Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Iceland

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The island called Iceland, which, though really a part of America, is considered, because of its population and history as forming a part of Europe, is situated in the North Atlantic Ocean, between 63 deg. 23 min. and 66 deg. 33 min. N. lat., and is separated from the New World by the comparatively narrow and almost entirely ice-bound Strait of Greenland. It is a compact body of land much indented by fjords on its northern and western shores. A small peninsula, with very sinuous outline, lies at the north-western end, and is connected with the main body by a narrow isthmus. The area of the island is about 39,756 sq. mi., only two-fifths of which are inhabitable. From the barren and rocky plateau, the average height of which is 2000 feet above the level of the sea, rise extensive glaciers (jökull; pl. jöklar), broad summits, and high mountains, most of which are of volcanic origin (e.g., Hecla, over 5000 feet; Oeraefa, 6424 feet), and frequently belch forth tremendous masses of lava and mud and work great havoc (e.g. 1783, 1845, 1873). Earthquakes are also frequent. The rivers, though short, are numerous and carry a large volume of water. There are also inland lakes. The climate, which is on the whole of the oceanic type (moderate fluctuations of temperature, with frequent fogs and precipitations), differs, nevertheless, considerably according to locality. It is more severe along the northern coast, which frequently remains icebound until the late summer, but it is tempered by the Gulf Stream on the southern and western coasts.

Excellent sulphur is found in abundance, besides some coal and quarry stone. The flora is scanty. Some parts of the island are covered with rich grass, while birch trees, elder trees, and willows grow in protected spots to a height of twenty-seven feet. Small groups of these are to be seen here and there, but the growth of a real forest is prevented by the terrible storms which sweep over the island. The cultivation of grain is out of the question; only berries, and potatoes, and some other vegetables can be raised with profit. The breeding of sheep and horses is the principal occupation in Iceland. While the former supply milk, butter, meat, and wool, the small, hardy, rough-haired ponies serve as saddle horses and as beasts of burden, and are an important article of exportation. Cattle are less numerous, hogs and domestic fowl rare. Game abounds: reindeer, seals, polar foxes, and polar bears, as well as birds of many varieties, which are sought after for their eggs and feathers. Fishing also is an important occupation, followed not only by the natives, but also by foreigners. Manufactures and handicrafts are still in their infancy. Trade, on the other hand, carried on chiefly by barter, is fast increasing and represents a value of over five million dollars a year. New roads and bridges, and the establishment of the postal service and of telegraphy, are doing much to develop commerce. The revenues, formerly insignificant, have doubled in the last two decades, and are systematically applied to further the culture and material well-being of the people.

The scant population (80,000 souls) dwell chiefly by the shores of the ocean, and in the river valleys which open towards the sea. They belong for the greater part to the North Germanic race (Norsemen). Their language dates back to very early times and has a rich literature. The official creed, since 1550, is the Augsburg Confession; but of late infidelity has been spreading, and new sects have sprung up. Backward industrial conditions and frequent cataclysms of nature (earthquakes, floods, etc.) formerly caused considerable emigration, especially to America.

Since 1874, and especially since 1904, Iceland has become autonomous, is governed by its own laws, and has its own courts and an independent administration. Arms: a white falcon in a field azure. It is not, as formerly, under the immediate jurisdiction of Denmark, though the Danish king is nominally the sovereign of Iceland. The seat of government and meeting-place of the legislative body (the Althing) with its two chambers, is Reykjavik, which is at the same time the capital of the country and the see of the Lutheran bishop; its population approximates 10,000. It has a Lutheran cathedral, a Catholic church, and several hospitals. The three other cities, Akureyri, Isafjoerour and Seydisfjoerour are also growing rapidly.

