A lecture presenting the history of Iceland's manuscripts http://gateway.uvic.ca/beck/media/text/saga-heritage.html


was invited to Iceland in the year 2000 to give four lectures, one of them on the seventh centenary of Dante Alighieri's Commedia, whose date, in its fiction, is March 25, 1300, the year of the first Roman Jubilee. A fact which was forgotten in Florence and in Rome, but not at Columbia University in America nor in Reykjavík, Iceland. Though this is the ancients' Ultima Thule, their most distant land.

I am a medievalist but my father and my brother both worked at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome, so awareness of global ecology became a facet of my medieval research. At Princeton in the English Department I taught William Langland's Piers Plowman and Thomas More's Utopia as literary texts, but the Sahel Famine was deeply troubling my brother at FAO who asked that I bring that awareness also to Princeton. My students and I initiated together a course called 'Problems in World Hunger' which we taught in the Woodrow Wilson School and which continued many years after, in which I also included Piers Plowman, Utopia and Lynn White Jr's Medieval Technology and Social Change. Langland describes the poverty of women living in hovels with not enough for their children to eat, rack-rented by landlords, More describes the 'sheep eating the people', the Cistercian monks converting arable farmland to sheep grazing as more profitable for themselves, the wool going to Florence, the people, in losing access to land, starving. Lynn White Jr's son, Lynn T. White III, who taught in our course, applied those observations to modern China, combining them with Clifford Geertz's work on 'Agricultural Involution', about the delicacy and efficacy of wet rice culture at a time when America was bombing rice paddies in Vietnam. Together we founded and worked closely with OxFam-America and stressed the need for Gandhian village level changes, Schumacher's 'Small is Beautiful', the breast-feeding of babies, women's tree-planting projects (being vindicated in this with Kenyan environmentalist and human rights campaigner Wangari Maathai winning the Nobel Peace Prize), handcrafts, rather than massive technological 'fixes'.

Árni Magnusson Institute, Reykjavik, Jónsbók, c. 1400. Gl.kgl.sml.3269.

When I became Director of Medieval Studies at the University of Colorado this awareness continued and was presented in my lectures. One of my students, Philip Roughton, then went to China where he taught Beowulf and 'The Dream of the Rood'; next he went to Iceland to study not the pagan sagas but the Christian manuscripts among their treasures. It was Philip Roughton who invited me to Reykjavík and I stayed in the house of Jónas Kristjánson, Iceland's greatest scholar, Phil taking me also to Skálholt and to Thingvellir.

Richard St Barbe Baker, whom I knew when I was a child, said that trees are earth's skin, and that when there is less than a third, one cannot survive. As I walked to Mass in Iceland each morning I would pass a cemetery. Very beautiful it was and very strange because the great birch trees would gnarl themselves about the tombs. In Iceland there are no trees, the sheep having eaten them. Except in cemeteries, where, protected, they flourish. So I asked Kristín Bragadóttir of Iceland's National Library Preservation Section to have them photographed for me. These are taken by her husband, Sveinn Magnússon. Iceland's population is so small that surnames are one's father's Christian, followed by 'dottir' for the daughter, 'son' for the son.


Photographs, Sveinn Magnússon

Yet when the Irish, who were here before the Vikings, came, this island was filled with great forests, apart from the glaciers and the magma. The Vikings came next, with dairy farming and sheep herding, clearing the forests for a high protein diet, where the Irish hermits had been content with fishing, growing leeks and beans, and living in huts with their bells and their books. The Vikings used the timber clearing from the forests for building their houses, their ships, and marauded other lands, bringing back Irish Christian slaves. Genetically, Icelanders are more Irish than Viking, though linguistically theirs is the purest form the English language has, as it would have been before the Norman Conquest, again wrought by Vikings who this time had settled in France and whose children grew up speaking the French of their raped mothers. For the Vikings in the next generation with a veneer of Christianity from conversion, as Normans from Scandinavia, England, Normandy and Sicily, would become the dreaded 'Crusaders' of the Holy Land. One creates a warrior caste through trauma conquest and with it a terrible generational backlash. Violence begets violence.

Philip Roughton at Skálholt, Site of the Archbishop's Execution. Note absence of trees.

