Literature timeline

  • Upphaf byggðar á Íslandi

    The first settlers in Iceland are believed to have come ashore in Reykjavík in the late ninth century and archaeological evidence suggests that the first settlement in the country was at the heart of the city centre, a stone’s throw from Reykjavík City Lake.

  • Upphaf bókagerðar á Íslandi

    Book making starts in Iceland around the year 1000. No manuscripts are however preserved from this time, as the oldest ones are from the twelfth century. 

  • Landnáma

    Landnáma  (The Book of Settlements), believed to have been composed by Ari Þorgilsson (1067-11480), is along with The Book of Icelanders the oldest document about the settlement of Iceland.

  • Ingunn Arnórsdóttir – fyrsta lærða konan á Íslandi

    Ingunn Arnórsdóttir was an Icelandic scholar and teacher in the 12th century. She is said to be the first woman in Iceland educated in Latin and other scholarly topics equally to males. She was at Hólar in North Iceland and is a contempory of Jón bishop Ögmundsson.  

  • Íslendingabók

    Ari Thorgilsson the learned puts together the Book of Icelanders. The book, which is historical, tells of the settlement of Iceland until the year 1120 or thereabouts.

  • Þingeyjarklaustur

    Þingeyrarklaustur stofnað

    Þingeyrarklaustur was the first monastery built in Iceland. It followed the monastic order of Benedicts of Nucia and its role in the literary culture of Iceland is of great importance.

  • Konungasögur

    The Kings’ sagas are biographies of Nordic kings, composed in the 12th and 13th century, predominantly in Iceland but also in Norway. The majority of them document the lives of Norwegian kings, while a few Danish kings are also included.

  • Fyrsti málfræðingurinn

    The First Grammarian wrote his grammatical treatise around 1150, describing the phonology system of Old Icelandic for the first time.
    The author is unknown, but is usually referred to as „The First Grammarian“.


  • Elstu varðveittu handritabrotin

    The oldest preserved Icelandic vellum manuscripts date back to the middle of the twelfth century. All in all, 25 manuscripts and manuscript-parts are preserved from prior to 1200.

  • Snorra-Edda

    Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241), poet and politician, is thought to have written the Prose Edda, or Snorri‘s-Edda around 1220. The book, which is in four parts, is a text book of poetics as well as telling stories of the Pagan gods and their endeavours.

  • Viðeyjarklaustur stofnað

    The Monastery of Viðey was an important educational and cultural institution, with an extensive collection of manuscripts. Among the chroniclers in Viðey was priori Styrmir Kárason, a former priest in Snorri Sturluson‘s homestead Reykholt.

  • Sturlunga rituð

    Sturlunga saga, a collection of Icelandic sagas by various authors, draws its name from the powerful clan of Sturla Þórðarson. It describes what has been called Iceland‘s most violent century, when the nation was wrought in bloody power conflict between ruling clans in Iceland.

  • Konungsbók Eddukvæða

    The Poetic Edda, sometimes also called the elder Edda, consists of poems by unknown authors .

  • Blómaskeið í gerð bóka

    Many big and beautifully decorated manuscripts written in the fourteenth century are preserved.

  • Möðruvallabók

    The manuscript Mödruvallabók is most likely written around the mid fourteenth century. This vellum (calf-skin) manuscript is the largest and most important one preserved containing the Sagas of Icelanders.

  • Skarðsbók Jónsbókar

    Skarðsbók Jónsbókar is an exquisitely illuminated vellum of Iceland‘s primary law book during the middle ages. Jónsbók superseded the law-code Járnsíða (‘ironside’) which Magnus VI of Norway had composed for Iceland, in 1281, and was the most read document in Iceland for centuries.

  • Flateyjarbók

    Flateyjarbók (The Flatey Book) is an important collection of sagas of Norse kings, written at the behest of Jón Hákonarson, a wealthy farmer who lived in the Húnavatn district of northern Iceland.

  • Rímnahandrit

    Large manuscripts with rhymes have been preserved since this time. The content of the old saga was preserved in rhymes, but translations were also preserved, preferably ecclesiastical texts from English, German and Danish.


  • Fyrsta íslenska prentsmiðjan

    Jón Arason, the last Catholic bishop in Iceland, brought the first printing press to Iceland. The press was first situated at Breidabólstaður in South-East Iceland, but later moved to the bishop seat at Hólar in North Iceland, one of Iceland‘s main centres of learning.

  • Nýja testamentið

    The New Testament was pubished, translated by Oddur Gottskálksson. This is the first book printed in Icelandic, although printed in Copenhagen. 

  • Siðaskipti

    In 1550 the King of Denmark decreed that Icelanders adopt Lutheranism. Catholic monasteries, which were central in the documentation of sagas, thus ceased their activity.

