“Hvorki glansar gull á mér / né glæstir stafir í línum”

Some observations on Íslendingasögur manuscripts and the case of Njáls saga


  • Emily Lethbridge


This article surveys the extant pre-Reformation parchment manuscript evidence for the Íslendingasögur. The first half of the article focuses on the manuscript tradition of Njáls saga, noting how the preservation of this saga in some manuscripts – where it is the sole text – seems to be anomalous when compared with that of other Íslendingasögur in pre-Reformation parchment manuscripts. In the second half of the article, the focus is broadened and the extent to which the nature of the material preservation of Íslendingasögur has a bearing on the modern critical reception of individual narratives, and on notions of genre and ‘the canon’ more widely, is considered. Finally, some ways in which the manuscript evidence can give us insights into how the sagas have been read and understood over time are touched on.