Execution Site at Skálholt, Volcanic Mount Hecla. Note absence of trees

Phil in front of Mount Hecla

Iceland's horses are the size of ponies. Note absence of trees.

William Thomas, in 'Why Ecology Requires Economics', reviewing Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, writes that:

The Vikings reached the Orkney Islands by 800 A.D, Iceland by 870, Greenland by 980, and 'Markland' Labrador) and 'Vinland' (America) by 1000.

They brought their own mode of life, focused on dairy farming and herding sheep. Colonies in the Orkney and Faroe Islands thrived. In Iceland, the Norse hung on, barely surviving severe erosion problems and the cold climate of the 'Little Ice Age' (1400-1800). In 'Vinland,' they retreated in the face of superior numbers of angry natives, whom they called 'Skraelings'. In Greenland, they settled, lived for nearly 500 years, but died in the Little Ice Age, cut off from Europe by sea ice and probably slaughtered by the Inuit people who expanded southward with the spreading cold.

Diamond focuses on Greenland in part because it offers a scene of white Europeans failing and dying for mostly environmental reasons. But the Greenland Norse also exemplify the power of culture and human choices. Like the Norse in Iceland, the Greenland Norse overgrazed and deforested the few areas that were not beneath glaciers. The differences in their fates were due to several factors that Diamond recounts: Iceland was closer to Norway, so it received much more trade from Europe. When the Little Ice Age came, sea ice prevented ships from reaching or leaving Greenland, cutting it off from its main source of timber, Labrador. Diamond rightly criticizes the Greenlanders for attacking the Inuits rather than learning from them how to hunt seals under the ice, build igloos, and otherwise survive in the cold. But the real key to their fate, the real difference between Greenland and Iceland, was that, for unknown reasons, the Greenlanders refused to eat fish. Fish there were in plenty, and the Icelanders lived off the fisheries and sold dried fish to Europe. But the Norse Greenlanders appear to have starved when they could no longer raise enough hay to feed their cows, while fish abounded all around them.

The Greenlanders, Diamond and Thomas tell us, failed to shift cultural paradigms, though it had become suicidal not to. Bede tells us similarly of the pagan Saxons in Sussex starving and suiciding during a three-year drought until taught by St Wilfrid to fish. The pagan Icelandic inhabitants most likely were taught how to fish by their Christian Irish slaves. Christ's disciples were fishermen. The tragedy today is that we have over-fished the oceans with our massive technology largely to feed our pets. There used to be a word for preserving resources. It was 'to husband', where the husband, to preserve the species, his wife and children, did not indulge in 'instant gratification' but instead spun out the resources as needed with planning for the future. Medieval texts and images tell of and show the seas teeming with fish.

Men tend naturally to be hunters, then nomadic cattle herders, while women are gatherers, then agriculturalists, experimenting with the plantings of seeds. The American Plains abounded with bison, sustaining the native peoples, until the white man with his rifle over-slaughtered the herds. It is essential to conserve seed, for example, to hold back the seed potatoes for the next year's planting, rather than the instant gratification of consumption. Judaism is a blend of the nomadic cattle herders of Exodus and the wheat and vine cultivation carried out in the Promised Land by the Canaanites, Philistines, Palestinians, themselves genetically Semites, who later converted to Christianity and Islam. The Sabbath and the Jubilee both built into the rhythm of life the need to conserve, rather than consume, to be prepared in readiness with food and other tasks for the seventh day when no work could be done, and the seven times seventh year when all land was to lie fallow, debts be forgiven and slaves freed. Christ substituted for the bloody animal sacrifices in the Temple the blessing of Canaanite lights by the woman, bread and wine by the man, in the family home, which he would have learned from his parents, Mary and Joseph. In the Synagogue at Nazareth he read that passage from Isaiah proclaiming the Jubilee (Luke 4.18-19). Christianity became the 'religion of women and slaves', because the emphasis of Christ's ministry and his miracles was for the excluded, women, children, Samaritans, Canaanites, lepers, cripples, the blind.

Celtic legends have Helen, mother of Constantine be a British slave concubine to Constans, who bears the future Emperor in York A.D. 274. When Constans died in York, 302, Constantine elevated his mother to be Empress and throughout Christendom, East and West, the Madonna and Child are shown as togaed Empress and Emperor, the conquered conquering their conquerors. In England, queens converted their husbands and their kingdoms to this new religion, already practised in the British Isles by the now-conquered Celts. On Iceland the Irish Christian slaves seem to have persuaded their Viking but republican owners to similarly change, for in the year 1000, at Iceland's Althing at Thingvellir, its great outdoor annual Parliament, Iceland's Republic converted to Christianity.

