Why Iceland? Heritage from the North: Sæl og blessuð

A Guide to Concepts and (Re)Sources

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 Travelnet.is

·                  “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

Norsestock 9

The ninth annual Fiske Conference on Medieval Icelandic Studies (also known as Norsestock IX) will be held at Cornell University,

Friday 30 May through Sunday 1 June 2014.

The official program from this meeting is here.

See also images and messages on the Norsestock Facebook site.

News Updates from the Fiske Icelandic Collection

Australian author Hannah Kent, who recently published Burial Rites, a historical novel about a nineteenth-century Icelandic woman condemned for a double murder, has written about her research for the book in a contribution to The Guardian’s Australia Culture Blog of 3 June 2013.

The first North American edition of Burial Rites is in Olin Library, classified at PR9619.4.K467 B87 2013.


An article on the Fiske Icelandic Collection in the Cornell University Library has appeared

(4 October 2013) on NordicHistoryBlog = Nordeuropäische Geschichte im Netz.


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.

Icelandic Rocks

Music news items:


The Icelandic group Sigur Rós was on "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno on 24 May 2013 and performed its piece "Kveikur" from the forthcoming (18 June) new album of the same name.

The performance is visible and audible at http://www.rollingstone.com/music/videos/sigur-ros-rock-kveikur-on-leno-20130525.


The Icelandic folk/rock group Of Monsters and Men performed its hit single “Little Talks” on the show “Saturday Night Live” 4 May 2013. The Hulu clip is at http://www.hulu.com/watch/486601.

For further information on Of Monsters and Men, see the official website at http://www.ofmonstersandmen.com/ or, inter alia, the information at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Of_Monsters_and_Men, which documents awards the group has earned.

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.

Flag of Iceland

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

·                  16th century: Reformation and Danish domination

·                  17th century: Baroque era of literature, chiefly religious poetry; beginnings of literary studies of sagas 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