Uppsala University Library

Johann Christian Zahn's Edition of 1805


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Regarding the pure manuscript editing work, Johann Christian Zahn's edition is completely based on the work of two Uppsala scholars: Johan Ihre and Erik Sotberg.

Johan Ihre was actually professor of Eloquence and Politics in Uppsala, but his passion was philology. His great lifework was his Swedish etymological dictionary, Glossarium Suiogothicum 1769. One of the sources he used in his dictionary work was the Codex Argenteus, and he found like Benzelius that Junius’ and Stiernhielm’s editions were insufficient.

Perhaps he was not aware of how far the Benzelius’ edition preparations had advanced, or perhaps he did not expect the Benzelius’ edition to be actually published. So he asked one of his pupils, Erik Sotberg, to make a collation of the manuscript. He found himself too purblind and too busy for the task. When Benzelius’ edition finally reached Uppsala, Ihre saw that Sotberg with his work had filled up many more lacunae than Benzelius had, and the idea of making yet another edition began to grow. Sotberg published his deciphering in two dissertations in 1752 and 1755 under Ihre’s presidency. The title was Ulphilas illustratus. In the preface of the first of these dissertations Ihre introduces the theory about the stamps: the Codex Argenteus was not written with a pen or a calamus – the letters were burnt into the parchment with hot stamps. In both dissertations Sotberg gives a Latin translation of the parts of the text he deals with. Friesen and Grape say that Sotberg’s reading of the manuscript is »... the greatest progress in understanding the text made from the publication of the editio princeps up to today« (1927).

Ihre did not succeed in publishing a new edition of the Codex Argenteus. Sotberg had penetrated it once again and made a complete copy of it. He had even made a calligraphic copy, perhaps designed for the planned edition. In 1773 Ihre sent Sotberg’s clean copy to the German scholar A.F. Büsching, publisher of a collected edition of Ihre’s Gothic dissertations. But Büsching had no better luck with publishing it. Sotberg’s manuscript wandered through several hands. From one of its owners the German clergyman Johann Christian Zahn gained access to it. Zahn managed to publish it in 1805 together with a Gothic grammar and a Gothic glossary by two German scholars. Zahn wrote the introduction. Ihre’s name is mentioned on the title page, but not Sotberg’s. The Gothic text in this edition is printed in Latin type in a special transliteration also used in Ulphilas illustratus and in Ihre’s works, however here somewhat improved by Zahn.