Thingvellir where the Althing would meet, Icelandic families, women and children as well as men, camping here.

In that year Guthrithyr went first to Greenland, then Vinland (America), where she bore a child, then returned to Iceland where she became an anchoress, then went on pilgrimage to Rome. Iceland for a while flourished, still having sufficent wood for building its ships and one finds thirteenth-century Icelandic maps of the world, its ocean on the other side ('Synn bygd'), and of Jerusalem ('Jorsala-Borg'), showing its buildings with incongruously gabled snow roofs.

Iceland sent its ordinands to study theology at St Victor in Paris and maintained the highest scholarly standards, its clergy and laity treasuring books, which is from their Irish, not their Viking tradition, for which with the livestock rearing they had plenty of parchment, writing out their pagan and their Christian legends. By the fourteenth century the forests were gone, no ships could be built and no ships came, so that the Black Death did not reach Iceland until 1402-1404, some fifty years after its devastation throughout the rest of Europe.

Iceland was forced to become Protestant, its last Catholic Archbishop Jon Aresson executed at Skálholt, 1550. It came under the colonial domination of Denmark which forbade the Icelandic language, took away her manuscripts, taxed her for its own benefit, and, subjected also to volcanic devastation in 1783-86, Iceland lapsed into greater and greater poverty, surviving only by fishing and sheep herding, its sheep now genetically producing the softest and warmest wool. In the seventeenth century the Danish scholar Arni Magnusson sought out these manuscripts, collecting them for his library in Coopenhagen, most of them being lost in the great fire there in 1728. What remained was preserved by the Arnimagnaean Commission established by his Will bequeathing the surviving collection to the University of Copenhagen. In 1918-1944 Iceland became free of Denmark and eventually in 1971 half of her manuscripts were t be returned to her, now under the care of the Stofnun Árna Magnússonar á Ísland, in Reykjavik, the other half being preserved in Copenhagen. Iceland's former President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, whom I used to see on my daily walks to Mass in Reykjavík, her house being nearby, said:

We feel it to be both an honour and a duty to let people around the world know that we have an independent, ancient and thriving culture. Some nations have cities and cathedrals to remind people of their past - we Icelanders have old manuscripts and books. For us, these have the same value as monuments in other parts of the world, because they represent the first enshrinement of the culture which still lives among us and thrives.

Njals saga, the manuscript called the 'grey-skinned one', for being covered with sealskin, 1300. Árni Magnusson Institute, Gl.kgl.sml.2870.

Egil, who would go berserk, one eye up, the other down, as shown in this manuscript, but who could also compose exquisite poetry. From 17th century manuscript at Árni Magnusson Institute, AM 426.

Amongst Iceland's ancient books are the Njals saga and the Egils saga, the first about bloodfeuding (reminding one of Mafia vendettas) that as suddenly ends with peaceable pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the second about a warrior who is also a consummate poet. Iceland's great modern Nobel Prize winning author was Hálldor Laxness, whose Independent People describes the stupidity and resulting poverty of sheperds addicted to the foreign cash-crop coffee, while Iceland's Bell, translated by my once-student Philip Roughton, describes the loss of Iceland's freedom to Denmark. We find in the pages of Iceland's Bell the historical pilgrim figure of Guthrithyr. And she may well be the answer to this riddle. Lynn White, Jr., blamed religion for ecological disaster. But it was Protestantism that expelled the Madonna and Child. Instead, Catholicism, until recently, kept the image of the nurturing, then grieving, Mother. She had been present on Iceland from 1000 until the Lutherans executed her Archbishop in 1550.

Árni Magnusson Institute, Ecclesiastical Calendar, 1350, AM 249.