Political History

Irish monks, according to legend, were the first discoverers of the island about the year 800. Colonization did not begin until much later, when King Harold I Harfagr of Norway subdued the Norse nobles, who had been independent until then, and made himself absolute lord of Norway in 872. Many liberty-loving men at that time left the land of their fathers (874), and sought new homes on the still uninhabited island which is said to owe its name to the Norseman, Floke Vilgerdarson. This immigration (Landnahme) continued for sixty years. The colonists (noblemen, with their serfs, among whom were men of Germanic and Celtic origin) divided the soil among themselves, and the chieftains not only continued to exercise judicial prerogatives over the low tenants and serfs, but also performed the functions of high-priests (gooi). Freemen, however, might claim their rights in the moot or public assembly (thing). The people at the beginning of the tenth century numbered about 25,000, divided into some thirty clans, which about 930 formed an independent republic with an aristocratic constitution. The government and the administration of justice were vested in the Althing, which met annually in June and in which freemen and their families could take part. But this body was not always able to exercise its powers, and it happened quite often that internal quarrels were settled by the sword. Thirty years later the country was divided into four quarters, subdivided in turn into thing-districts. To simplify business, there was a special court of law for each district, under the general jurisdiction of the Althing. A committee (lögrätta), to which each quarter sent twelve representatives, carried on the administration in the name of the Althing. The republic was on friendly terms with the Kingdom of Norway, the two countries having fixed the respective rights and obligations of their citizens by treaty. But it was not long before King Olaf Haraldsson (1024) and Harold Hardrada (1066) made unsuccessful attempts to bring the island into dependence on Norway.

The inhabitants had in the meantime been converted to Christianity, and for a long while the Catholic bishops exerted over them a powerful and beneficial influence. At their instance the old laws (Gragas) were written down in 1117. Unfortunately, soon afterwards bloody feuds broke out among the chief nobles of the State, in the course of which Sturla attempted to make himself king. The people, tired of protracted wars, offered no resistance to King Hakon the Elder when, in 1258, he appointed Gissur Thorwaldsson Governor (Jarl). A few years later the whole island swore allegiance to the new master, still insisting, however, on retaining certain privileges (1302). It is certain that this act did not make Iceland, strictly speaking, a province of Norway. Norwegian Iceland is always referred to in public documents of the fifteenth, and in chronicles of the sixteenth, century as a dominion of the Crown (see Styffe, "Skandinavien under Unionstider," Stockholm, 1880), and at first it retained its constitutional organization. In the year 1281, however, a code of laws was introduced by the judge, Jón Einarsson, patterned on the Norwegian laws (Jonsbok). Hakon II having died (1380), his son Olaf, who since 1376 had ruled Denmark, ascended the throne, and under this monarch the present union of Denmark and Iceland was consummated. During the reigns of Christian III and his successors the ecclesiastical hierarchy in the island was dissolved, and Luther's teachings were forced upon the people, who were deprived of all their rights. In 1662 its representatives were compelled by force of arms to acknowledge the absolute sovereignty of the King of Denmark, and in 1800 the Althing, whose powers, it must be noted, had previously been reduced to a minimum, was finally suppressed. Forty-three years later it was revived, at first as an advisory body only. There followed long and violent constitutional conflicts with Denmark, which was weakened by foreign wars and internal troubles, and the king at length saw himself obliged to yield to the demands of the Icelanders. Since 1904 the Iceland patriots have in the main succeeded in the achievement of their wishes: national independence and autonomy in the administration of their own affairs. De jure, the country is again autonomous; de facto, this is not yet recognized by Denmark. The future is shrouded in darkness.

Church History

The Norsemen, who settled in Iceland, from the end of the ninth century, were pagans; and, as we have already observed, it was one of the functions of their chieftains, called gooi, to conduct religious services. But, as the Icelanders made frequent journeys, and often to distant lands, they were soon brought into contact with Christian populations, from whom they gained a knowledge of a higher civilization. Thus was the soil prepared in advance for the seed of the Gospel. The first native missionary was one Stefnir Thorgilsson (996), commissioned by King Olaf Trygvesson. The somewhat abrupt methods which characterized his religious zeal brought him at first but a small following, but, about the year 1000, Gissur and Hjalti, two highly esteemed Icelanders who had been exiled from the country, on returning from Norway Christians, soon obtained a decree from the Althing whereby pagan practices were suppressed, and the people compelled to accept baptism. The actual conversion of the nation of course was only achieved after long and laborious efforts and the careful instruction of the people. The names of the missionaries and of their bishops are only known in part and there is no information concerning their work. It must at any rate have been fruitful of results, for only fifty years later (1056) the country was given a bishop of its own, suffragan to the Archbishop of Hamburg, with his see at Skalholt, while in 1106 a bishopric was erected at Holar. These two dioceses were first under the Archbishopric of Lund, later (1152) under that of Trondhjem, and until the middle of the sixteenth century were in close communion with Rome. The bishops were selected by the Althing, but the nominees were consecrated by the metropolitan. Many of their prelates were distinguished for their virtue and wisdom. (For details see Baumgartner in "Kirchenlexikon," s.v. "Island".)

