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Why Iceland? Heritage from the North: Sæl og blessuð

A Guide to Concepts and (Re)Sources

Flag of Iceland

New Works on Iceland and the Norse World

N.B. Several of these “new” arrivals are transfers, fully catalogued and eligible for circulation, from the pre-LC-class component of the collection.

This transfer project is an ongoing access enhancement initiative.


Borg, farmstead of Egill Skallagrímsson.

From A Pilgrimage to the Saga-Steads of Iceland, by W.G. Collingwood and Jón Stefánsson


Information sources on the culture of Iceland

·                  “The official gateway to Iceland,” including embassy contact information

·                  Under the preceding for “the big picture” of Iceland

·                  “The official Iceland Tourism site for North America

·                  Infoplease® history summary on Iceland

·                  Cultural and social summary from

·                  “Interactive Map of Iceland and Scenic Icelandic Postcards” under the site “Virtually Virtual Iceland

·                  Chapter on Icelandic history and culture from Iceland, the Republic, published 1996 by the Central Bank of Iceland

News Updates from the Fiske Icelandic Collection

The Enigma of Egill


The Islandica series continues its mission of publishing works on medieval Norse and modern Icelandic culture and literature with The Enigma of Egill: The Saga, the Viking Poet, and Snorri Sturluson, by Torfi H. Tulinius, translated by Victoria Cribb. The book is volume 57 in Islandica: A Series in Icelandic and Norse Studies. The series is distributed by the Cornell University Press.
The Enigma of Egill is a revised translation of the author’s Skáldið í skriftinni: Snorri Sturluson og Egils saga (Reykjavík: Hið íslenzka bókmenntafélag and ReykjavíkurAkademían, 2004). Within the fundamental structure of the original, the author has revised many of his arguments and added new material, notably a number of references to studies published by the international community of scholars since 2004. This edition therefore represents Tulinius’ current thinking on Egils saga and its possible author, and is more reflective of ongoing related scholarship.
Torfi H. Tulinius is professor of Medieval Icelandic Studies in the Faculty of Icelandic and Comparative Cultural Studies of the University of Iceland. He is the author of The Matter of the North: The Rise of Literary Fiction in Thirteenth-Century Iceland (2002), and many research articles on medieval and modern Icelandic literature and modern French and American literature. His article on Njáls saga will appear in the forthcoming New Norse Studies: Essays on the Literature and Culture of Medieval Scandinavia, to be published in the Islandica series in 2015.
Victoria Cribb is a translator of modern Icelandic literature and is nearing completion of a doctorate in Old Icelandic at the University of Cambridge. She has translated novels by Arnaldur Indriðason, Sjón, and Gyrðir Elíasson.
Copies of the book may be ordered through the Islandica series website or directly through the Cornell University Press.
The online version of the book is accessible on the Islandica web site.

Icelandic Baroque: Poetic Art and Erudition in the Works of Hallgrímur Pétursson, by Margrét Eggertsdóttir, translated by Andrew Wawn (Islandica 56), remains available in print through the Cornell University Press, distributor for the Islandica series. The online version of the book is accessible on the Islandica web site.


Old Norse and Icelandic literatures (PT7000- ) now circulate from Floor 7 of Olin Library.

Please consult signs and maps accordingly. This notice currently applies to regular-sized (essentially octavo, no higher than 25 cm) books.

Iceland, Icelandic and the Icelanders

 Icelandic panorama en route to Akureyri

Image created and graciously provided by Danielle Cudmore


The components of this guide offer overviews

 on the land, the language and the people of Iceland;

and on the Fiske Icelandic Collection

in the Cornell University Library.

The overviews include references to Internet sites of interest.

Why Iceland?

Although Iceland is little more than five hours by air from the American mid-Atlantic seaboard, the island and its people remain relatively unknown to many Americans. The island of Iceland, with an area akin to that of Kentucky, hovers just below the Arctic Circle. Not only is Iceland geographically remote, but also its population is minuscule at about 320,000 souls. The role of this frost-flecked, starkly beautiful country in European and North American history far exceeds, however, its diminutive dimensions.

In the Middle Ages, Iceland was the cradle of Old Norse-Icelandic literature, offering the world manuscripts of most of the sagas and much of the poetry from the region. For generations, Iceland was a self-ruling commonwealth with representative institutions and a strong sense of law.

In modern geopolitics, Iceland has been strategically crucial during the Anglo-American prosecution of the war against Nazi Germany (1939-1945) and again during the NATO cold war with the Soviet Union (1946-1990).

During the last generation, into the twenty-first century, Iceland has been a leader in such areas as fisheries conservation, renewable (particularly geothermal) energy and environmental protection. The nation continues its storied fame as a cradle of creative literature. Modern cultural productions such as film and rock music are significant, even as folk traditions and traditional European modes of artistic expression continue to garner appreciation.

In 2008 and succeeding years, Iceland suffered the grave societal effects of a crash in financial institutions, with severe unemployment and daunting impositions on the country’s economy at personal and national levels. Iceland has recovered significantly from the most dismal days of this experience, not least because of the remarkable fortitude of its citizens.

Curator of the Fiske Icelandic Collection

Patrick J. Stevens

Iceland: A quick chronology


Eruption of Hekla

From Danmark fremstillet i billeder: samling af prospecter af mærkelige byer og egne paa öerne, i Nörrejylland og Slesvig

(Kjöbenhavn, 18--)


·                  874 Settlement of Iceland by majority Norse and minority Celtic colonists

·                  10th-mid-13th centuries: Self-governing Commonwealth of Iceland

·                  11th century: Icelandic/Norse settlement in Newfoundland; beginning of 300-year settlement in Greenland

·                  12th-14th centuries: Golden age of saga composition in Old Norse-Icelandic vernacular. Major production of vellum manuscripts (Konungsbók Eddukvæða, Flateyjarbók, Fagrskinna, Morkinskinna, and others)

·                  16th century: Reformation and Danish domination. Important religious printings, including Lutheran theology

·                  17th century: Baroque era of literature, much devotional poetry; beginnings of literary studies of saga literature. Deep poverty

·                  18th century: Continuing poverty; major natural disasters and declining population. Beginnings of printing independent of the Church and of Enlightenment

·                  19th century: Incremental autonomy and new literary directions. Persistent poverty and emigration, chiefly to Manitoba

·                  20th-21st centuries: Sovereignty, independence as a republic (1944). Tripling of population; flourishing of literature, arts, tourism, industry