Similarly, we see an ecological awareness in Hildegard of Bingen's final manuscript, the Liber Divinorum Operum. Christianity was the religion of 'women and slaves' until the Greco-Arabic universities of the twelfth century, where theology came to be officially taught in lecture halls, the newly invented university think-tanks, from which women were excluded, though they had written theology in monasteries for centuries until that time. When Christianity allowed itself to be conquered by its conquerors (instead of its conquered), the effect upon our 'Mother Earth' was devastating. Another Scandinavian woman, Birgitta of Sweden, now Co-Patroness of Europe, begged that the Church return to what was natural, a word that in Anglo-Saxon is 'kind'. Even pagan Rome had argued for the need to protect the weak. Today, the creed is greed, about exploitation, a misreading of Machiavelli and of Darwin, no longer about nurturing and learning. We live in a 'theatre of cruelty', where the oppressed mirror back to the oppressor their violence, just as much as does the anorexic mirror back to the power-wielders their failure to nurture. Images of the Madonna and Child even are now gone from Catholic churches, a movement which has been observed to take place by anthropologists at precisely the moment when babies became bottle-fed.

Northern Lights above active Icelandic volcano, April 2010

In Iceland one can find volcanic magma next to glittering glacial ice. Hot water, in Iceland, comes from the tap with a smell of sulphur. It is naturally heated water, Iceland's homes similarly being heated from its natural resources. A magnificent glacier waterfall at Gullfoss was eyed by business as a source of energy. Sigríđur Tómasdóttir of Brattholt, born in 1871, with no formal education but well read, did everything in her power to save these Falls from exploitation. The year following her 1978 death, the Ministry of Culture and Education signed an agreement creating a nature reserve around Gullfoss. Though Sigríđur Tómasdóttir succeeded posthumously in saving Gullfoss, the Kárahnjúkar hydro-electric dam project in Iceland has started in earnest. The dam will devastate Western Europe's last pristine wilderness, solely to power an Alcoa aluminium smelter. We might suggest that for an improved ecology in the world we should 'Listen to Women for a Change'. Such as the message of Kenyan's Nobel Peace Prize winner, Wangari Maathai, who has taken up Richard St Barbe Baker's challenge, that we plant trees to save the earth. Certainly, women's perspectives need to be taught in the lecture halls of seminaries for Catholicism to recover what has been so badly eroded from the nurturing 'religion of women and slaves', the oikos, from which come our words 'Oecumene' and 'Ecology', of its magnificent past. For Catholicism, for Christianity, should be Mary's 'Magnificat' and St Francis' Canticles. All Creation is sacred.

Gulfoss glacier falls


Bede. Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Harmondwworth: Penguin, 1990.
Kristín Bragadóttir, National Library, Reykjavík 'Notti bianche d'Islanda a Firenze: William Morris e Daniel Willard Fiske/ Northern Lights in Florence: William Morris and Daniel William Fiske'.http://www.florin.ms/gimeld.html.
Jared Diamond. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. New York: Viking Penguin, 2005.
Egils saga. Trans. Hermann Pálsson and Paul Edwards. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1976.
Clifford Geertz. Agricultural Involution: The Processes of Ecological Change in Indonesia. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969/1990.
Hildegard of Bingen. Liber Divinorum Operum. Ed. A. Derolez and P. Dronke. Turnholt: Brepols, 1996. Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediavalis 92.
Jonas Kristjansson. Iceland and Its Manuscripts. Preface, President of Iceland, Vigdis Finnbogadottir. Reykjavík: Stofnun Árna Magnússonar á Ísland, 1989.
William Langland. Piers Plowman. Trans. J.F. Goodrich. Harmondworth: Penguin, 1966.
Halldór Laxness. Iceland's Bell. Trans. Philip Roughton. New York: Vintage, 2003.
________. Independent People. Trans. J.A. Thompson. New York: Vintage, 1997.
Joachim Lelewel. Géographie du Moyen Age. Brussels, 1849-1857. 5 vols., atlas.
Thomas More. Utopia. Trans. Paul Turner. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1965.
Njals saga. Trans. Magnus Magnusson and Herman Pálsson, Harmondwworth: Penguin, 1960.
Svanhildur Óskarsdóttir, Arni Magnusson Institute, Reykjavík. http://www.florin.ms/alephd.html. 'The Bible in Icelandic for Nuns'
Ernst Friedrich Schumacher. Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered. New York: Harper and Row, 1973.
William Thomas. 'Why Ecology Requires Economics'. Review of Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. http://www.objectivistcenter.org/navigator/articles/nav+wthomas_jared-diamond.asp
Lynn White, Jr. Medieval Technology and Social Change. New York: Oxford University Press, 1966.