The priests of Iceland frequently went to French and English universities to make their studies. Many among the clergy and laity made pilgrimages to the hallowed spots of both East and West. Canon law was in force at an early period (1053). There sprang up a number of monasteries, such as the Benedictine Abbeys of Thingeirar, Munkathvera, Kirkjubaer, and the Augustinian convents of Thykkviboer, Flatey, Vioey, Moeoruvellir, and Skrioa. "A strongly intellectual atmosphere pervaded these monasteries. They were centres of learning and literature, and thoroughly national in character. It is beyond question that it is principally to her Catholic clergy that Iceland is indebted for the origin and prosperous growth of her earlier literature, down to the middle of the sixteenth century" (Hermann, vol. II, p. 91)

There were religious as well as historical treatises. The "Lilja" of Eystein Asgrimsson, an Augustinian monk of Thykkviboer, was particularly celebrated as "the most soulful and artistic poem of the Middle Ages" (ibid.), and was highly appreciated long after the introduction of Protestantism. Works of learning also issued from these cloister cells. Thus we find that an attempt was made in Munkathvera as early as the middle of the thirteenth century to translate the Bible into the vernacular. Abbot Brandr Jonsson was thoroughly versed in Latin literature. Even the "Nialssaga" seems to have originated at Munkathvera. But scholars and artists were to be found not alone in the monasteries, but among the secular clergy, of whom some 300 were distributed among 220 churches (many of which were built of stone). Thus it is related of Torstein Illugason (1335) that he excelled in calligraphy, painting, and wood-carving. The churches were adorned with mural decorations, sculptures, and metal-work, and were provided with priestly vestments, relics of which have been preserved to this day at Bessastadr, Gardar, etc. In the museum of Reykjavik are to be found handsome crucifixes, statues, antependia, etc., which recall the Catholic past.

Iceland was most disastrously affected in the beginning of the fifteenth century by internal unrest, factional conflicts, earthquakes, and epidemics which struck men and beasts alike. About this period, also, religious life left much to be desired. Certain bishops like Arni Olafsson (1413-30) and Jón Gereksson (1430-33), of Skalholt, neglected their flocks or made themselves odious by their acts of tyranny; others such as the otherwise eminent Arason Jón (1524-50) of Holar, gave scandal by disregarding the law of celibacy. The conflict which lasted for a number of years between Arason Jón and the last Bishop of Skalholt, Oejmundr Pálsson (1520-42) was particularly unfortunate.

The first to preach the new faith were two disciples of Luther, Oddur Gotskalksson and Gissur Einarsson. These soon secured followers, particularly after King Christian III of Denmark and Norway declared himself for the Reformation and, for political and financial reasons, the latter especially, employed force to establish Lutheranism in his kingdom. His object was not to spread the teachings of Luther, but to destroy the last vestiges of liberty in his domains. The imprisonment of the Bishop of Skalholt left only Arason Jón to wage the fight against the spreading heresy. He succeeded for a time, until he was betrayed into the hands of his enemies, who executed him on 7 November, 1550. To this day his countrymen revere his memory for the heroism which marked his life and glorified his death. (Cf. the drama "Jón Arason," by Mathias Jochunsson, Isefioerdur, 1900.) It was not difficult to scatter the flock after the shepherds had been slain, especially since here, as in Denmark, the people were deceived by the introduction at first of only slight ceremonial changes, the chief efforts being directed to the confiscation of church property. The former ecclesiastical divisions were allowed to remain; the superintendents at Skalholt and Holar took the title of bishops, while the preachers retained the name of priests (praestur). But they were very scantily paid, and from that time the Iceland pastor was obliged to take part in the work of agriculture, if he desired to live as well as a middle-class farmer. Latin remained the official language of the Church until the year 1686. Confirmation and catechetical instruction were introduced as late as the year 1741, at which time the Augsburg Confession, together with several German and Danish hymns, was translated into the Icelandic tongue, and women were permitted to sing in the churches. The ritual and the vestments of the officiating minister remind one, even to-day, of the Catholic past. The Hamessa (high Mass), which lasts an hour and a half, opens with the Kyrie and Gloria. The Epistle and Gospel are followed by the Creed and the Pater Noster, after which the sermon is preached. Communion frequently comes next. The priest wears, in the cities at least, over the alb a chasuble on the back of which is a golden cross.

