscript
tradition be investigated was simply a way of ensuring that one did not
overlook manuscripts with textual-critical value, as Finnur had done. This
does not make him a new philologist avant la lettre. As he made clear in
the passage cited above, the job of the editor should be to investigate the
manuscripts in order to see what they can tell us about a particular works
oldest form, not what they can tell us about themselves.
zo
Desmond Slays edition of Hrlfs saga kraka from:q6o can be taken as
a typical example of an Arnamagnan edition.
z:
Of the thirty-eight manu-
scripts of the saga known to him at the time, Slay eliminates all but twelve
as without authority for establishing the text of the saga (:q6ob: ().
:q Interestingly, Finnur Jnssons textual-critical programme seems to have been a re-
action to that of his predecessor: Konr Gslason. As he expressed it in his autobio-
graphy: Vi tgfur af sgum hef jeg fylgt eirri reglu a fylgja sem nst einu og
v elsta og besta, en aeins leirjetta a eftir rumhandritum, ar semau voru til;
en a blanda saman textunum og ba til r eim aaltexta, hef jeg liti alveg rngt.
En a geri Konr Njlutgfu sinni. Hann tk essa setnngu r einu handriti og
ara r hinu, og ttist ar me geta fengi frumtextann. En etta er hinn mesti mis-
skilningur; me hans afer komframtexti, semaldrei hefur til veri.(Finnur Jnsson
:qj6: ::, In editing sagas I have as a rule generally followed one [sc. manuscript], the
oldest and best, and only emended it [sc. the text] following other manuscripts where
[or: in so far as] they existed, but to mix texts together and make fromthema main text
I have always considered to be quite wrong. But this is what Konr did in his edition
of Njla. He took this sentence from one manuscript and that [sentence] from another
and thought that in this way he could get the original, but this is a great misunder-
standing; with his method a text was produced which had never [previously] existed).
Konrs afer was basically taking readings freely from a number of manuscripts,
principally Mruvallabk and some of the older fragments, but also isolated read-
ings from much younger manuscripts, chiey on the basis of his feeling for Icelandic
prose style, with no real account taken of the relationship between the manuscripts.
There is a story, doubtless apocryphal, that Konr lay on a sofa wearing a Turkish
fez and smoking a long pipe while his amanuensis read him out the variants, Konr
then choosing the one he thought sounded best.
zo Jn Helgason was certainly not unaware of, or uninterested in, the non-textual as-
pects of books, as evidenced by his various facsimile editions: Corpus codicum
Islandicorum VI (:qj(b), XV (:q(za) and XIX (:qob), Manuscripta Islandica IVII
(:q(66) and Early Icelandic manuscripts in fascimile (:q8); he also edited two
volumes, IV (:qj6) and VI (:q(zb), in the series Monumenta typographica Islandica.
z: Slays edition (:q6oa) was published as vol. : of Editiones Arnamagnan, Series B,
while the accompanying investigation of the manuscript tradition was presented in a
separate volume in Bibliotheca Arnamagnana (Slay :q6ob).
:oo
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These twelve were not all of equal value, however, and so he was able to
conne his attention to ve for practical purposes in textual reconstruc-
tion. Almost any one of these, he says, could be used as the basis for an
edition, but he chose AM z8 (to, while acknowledging that there was
no decisive reason for doing so. There is very little emendation of the
text, apart from obvious mistakes in spelling and grammar and where the
text as it stands makes no apparent sense. At the foot of the page there are
full variant readings from the other primary manuscripts. By comparing
these variants to the main text, Slay says in the introduction, it is possible
to make out the common original of all the manuscripts with considerable
certainty (Slay :q6oa: xi). This is, in other words, essentially a best-
text edition, the best text having been arrived at through the application
of the stemmatic method the best of both worlds, as it were, in which the
editor assembles all the evidence necessary to reconstruct the archetype
but without actually doing so. As Odd Einar Haugen has pointed out, the
Arnamagnan edition is thus in some ways a curious hybrid, one in which
the spirit of Lachmann reigns in the recension, the spirit of Bdier in the
text constitution (Haugen zooz: :o; cf. Haugen :qq( and his essay in this
volume).