Lecture presenting the history of Iceland's manuscripts

To see this review with the correct diacritical marks, please see the TMR web archive: https://scholarworks.iu.edu/journals/index.php/tmr/article/view/30676

Lethbridge, Emily, and Svanhildur Óskarsdóttir, eds. New Studies in the Manuscript Tradition of Njáls saga: The historia mutila of Njála. The Northern Medieval World: On the Margins of Europe. Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 2018. Pp. xxvi, 332. ISBN: 978-158044-305-0.

   Reviewed by Andrew McGillivray
        University of Winnipeg

Njáls saga is certainly the longest and possibly the most-beloved of all the Íslendingasögur, the Sagas of Icelanders. Njála, as it is commonly referred to, has attracted readers for centuries, and the scholarly contributions amount to many hundreds of articles, if not thousands, dozens of books, and many scholarly, popular, diplomatic, and translated editions. New Studies in the Manuscript Tradition of Njáls saga has made a unique contribution to this critical tradition, concentrating on the transmission of the saga in its numerous manuscripts over the past seven hundred years. Perhaps most notably, once the reader has spent some time with the book, they will agree with Svanhildur Óskarsdóttir, who claims in the volume's introduction, in relation to the ongoing work done by the volume's contributors, that the book "is in no way an exhaustive account of all the work that has already been done, nor of individual findings" (xiv). Each of the authors, instead, showcases one aspect of their continuing contribution to studies on the manuscript tradition of Njáls saga.

In the volume's opening chapter, Svanhildur Óskarsdóttir and Emily Lethbridge provide a summary of published editions of Njáls saga, providing some detail about each edition's editorial principles and critical apparatus. There is inconsistency among editions, as there are among the saga's manuscripts. The authors then describe two of the oldest manuscripts of the saga. The chapter serves to introduce readers to how scribal taste affects the saga narrative on multiple levels, and, similarly, how editorial choices influence modern readers' experiences of the saga.  Readers are encouraged to adopt a shared understanding that there are multiple Njáls saga versions, both old and new. The version each person knows, at any time, is the version to which they have access.

Beeke Stegmann presents a case for the Reykjabók manuscript as the product of scribal collaboration, or at least contemporary scribal interaction, between the main scribe and a second scribe. The argument is presented with the support of a paleographical analysis of the distinctive orthographical characteristics of the two scribes, the main scribe responsible for the prose text and the stanzas found embedded within it and the second scribe responsible for additional stanzas found in the margins as well as other elements of the paratext, including the rubrics. This interpretation receives further support from a multispectral analysis, and concludes that there was an "intentional division of labor" (49) during manuscript production. Paratextual elements may in fact have been pre-determined and not added after-the-fact. Such planning then enabled readers to pick and choose when to incorporate the paratext into their reading, or when to leave it out.

Emily Lethbridge's chapter focuses on the production, provenance, and repairs made to Gráskinna, a manuscript that solely houses Njála. The chapter provides a thorough description of the manuscript's condition, including its production and subsequent history. Gráskinna is presented as a hybrid text of Njála, curiously foreshadowing some later scholarly editions of the saga from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Lethbridge points out the distinctiveness of the manuscript, one feature its small size, another the energy put into repairing the manuscript in the late-medieval period. This chapter reminds readers of the need to study the manuscript object just as carefully as its text in order to glean information about its social history.

Bjarni Gunnar Ásgeirsson's contribution to the volume concentrates on the little-studied but textually-unique Sveinsbók manuscript, its origins and relation to other manuscripts. Specifically, Bjarni updates the position of Sveinsbók in Einar Ólafur Sveinsson's stemma for Njála manuscripts, which were based on the latter's own corrections of the late-nineteenth century readings of the manuscript by Eiríkur Jónsson. Einar Ólafur initially placed Sveinsbók correctly in the stemma, Bjarni argues, but then changed his mind, so Bjarni essentially revises the positioning of the Sveinsbók fragments to Einar Ólafur's initial arrangement. Bjarni also focuses on instances in the Sveinsbók fragments where the text has been abridged, amended, or amplified. Occasionally, readings from Sveinsbók are useful in clarifying how specific passages of the Njála narrative were received by redactors: for example, Sveinsbók amplifies Christian elements in the text while reducing its legal aspects.