Since 1801 Iceland has had only Protestant bishops, who reside at Reykjavik. There are 20 deaneries and 141 parishes, or scarcely half of the former number. Only seven of the churches are built of stone, most of these dating back to Catholic times; 217 are wooden structures, while for the rest turf or peat is the material used. A distinction is made between principal and secondary churches. The former contain thirty or thirty-two pews generally unpainted, with room for about one hundred persons. The interior is as bare and as plain as the exterior. There is an altar, sometimes a baptismal font, and a primitive pulpit. Frequently a picture hangs above the altar, which is nothing more than a table. Both the principal church, which frequently adjoins the presbyter, and the subsidiary church, which is generally found near the estate of a wealthy farmer, serve during the week as storehouses for clothing, wool, etc., or as sleeping quarters for guests. Organs are very rare. (Hermann, op.cit.)

Schools, properly so called, are to be found only in the cities. Instruction is a home duty, and is supervised by the preacher as far as circumstances permit. Of course the results thus obtained are not of a high order; but most of the people can read and cipher passably, and write a little. The higher educational institutions of Iceland number a classical high school, a medical school, one seminary for preachers, one nautical and several agricultural schools. The State Library at Reykjavik is comparatively well endowed. Those who wish to pursue higher studies enter the University of Copenhagen.

The standard of morality is not high, and illegitimate births are numerous. No doubt this is partly due to the fact that the two sexes live in close proximity, occupying together undivided rooms, and that the women greatly outnumber men, many of whom succumb to hunting or fishing accidents. lt is a very characteristic fact, that of all the works of foreign poets, those of Heine are the most widely read.

Formerly the rigorous laws of Denmark, which were also in force in Iceland, prohibited under severe penalties the celebration of Catholic services. For more than three hundred years no Catholic priest was permitted to set foot on that soil. The first to dare settle in this country (1859) were Frenchmen, the Abbes Bernard and Baudoin. But the intolerance to which they were subjected, on the part of preachers and state officials alike, caused them much suffering, which soon drove Bernard to abandon the country, while Baudoin persevered until 1875. He was the author of the first manual of the Catholic religion in modern Icelandic. After his departure, the mission remained forsaken, although freedom of worship had existed since the preceding year (1874). In 1895 missionary work was resumed with great vigour. It is now conducted by the Marists (2 priests and 2 lay brothers), and boasts of a pretty wooden church, a school (which is also attended by Protestant children), and an excellent hospital, in which the nursing is done by the Sisters of St. Joseph, of Chambéry. The Catholic community is still small, numbering only about 50 souls, and finds temporary increase in the presence of Catholic seamen. But the outlook is more promising than Protestant writers affect to believe. Here and there Protestant clergymen ardently study the Fathers of the Church, and there are presbyteries in which the image of the Madonna hangs alongside that of Luther. Furthermore, in spite of all opposition, these people still cherish hymns in honour of the Blessed Virgin; these have been collected by Dr. Thorkelsson, whose son was reconciled with the Church in 1905.


Icelandic literature is in its beginning closely connected with that of Norway; in fact it is originally Norse. Iceland was colonized in the ninth and tenth centuries by Norwegians who left their native land when Harold Harfagri, forced all Norway to submit to his sway (A.D. 872). Iceland, though politically independent until 1262, remained in close contact with the mother country; its language also remained Norse. The introduction of Christianity into the island (A.D. 1000) did not interrupt the literary development, as in other Germanic lands. Literature was zealously cultivated by priests and laymen, and never lost its popular character.

The oldest Norse poems date from about 850; of the poetry preceding this date almost nothing is known. The first transmission of literature was oral; a written literature did not begin until the twelfth century. Most of the manuscripts that we possess and which are preserved chiefly at Copenhagen, Upsala, and Stockholm, date from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Old Norse poetry, like all ancient Germanic poetry, is alliterative, but, whereas Old English as well as Old High German poetry is written in the epic long line, Old Norse poetry is strophic. The oldest and most important monument of Old Norse poetry is the Edda which is discussed in a special article. Besides Eddic poetry there was also Skaldic poetry. While the two kinds cannot always be clearly distinguished, still there are important differences. The Eddic poems are anonymous, the Skaldic poems are almost always of known authorship and deal with historic personages or events. Skaldic poetry was essentially a courtly art; it usually sings the praise of some princely patron. While the Eddic poems are simple, the Skaldic poems are extremely artificial in structure and language, employing alliteration and assonance, as well as making elaborate use of such rhetorical devices as heiti and kenningar (metaphors and figurative paraphrases). The most pretentious kind of Skaldic poem was the drapa (literally "fall of men").

