From Manuscript to Received Text - Völuspá
Those not previously familiar with philology are sometimes
surprised by the wealth of interpretations and versions of
various ancient poems. A perfectly natural question arises:
"What are the exact words of the original and where can I
get a straightforward translation of it?"
But it's actually just there that the problems start.
Many ancient texts exist in several versions and while
one is often considered the 'best' it may not be the best
in all respects and other versions may have to be taken
Take the Völuspá. It has three lines of preservation.
It is recorded in the Codex Regius manuscript. Another
version is found in the younger Hauksbók (Hawk's book)
manuscript. And finally a large part of it is preserved
in Snorri's Edda.
The Edda, in turn, exists in various quite different
manuscripts and there are differences in the Völuspá
strophes preserved there.
From these pieces scholars construct a version for the
general reader. Usually the Codex Regius text is taken
as the 'base' with the other sources used for corrections
and additions. Let's take some specific examples.
For one of the strophes Codex Regius has this text:
Þar mvno eptir
þers i ardaga
A quick translation: "There will again be found in the grass
wondrous golden tablets - those which they had in days of yore."
The Hauksbók, on the other hand, has this text:
Þa munu æser
i grasi finna
þærs i aardaga
A quick translation: "Then the gods will find wondrous golden
tablets in the grass - those which they had in days of yore."
Both versions are inherently consistent and consistent with the
rest of the poem. There are few innate grounds for preferring one
to the other. In cases like this scholars tend to go with the
Codex Regius version as it is older and 'generally better'.
Sometimes, however, there is clearly something missing from the
CR-version. Take this strophe:
&vm mold þinvr
This strophe is not inherently consistent. There is no verb
to tell us what is done with the 'fornar rvnar' of the last line.
The Hauksbók, however, has a full sentence here:
a iða uelli
ok um molld þinur
ok minnaz þar
a megin doma
ok a fimbultys
In this case scholars will use the missing lines from Hauksbók.
For the rest of the strophe they will use the CR-version.
The 'received' version becomes:
ok um moldþinur
ok minnask þar
ok á Fimbultýs
The CR-word 'finnask' is preferred to the Hauksbók word 'hittask'
(the meaning is just about identical).
For more comparative Völuspá see Eysteinn's excellent page
(which I used here):
If you haven't had enough after that you can see his comparative
version of Hymiskviða:
The Hymiskviða is preserved in the Codex Regius and another
manuscript called AM748fol. You can see pictures of it here: