A Manuscript from Purkey

A number of previously uncatalogued – and in some cases unknown – manuscripts containing fornaldarsögur have recently been investigated as part of the project.


F. 1r of a manuscript from Purkey containing a text of 'Hrólfs saga kraka'.

One, which is still in private ownership, contains a text of Hrólfs saga kraka (ff. 1r-42v), written by Skúli Þ. Sívertsen í Hrappsey (1835-1912) and completed, according to the colophon, on the 17th of October – though of which year is not stated – and "vinsamlegast tileinkud Jóni Jónssyni í Purkey" (graciously dedi- cated to Jón Jónsson in Purkey). Following this are two texts written in a different hand, Hektors saga og kappa hans (ff. 45r-77r), one of the indigenous riddarasögur, and Sagan af Marroni sterka (ff. 77-107v), one of several romances attributed to the clergyman Jón Oddsson Hjaltalín (1749-1835). The latter ends with the colophon "Párað í flítir ár 1875 af 14–25–18, fyrir Jón Jónsson–á–Purkeý'"(Scribbled in haste in the year 1875 by 14–25–18, for Jón Jónsson in Purkey). "14–25–18" is a cipher for "O Þ S" – the numbers refer to the position of the letters in the alphabet – and the scribe has been identified as Ólafur Þorgeirsson í Skáley (1826-94), who uses the same cipher in colophons in the manuscript Lbs 1943 4to, which also contains texts of several fornaldarsögur, but writes his name in full on the title page.

As stated in the two colophons, the manuscript was written for "Jón Jónsson", presumably the elder of two men with that name, father and son, from the island Purkey in Breiðafjörður. The elder Jón (1812-88) was the head of a very large household, numbering, according to the census of 1880, twenty-six, and had a significant collection of manuscripts, many of which have remained in the family.

The text of Hrólfs saga kraka derives from Rafn’s edition, as demonstrated by Desmond Slay in his article "More manuscripts of Hrólfs saga kraka" from 1981.

The elder Jón and his son and namesake (1857-1927) were clearly not averse to lending their manuscripts to others. On f. 44r, one of several blank leaves following the text of Hrólfs saga, a certain Sigurður Guðmundsson has written "Jeg þakka þjer firir bókarlánið Jón minn í Purkey" (I thank you for the loan of the book, my [friend] Jón í Purkey), while on f. 108v, also originally blank, another hand has written "Þakka þjer kjærlega fyrir lánið á bókinni góði frændi, 10. Febrúar 1903, Jóhannes Magnússon, Stykkishólmi" (Thank you kindly for the loan of this book, dear kinsman, 10 February 1903, Jóhannes Magnússon, Stykkishólmur), and below that, in the same hand, "Jón Jónsson í Purkey á þessa bók með rjettu og er vel að henni komin, 10. Febrúar 1903" (Jón Jónsson in Purkey is the rightful owner of this book and is deserving of it, 10 February 1903).

This tradition has clearly continued to the present day: the manuscript’s current owner, the elder Jón’s great-grandson, Einar Karlsson in Stykkishólmur, graciously sent it to Reykjavík – carefully wrapped in a pillowcase – so that we could examine it and have it photographed at Landsbókasafn.

Sjöfn Kristjánsdóttir & Matthew Driscoll, 25 November 2011.