Haraldur Bernhardsson evaluates scribal variation in six fourteenth-century manuscripts in his chapter, in particular how individual scribes might have adapted the language of Njála to their own local or contemporary language. As scribes were copying a saga from an exemplar, they would process the exemplar's language and instinctively compare it to their own, so scribes would occasionally need to choose whether to adjust the text to confer with their own grammar, or leave it as it is in the exemplar. Haraldur's analysis supports a conclusion that there were variations of Icelandic in fourteenth-century Iceland, perhaps subtle regional dialects, and he also confirms that scribes did modify exemplar texts based on their own linguistic sense.

Ludger Zeevaert's chapter investigates synchronic linguistic variation across fourteenth-century Njála manuscripts as it pertains to the historical present tense. The historical present tense has been a contested subject over recent decades, with critics' findings often contradicting one another. Zeevaert contributes to the debate by suggesting there might be a correlation between the use of the historical present tense and the need for economy in scribal practice. Vellum was expensive, and medieval Icelandic had a function for abbreviating the present tense but not the past tense. As copies were made from exemplars abbreviations were used when possible, and when further copies were made scribes might expand abbreviations into the present or past tenses, depending on their own interpretations of the syntax.

Alaric Hall and Ludger Zeevaert then explore the post-medieval manuscript tradition of Njáls saga and reassess Einar Ólafur Sveinsson's stemma of the medieval manuscript tradition; the result is a charting of the saga's transmission through time. A primary contribution of this chapter is its discussion of *Gullskinna, a now-lost exemplar from which a large group of post-medieval manuscripts descend. *Gullskinna would have been one of the most popular manuscripts of Njála in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, due to its many descendants, while, interestingly, the surviving medieval manuscripts appear to have been copied much less frequently during this period, or, at least, far fewer copies of those other medieval manuscripts survive.

Margrét Eggertsdóttir similarly reports on the post-medieval transmission of Njála. Like Hall and Zeevaert, above, Margrét considers the popularity of the lost *Gullskinna manuscript and its many copies, the former surviving only until about 1640. Margrét introduces Jón Gissursson (1590-1648) as the possible owner of *Gullskinna and contends that he might have been the person who added gold clasps to the manuscript, leading to its name as *Gullskinna (Gold-skin). In the eighteenth century, however, the social conditions of manuscript production shifted. Whereas in the seventeenth century many scribes are known by name, belonged to the upper class of Icelandic society, and were often sons of priests, by the eighteenth century most scribes are unknown, and thus not part of the upper class. The *Gullskinna version and its descendants, Margrét concludes, are textually conservative, revealing that post-medieval manuscripts of Njála generally respected the versions of the saga presented in the early vellums, though among the later manuscripts there are additional verses, and, in some cases, illustrations added to the saga text.

Susanne M. Arthur contributes a chapter about the reception and readership of Njála. The best indicators for how a work has been received, she claims, are found as marginalia and other paratextual features added by saga readers. Marginalia indicate how readers reacted to specific passages or characters, and rubrics indicate how a text was thought to divide into parts or chapters (divisions which vary from manuscript to manuscript, made either by the scribe or early readers). Additionally, marginalia can occasionally supplement the text with geographical, biographical, or historical information. Some manuscripts also contain nonverbal commentary, including passages that have, for example, been underlined by readers to demonstrate emphasis, or--common in paper manuscripts--bracketing of passages or numbering in the margins. Different manuscripts are marked up in different ways due to variable sensibilities and tastes among the saga's wide readership.

Thorsteinn Árnason Surmeli examines illustrations of Njáls saga characters in the Lbs 747 fol. manuscript, the youngest extant manuscript that includes the saga, dated to the first half of the 1870s. The manuscript and its illustrations were made by Gudlaugur Magnússon (1848-1917). Gudlaugur most likely used a printed edition of the saga as his exemplar, specifically the 1844 edition printed on Videy, itself based on the 1772 Copenhagen edition by Ólafur Olavius. Lbs 747 fol. includes 21 images, drawn in pencil and filled in with watercolor paints and colored pen. Thorsteinn contends that the images were intentionally placed within chapters, and not in between chapters, and in fact within sentences, so that readers/viewers have to incorporate the images into their experience of the narrative. The narrative is thus presented in parallel media, image and text, affecting the reading experience accordingly. In some cases the illustrations foreshadow events that come later in the saga; in others they add to characterization.