The beginnings of Skaldic art are lost in mythic obscurity. The earliest skalds were Norwegians, the first historical name being Bragi, who later figures as the god of poetry in Valhalla. With King Harold Harfagri (872-930) we get on historic ground. To this circle of poets belong Thorbjoern Hornklofi and Thjodholf of Hvin, both authors of famous panegyrics. Eyvind Finnsson, surnamed Skaldaspillir (spoiler of skalds), composed on King Hakon's death (961) the "Hakonarmal" on the model of the "Eiriksmal," which an unknown skald had composed in honour of the memory of King Eirikr (d. 950). But the greatest skalds came from Iceland, the most famous being Egill Skallagrimsson (d. 982), whose wild career is the subject of a well-known saga. Of his poems the "Hofudhlausn" (Redemption of the Head) and "Sonartorrek" (Loss of the Son) are the most famous. Ulfr Uggason is known for his "Husdrapa" (985), an important poem for the study of mythology. Most of the Icelandic poets were court poets of Norwegian and other kings. Such were Kormak Oegmundarson (d. 967), Einar Helgason, and Hallfred Ottarsson, a follower of King Olaf Trygvason, whose death in battle he commemorated in the "Olafsdrapa" (1000), as also Gunnlaugr, surnamed Ormstunga (serpent's tongue), on account of his biting satire. Among the skalds of St. Olaf (1015-1030) the most prominent were Thormodhr Bersason and Sighvatr Thordharson (d. about 1045), the king's favourite poet, who in his "Bersoeglivisur" (Strains of Candour) addressed a fearless warning to King Magnus, Olaf's son and successor. After the eleventh century Skaldic art declines. Of later Skaldic poems Einar Skulason's "Geisli" (beam), a drapa in honour of St. Olaf, is noteworthy, as also the "Hattatal" of Snorri Sturluson (q.v.). With Snorri's nephews, Olaf and Sturla, the list of skalds closes.

Poetry continued in the old forms, but its content was chiefly religious. Poems were written in honour of Christ, the Virgin, and various saints. Of this kind are the "Solarjodh" (Song of the Sun), composed about 1200, and the famous "Lilja" (Lily) written about 1340 by Eystein Asgrimsson, an Augustinian monk. After the fourteenth century the chief form of Icelandic poetry were the rimur, narrative poems in ballad style, the content of which was drawn chiefly from older sagas.

The finest and most characteristic product of Icelandic genius is the saga, the prose narrative of historical events. Unlike Skaldic poetry the saga is of purely Icelandic origin and can be traced back as far as the tenth century. The material is taken from real life; the sagas are frequently the biography of eminent Icelanders (islendingasoegur) or else of Norwegian kings (konungasoegur). The sagamen treated their material with poetic freedom and in a perfectly objective manner; dialogue enlivens the narrative, and poetic citations are freely interspersed. In this the saga resembles Old Irish prose narrative, and Irish influence is quite possible. No Germanic literature of medieval times can boast of prose writings as idiomatic and excellent as those of Iceland.

After the Latin language and script had been introduced as a consequence of the adoption of Christianity, the sagas after 1170 were written down. Historiography began. The earliest historians were Saemund Sigfusson, who wrote in Latin, and Ari Thorgilsson (d. 1148), who first wrote history in the vernacular. Of his history of Iceland only an abstract is preserved. The "Landnamabok," the most complete history of the settlement of Iceland, made liberal use of Ari's work. While Ari's work is exact and scholarly, the writings of the soegur are more literary. The sagamen tell their story with poetic freedom. The greatest of the islendingasoegur, or Icelandic family sagas, are the "Egilssaga," the hero of which is the skald Egil, the Laxdaela," which tells of the inhabitants of the Laxa valley in Western Iceland, the "Eyrbyggja," which has for its main theme the life of the godhi (chieftain) Snorri, and the "Njalssaga," the longest and most prominent of all the sagas, the scene of which is laid in Southern Iceland. In this work two originally different sagas, those of Gunnar and Njal, have been fused. No saga gives clearer insight into the state of the island's civilization during the period from 960 to 1016.

