Among the primary responsibilities of the Institute is the editing and publication of Icelandic texts written in the past, when texts were preserved and circulated in manuscript form. The need for new editions arises from different circumstances: although many Icelandic texts have been published since the 17th century, these previous editions often prove unsatisfactory; in addition, there are numerous extant Icelandic works written during the centuries after the Reformation, both original compositions and translations, which have never been published.
The editors of ancient texts investigate and explain the relationships between manuscripts that preserve those texts and, on the basis of such research, texts from selected manuscripts are edited and printed along with textual variants, that is, variations in wording found in other manuscripts.
Scholarly editions of manuscript texts are intended to be used by scholars who investigate the texts’ grammar, stylistics, or history. These editions can also be used by those who publish other types of editions of the texts, such as editions with normalized spelling, which are intended for use by students and the general public.
Manuscript research is seldom limited to textual studies. Scholars attempt to shed light on the age, origin, and history of manuscripts through examinations of orthography and grammar, comparisons of different hands found in the manuscripts, and identification of individuals whose names are occasionally found on the title-pages or in the margins. Research undertaken by members of the Institute’s staff is published in monographs as well as in the Institute’s own journal, Gripla. The number of books in the Institute’s publication series, the Rit Stofnunar Árna Magnússonar which is printed and distributed by the University of Iceland Press, is approaching 70. Staff members also publish the results of their research in journals and books published elsewhere, or present the results of their studies to the general public through lectures or articles in the mass media.