The volume concludes with an inventory of all Njála manuscripts, compiled by Susanne M. Arthur and Ludger Zeevaert. This is followed by a useful key to the many nicknames of Njáls saga manuscripts, which also has indicators for where to find each manuscript in the inventory compiled by Arthur and Zeevaert. The book includes twenty-nine impressive color plates which supplement the many black and white images found embedded within the chapters. Some plates present images and details from manuscripts whereas others present colored graphs presenting data from specific chapters. Especially noteworthy are the eight plates corresponding to Thorsteinn Árnason Surmeli's chapter, which provide readers of the volume with a selection of the Lbs 747 fol. illustrations.

The book's apparatus is extensive, including tables of contents for the dozens of figures and illustrations found within the chapters, bibliographies for both primary and secondary sources, and two indices at the end, one for manuscripts and one for works, personal names, and place names. Even though the book focuses on the manuscript tradition of Njáls saga, it is important reading for any researchers interested in the saga, even if they are only working with modern editions or translations, as it provides a social and material history for the saga's transmission. New Studies in the Manuscript Tradition of Njáls saga will most importantly serve as an essential reference for scholars working on manuscripts of the saga, and it also contributes an important model for future work that can be carried out on other medieval Icelandic texts.​



A Statement from Kárahnjúkar Protest Camp

We have gathered to protest the continuing devastation of global ecology in the interest of corporate profits. We have come here to tip the balance of a struggle portrayed to be national, while actually being much larger: from the Narmada Dams in India, to the proposed Ilisu Dam in Turkey, the story is one of big business and oppressive government . The struggle to save our planet, like the struggle against inhumanity, is global, so we have to be too. We’re here to prevent the Kárahnjúkar Dam project from destroying Western Europe’s last great wilderness.

The industrialization of Iceland’s natural resources will not only devastate vast landscapes of great natural beauty and scientific importance, but impair species such as reindeer, seals and fish, and the already endangered pink-footed goose and several other bird species. Through this mindless vandalism against nature, the Icelandic tourist industry will also be affected and the health and quality of life of the Icelandic people. This industrialization will bring pollution such as Iceland has not seen before. Sulphur dioxide, Nitrogen, and many other chemicals used to process aluminium, are all products of the unnecessary and short-sighted profit-driven environmental barbarism of the aluminium industry. Under the burden of Kárahnjúkar, only one of many dams planned, rivers will choke, and people will choke.

If this dam goes ahead, it will pave the way for similar dams of glacial rivers all over the Icelandic highlands; Thjórsárver (protected by the international treaty of Ramsar), Langisjór (one of Europe´s most beautiful lakes), the rivers in the Skagafjördur region and Skjálfandafljót. All just to generate energy for aluminium corporations. If this will be allowed to happen Iceland will face the same sad fate as other global communities, which have suffered under similar projects.

Across the world, people are coming together to oppose the blatant lies, corruption and oppression generated by corporations and governments alike. In this spirit, we are asking that all those opposing the Kárahnjúkar Dam organize or partake in solidarity actions globally or locally.

The world isn’t dying, it is being killed – there is no excuse for silence.

From Wikipedia:


The dams have been the frequent subject of protests by environmentalists for many reasons.[12] The area is within the second largest (formerly) unspoiled wilderness in Europe and covers about 1,000 square kilometres (390 sq mi) in total and the rivers that supply water to the project are part of Europe's largest glacier, Vatnajökull. The project as a whole has also been criticised heavily in the book Draumalandiđ and subsequent 2009 documentary Dreamland. About 70% of the workforce was composed of foreign workers.[13] For the construction of Kárahnjúkar Hydropower Plant in East Iceland, five dams in two glacial rivers created three reservoirs, that together flooded over 440,000 acres of unspoilt Highland territory. The megastructure is on a scale like nothing the nation has seen before or since and, as such, has been a constant source of protest and controversy due to the landscapes irretrievably lost.[14] The total affected area according to the environmental impact assessment, outlines that a total of 3,000 sq km or 741,316 acres were affected by the project's construction. That is approximately 3% of Iceland's total land mass.[15]


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