Of the numerous other sagas of this kind, mention may be made of those of Gunnlaug Ormstunga, of Kormak, of Grettir the Strong, of Gisli Sursson, as well as of the "Vatzdaela" and the "Vapnfirdhingasaga." The discovery of Greenland and Vinland (America) is related in the "Eirikssaga raudha" (Saga of Eric the Red), which was written about 1200.

The heroic age of Iceland terminates in 1030. Later events are treated in the "Sturlunga-Saga," which arose about 1300 in Western Iceland. It is a collection of sagas grouped around the main portion, the "Islendingasaga" of Sturla Thordharson. The history of the Icelandic Church is presented in the "Biskupasoegur" (bishops' sagas), composed for the most part by clergymen and narrating the lives of the first Icelandic bishops. The story of the conversion of Iceland is told in the "Kristnisaga," which seems a continuation of the "Landnamabok" based on Ari's work.

The history of the Norwegian kings is related in the kunungasoegur. The oldest extant attempt at a complete history is the "Agrip af Noregs Konungasoegum" (Epitome of Norwegian Kings' Sagas). A collection of similar character is the so- called "Fagrskinna" (Fine Parchment), in which Skaldic poems are extensively used. But the greatest historic work in Icelandic is the famous "Konungabok" of Snorri Sturluson (1178-1241), known also from its opening words as "Heimskringla" (earth's circle). Here the history of Norway is told from its mythic beginnings to 1177. The work was probably completed between 1220 and 1230. Snorri's nephew, Sturla, was also an historian. He is the author of sagas of the Kings Hakon Hakonson and Magnus.

But there were also sagas of purely fictitious content, telling of folk-tales and adventure, generally localized in pre-historic Norway. Of this type are the so-called fornaldarsoegur (stories of olden times), among which are reckoned the "Volsungasaga," based mainly on Eddic poems (see EDDA), the "Fridhthjofssaga," and the "Hervararsaga." All these sagas are known only in late versions of the fourteenth century.

Under foreign influence, notably that of French courtly poetry, arose the riddarasoegur (knightly stories), which treat of the adventures of the heroes of Arthurian romance, Tristan, Perceval, and others. Many of these sagas are mere translations or adaptations. The "Thidrekssaga," composed about 1250 in Norway, and based on Low German accounts, gives the stories of Dietrich of Bern and is of the greatest importance for the study of the Germanic heroic legends. Lastly we must mention the sagas that tell of sacred legends. Of these that of Barlaam and Josaphat is the most noteworthy.

The most remarkable monument of Icelandic erudition is the "Snorra Edda." Legal literature plays a prominent part in Icelandic letters; the Northern lawbooks are very important for the study of Germanic civilization. The code of laws in force during the days of the republic was first set down by Ulfjotr in 930, on the basis of the Norwegian law. The manuscript in which this code is transmitted was called since the seventeenth century by the strange name of Gragas" (gray goose).

With the end of the Middle Ages, Icelandic literature declined. Little original writing that commands attention among the world's literature was produced after that. In the seventeenth century, during the great revival of learning in Scandinavia, Iceland furnished her quota of scholars. Thorlak Skulason translated the Bible from Luther's German version; Brynjolf Sveinsson discovered the manuscript of the "Elder Edda" (q.v.); Thormod Torfason and Arne Magnusson figured prominently in the study of Northern antiquities. In the field of history Jan Espolin (d. 1836) won an enviable reputation. The number of poets in modern times is large, but there are few great names. Hallgrim Pjetursson (d. 1674) and Jón Thorkelsson Vidalin (d. 1720) gained fame as writers of psalms, while Bjarna Thorarenson (d. 1841) attained a commanding position in the nineteenth century. The attempts at the epic and drama call for no notice.

