The z text of Laxdæla saga – a philological experiment

  • Haukur Þorgeirsson


The manuscripts of Laxdæla saga were divided by Kristian Kålund into an x class and a y class. The y class manuscripts include Möðruvallabók, the only medieval manuscript to preserve the complete saga and the basis of all editions so far. The z text has never been edited as a whole and the present article is an investigation into how such an edition might be brought into being. Only some 43% of the saga text is preserved in vellum fragments of the z class but there are paper manuscripts which preserve the z text as a whole. The early editors of the saga regarded the text of these paper manuscripts as too poor in quality to serve as the basis of an edition. This contention is empirically tested here by studying the part of the saga preserved in the oldest vellum fragment, the 13th century D2. The text of that fragment is compared with the corresponding text in five manuscripts which preserve the saga as a whole. Word-level Levenshtein distance is used as the comparison metric and the results are published in table 1 while a stemma of the five manuscripts appears in figure 1. The main result is that the 17th century paper manuscript AM 158 fol. is, by a large margin, the manuscript which has the most similar text to the oldest fragment. It would be a suitable basis for an edition of the z text.