  • Guðbrandsbiblía

    The Bible was published in whole for the first time in Icelandic. The book was named after bishop Gudbrandur Thorláksson, who compiled and published it, and is called Gudbrandsbiblía. Gudbrandsbiblía was printed at the bishop seat at Hólar, where Iceland‘s first printing press was located.

  • Uppskriftaalda

    A renewed interest in medieval Icelandic manuscripts in Iceland, Denmark and Sweden during the 17th century led to increased writing and copying of old manuscripts, mostly on paper.

  • Passíusálmar

    Hallgrímur Pétursson's (1614 - 1974) most notable work is Passion Hymns (or "The history of the pain and death of our Lord, Jesus Christ, with its special learning, reminding, and consoling artic

  • Árni Magnússon

    Árni Magnússon (1663 – 1730) starts collecting Icelandic manuscripts and keeps this up for the next four decades.

  • Landsbókasafn Íslands

    The first indicator of establising a Icelandic National Library was in 1818 after the suggestion of Danish antiquary Carls Christians Rafns. Initially the museum was called "Stiftsbókasafnið". It was located in the attic of the Reykjavik cathedral.

  • Þjóðsagnasöfnun hefst

    Systematic collecting of folktales started around the middle of the nineteenth century in Iceland. Like elsewhere, an interest in folk culture and oral tradition went hand in hand with Romanticism but was also connected to the struggle for independence in Iceland.

  • Torfhildur Hólm

    In 1891 Torfhildur Hólm was awarded an author’s pension by the Icelandic government for the quality of her work, becoming the first Icelander to make a living as a writer, in addition to being the first Icelandic woman to publish novels.

  • Borgarbókasafn Reykjavíkur hefur starfsemi

    The Reykjavík City Library, originally called the Public Library and later the Municipal Library, opened its door to the public in Reykjavík the first of April 1923. The museum was founded by the Town Council in Reykjavík on November 18, 1920.

  • Halldór Laxness hlýtur Nóbelsverðlaunin

    Halldór Laxness (1902 – 1998) was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1955 for ‟vivid epic power which has renewed the great narrative art of Iceland.“ Laxness is the only Icelandic writer to receive the Nobel Prize to date.

  • Handritin heim

    In 1961 Iceland and Denmark reached an agreement concerning the return of Icelandic manuscripts.

  • Fyrstu handritin afhent

    The first two manucripts, following the legislation concerning the return of Icelandic manuscripts from Denmark were received in 1971. The arrival of the manuscripts was met with national celebration. The first two manuscripts were The Book of Flatey and Codex Regius.

  • Bókmenntaverðlaun Norðurlandaráðs

    Ólafur Jóhann Sigurðsson became the first Icelandic author to receive the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize, for the novels Að laufferjum and Að brunnum, in 1976.

  • Bókmenntahátíðin í Reykjavík

    Reykjavík International Literary Festival was held for the first time in 1985. The writers Thor Vilhjálmsson and Einar Bragi, together with Knut Ödegaard then Director of the Nordic House in Reykjavík, established the festival.

  • Heildarþýðing á leikritasafni Shakespears

    Helgi Hálfdanarson (1911 – 2009) completed his translation of the complete plays of Shakespeare in 1991, an ambitious project which began with his translation of As You Like it, published in 1951.

  • Heildarútgáfa Íslendingasagna á ensku

    The Complete Sagas of Icelanders from Leifur Eiriksson Publishing are the first English translation of the entire corpus of the Sagas of Icelanders together with the forty-nine Tales connected with them. The Penguin Press published the collection in 1999. 


  • Alþjóðleg barnabókmenntahátíð í Reykjavík

    In the Moorland (orig. Mýrin), International Children’s Book Festival, is a biennial counterpoint of The Reykjavík International Literature Festival, celebrating children’s culture in its various forms. It was held for the first time in 2001.

  • Reykjavík útnefnd Bókmenntaborg UNESCO

    Reykjavík was the fifth UNESCO City of Literature, receiving its designation in August 2011. Reykjavik was the first non English speaking city to belong to the Cities of Literature Network.

  • Bókasýningin í Frankfurt

    Iceland was the Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2011, which took place from 12 to 16 October.

  • Norræn verðlaun sænsku akademíunnar

    Einar Már Guðmundsson received the Swedish Academy’s Nordic Prize for Literature in 2012. The award was presented to Einar Már in Stockholm on April 11.

  • Lestrarhátíð

    Reykjavík City of Literature hosted its first Reykjavik Reads Festival in October. Several schools at all levels took part, as well as libraries, publishers, literary organisations, the Writers’ Union and more.