The Skaldic poems were edited rather uncritically by Vigfusson and Powell in the "Corpus poeticum boreale" (Oxford, 1883), with English versions and notes; a better edition is Wisen's "Carmina norroena" (2 vols., Lund, 1886-89). Ari's "Islendingabok" was edited by Golther (Halle, 1892); the "Heimskringla" by F. Jonsson (4 vols., Copenhagen, 1893-1901), English translation in Morris and Magnusson's "Saga Library" (London, 1891); "Landnamabok," ed. Jonsson (Copenhagen, 1900), tr. Ellwood (London, 1898). Some of the best sagas (including "Egils," "Eyrbyggja," and "Laxdaela") are edited in Cederschioeld Gering, and Mogk's "Altnordische Sagabibliothek" (Halle, 1892œ). The "Njalssaga" was edited by Gislason in the "Islendinga Soegur," III (Copenhagen 1843), 1 sq., also separately (Copenhagen, 1875), English translation by G. Webbe Dasent (Edinburgh, 1861). The saga material relating to the discovery of America was published in the "Antiquitates Americanae" (Copenhagen, 1837); a phototypic edition of the "Eirikssaga raudha" was given by Reeves, "The Finding of Wineland the Good" (London, 1890); critical edition of same saga by G. Storm (Copenhagen, 1891). The "Biskupasoegur" were published by the Islenzka Bokmentafelagi (2 vol., Copenhagen, 1858-78). The Riddarasoegur were edited by Cederschioeld under the title of Fornsoegur Sudhrlanda" (Lund, 1884). The literature treating of the Blessed Virgin has been edited by Unger under the title "Mariusaga" (Christiania, 1871).

BURTON, Ultima Thule, or a Summer in Iceland, with historical introduction, maps, and illustrations (2 vols., London, 1875); Allgemeine Welthistorie, vols. XXXI, XXXII, XXXIII (Halle, 1768, 1770, 1771); DAHLMANN-SCHAEFER, Daenemark in Geschichte der europaeischen Staaten (5 vols., Gotha, 1840-92); MUNCH, Det norske Folkes Historie (Christiana, 1852œ63); MAURER, Island von seiner ersten Entdeckung bis zum Untergang des Freistaates (Munich, 1874); IDEM, Zur politischen Geschichte Islands (Leipzig, 1880); BAUMGARTNER, Nordische Fahrten: Island und die Faeroer (3rd ed., Freiburg in Br., 1902); IDEM in Kirchenlex., s.v. Island, containing a very explicit treatise on the political and ecclesiastical development of the country, with exhaustive bibliographical references; HERMANN, Island in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart (2 vols., Leipzig, 1907); the first part deals with the country and its people, the second has notes of travels and contains numerous translations of songs, bits of folk-lore, etc.; the book, viewed from a historical standpoint, is prejudiced, and not without inconsistencies; but otherwise it is very good. BUCHBERGER, Kirchl. Handlexikon (Munich, 1907), s.v. Island; Katholische Missionen (1907-08); LOEFFLER, Daenemarks Natur und Volk (Copenhagen, 1905): Pt. III, Island, 85 sqq. (with extensive bibliographical references); LUNDBORG, Islands staatsrechtliche Stellung von der Freistaatszeit bis in unsere Tage (Berlin, 1908); ROSENBERG, Nordboernes Aandsliv, (Copenhagen, 1877-85); SCHWEITZER, Geschichte der skandinavischen Literatur (3 vols., Leipzig, 1805), detailed, but a very one-sided Protestant account: BAUMGARTNER in Kirchenlex., s.v. Islaendische Literatur, extensive bibliographical references, a corrective to Schweitzer; IDEM, Die Lilje, German tr. of the Icelandic poem (Freiburg, 1884); Landshagoskyrslur, Statistics: fyrir Island (Reykjavik, 1907), 65, 244.

The best history of Old Norse literature is JONSSON, Den oldnorske og oldisandske Literaturs Historie (3 vol., Copenhagen, 1894-1902). Consult also MOGK, Geschichte der norwegischislaendischen Literatur (2nd ed., Strasburg, 1904), also in 2nd ed. of PAUL, Grundriss der germanischen Philologie; furthermore GOLTHER, Nordische Literaturgeshichte,. p. I (Leipzig, 1905). The only English history is HORN, History of the Literature of the Scandinavian North, tr. ANDERSON (Chicago, 1895). For Skaldic poetry, see also THORLAKSSON, Udsigt over de norskislandske Skjalde fra 9. til 14. Aarh. (Copenhagen, 1882); MEISSNER, Skaldenpoesie (1904). For the sagas consult VIGFUSSON, Prolegomena zur Ausgabe der Sturlunga saga, I (Oxford, 1878); MORRIS AND MAGNUSSON'S Saga Library, introd. Modern poetry: POESTION, Islaendische Dichter der Neuzeit (Leipzig, 1897).

P. Wittmann and Arthur F. J. Remy.