Although the textual basis for Arnamagnan-type editions varies
somewhat from single unique manuscripts, representing a particular
kings saga compilation, for example, to best texts, generally with but
occasionally without variant apparatus, to multiple texts, either presented
in parallel (that is, two or more texts per page) or sequentially (one after
the other or in separate volumes) all are essentially of this same basic
type. Despite the insistence on an investigation of the entire manuscript
tradition, the underlying assumption remains the same: that what the ed-
itor is trying to do is to separate readings which are likely to be original
from those which are not, good readings from bad. Secondary ma-
nuscripts, that is, those demonstrably derived from others still extant, or
manuscripts containing demonstrably corrupt texts, are still dismissed as
without value. And even though the texts presented are based on single
manuscripts, little or no attention is paid to the physical artefacts them-
selves or the processes through which they have come into being. The
focus is still on the text in an abstract sense, and the search essentially
still is one for origins.
:o:
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M. J. Driscoll
So while the majority of Old Norse-Icelandic text editions produced in
the last seventy-ve years or so have arguably focused more on the text
than the work, none, so far as I can see, with the exception of Aal-
heiur Gumundsdttirs lfhams saga (zoo:),
zz
has taken the artefacts
themselves, the social, economic and intellectual factors of their produc-
tion, dissemination and reception, suciently into account to be called
new philological.
Everything But the Smell: Toward a More Artefactual Philology
Although the publication of the special edition of Speculum in :qqo con-
stituted, as was said, a call to arms, the battle for the new philology
has never really been fought nor has it needed to be, as the ideas put
forward in it were very much in the air, and few would now question
the notion that the text cannot be divorced from the physical form of
its presentation. For the most part, however, we continue to edit texts as
though it could. What ought the new- or material-philologically-inclined
editor to do? To start with, an editor ought to consider producing editions
of demonstrably corrupt, yet sociologically and historically interesting,
texts, including younger reworkings of older material and works hitherto
dismissed as spurious. There should also be a greater emphasis on the
editing of whole manuscripts, including compilations, miscellanies and
anthologies, despite their perceived lack of aesthetic order, rather than of
individual works taken out of context. First and foremost, however, he or
she must demonstrate an awareness of the manuscript as a cultural artefact
which among other things serves as a vehicle for a text. The most obvi-
ous way to do this is by striving to retain as many features of the original,
and introduce as little interpretation, as possible, thus allowing the reader
to appreciate the interplay between form and meaning. I am not talking
here about what E. Talbot Donaldson referred to as the editors wish for
zz See the discussion in Glauser et al. (zooz: z(jqq). Other editions which have
been identied, incorrectly in my view, as (proto-)new-philological include the Rit
rnastofnunar edition of Elucidarius (Firchowand Grimstad :q8q), according to Wolf
(:qqj: jjq), and the Svart hvtu editions of slendingasgur (Bragi Halldrsson and
Bergljt Kristjnsdttir :q86) and Sturlunga (Bergljt Kristjnsdttir et al. :q88),
according to Sverrir Tmasson (zooz: zoz, note ).
:oz
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non-existence (Donaldson :qo: :o).
zj
To such level-zero transcrip-
tions various levels of interpretation can, and indeed must, be added if an
edition is going to be of any use to the reader. But it should always be clear
what is actually written in the source, as distinct from however the editor
has decided this is to be interpreted; wherever one is, one must always be
able to get back to level zero. Fortunately, there is now a means of doing
precisely this: electronic texts using XML mark-up.
z(
Children learning mathematics at school are required to show their
workings; they should not, in other words, simply produce a (correct) res-
ult but also show the process by which this result was arrived at. Showing
ones workings seems to me to be something one should also be required
to do as an editor. It should be made clear any time there is any form of
interpretation. And by interpretation I mean not just corrections or emend-
ations to the text, but also relatively straightforward things such as the
expansion of abbreviations. One chooses spellings and letter-forms used
in expansions on the basis of the normal practice of the scribe in question,
but one cannot ever be absolutely certain that that is what the scribe would
have written if he had chosen to write the word out in full. And surely it
is signicant that the scribe did not choose to write out the word in full:
the (in our eyes) extensive use of abbreviations is so fundamental a part of
the process of manuscript writing and reading that I wonder whether we
should be expanding them at all.
In the :qqos, when textual scholars became aware of the possibilities of
producing electronic text editions, it was thought that such editions would
replace traditional paper-based editions, even as CDs were then replacing
vinyl, DVDs video and so on.
z
Some were even so bold as to pronounce
the imminent death of the printed book. Not only has this not happened, it
seems the book has never been as viable a medium as it is today. As far as
zj Greetham (:qq(: zq6) cites Donaldson as referring to this as the editorial death-
wish; while more poetic than wish for non-existence, this is unfortunately not what
Donaldson actually says.
z( I refer here in particular to the work of the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI); see www.tei-
c.org.
z The literature on electronic scholarly editing is extensive. Shillingsburg (:qq6) is par-
ticularly to be recommended, as is Shillingsburg (zoo6). Several recent articles by
Peter Robinson deal in particular with what has, and what has not, been achieved in
this area; see in particular Robinson (zoo() and Robinson (zoo).
:oj
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M. J. Driscoll
scholarly editions are concerned, the failure of the electronic edition ever
really to take o is due to a large extent, I have come to believe, to the in-
ability of textual scholars to see, and embrace, the real potential of digital
media, as doing so would inevitably involve relinquishing the more-or-
less total control textual scholars have tended to want to maintain over the
way in which their texts are presented. The majority of the electronic
texts produced in the last decade and a half have thus been static and read-
only, essentially trying to reproduce the printed text on the screen. At the
same time we have seen the rise of the interactive web, not least the phe-
nomenon of the wiki and social networking services such as MySpace
and Facebook what has collectively been termed Web z.o. So rather
than mere electronic versions of printed texts what we ought possibly to
be thinking of are interactive text archives, where the user determines to
a much greater extent the nature and scope of the content and how that
content is presented. I hasten to add that I am not suggesting that we re-
lax our scholarly rigour or compromise our philological principles, only
that we recognise that people may want to use our texts in ways other than
those we ourselves have envisaged. Zumthor, Cerquiglini and the new
philologists have all argued that textual instability (variance, mouvance,
unxedness) is so fundamental a feature of chirographically transmitted
texts that rather than trying to bring order to this chaos we should celebrate
it. Here, nally, we have a means of doing so.
:o(
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Bibliography
Abram, Christopher. zoo:. Scribal Authority in Skaldic Verse: rbjrn
hornklos Glymdrapa. Arkiv for nordisk lologi ::6: :q.
Aalheiur Gumundsdttir, ed. zoo:. lfhams saga. Rit rnastofnunar j.
Reykjavk: Stofnun rna Magnssonar.
Allen, Ralph J., trans. :qj6. The Saga of Gisli, Son of Sour. New York: Harcourt
Brace.
Almqvist, Bo. :q8q. Scandinavian and Celtic Folklore Contacts in the
Earldom of Orkney. Saga-Book of the Viking Society zo: 8o:o.
Andersson, Theodore M. :q6(. The Problem of Icelandic Saga Origins. A
Historical Survey. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.
Andersson, Theodore M. :q68. Some Ambiguities in Gsla saga: A Balance
Sheet. Bibliography of Old Norse-Icelandic Studies: (z.
Andersson, Theodore M. zoo6. The Growth of the Medieval Icelandic Sagas
(113a1z3a). Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Arnold, Matthew. :88o. General Introduction. In The English Poets. ( vols.
Ed. Thomas Humphrey Ward, I: :(. London: Macmillan.
gst Gumundsson, director. :q8:. tlaginn. Reykjavk: Nmsgagnastofnun,
frslumyndadeild.
rmann Jakobsson. zoo(. Some Types of Ambiguities in the Sagas of the
Icelanders. Arkiv for nordisk lologi ::q: jj.
rni Bvarsson. :q:. ttur um mlfristrf Eggerts Olafssonar. Skrnir
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rni Bvarsson and Bjarni Vilhjlmsson, eds. :q(. Inntak ur sogutti af
smundi agag. In slenzkar jsogur og vintyri. Vol. I: :6j:.
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Baird, Joseph L. :qo. Unferth the yle. Medium vum jq: ::z.
Barmby, Beatrice. :qoo. Gsli Sursson. A Drama. Ballads and Poems of the Old
Norse Days and Some Translations [with a Preface by F. York Powell].
London: Constable.
Barmby, Beatrice, trans. Matthas Jochumsson. :qoz. Gsli Sursson. Sjnleikur.
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Barmby :qoo].
z8q
(General)
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