Árni Magnússon


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

Árni went to Copenhagen to study when he was around twenty and lived and worked there until his death, although also spending much time in Iceland. He brought the manuscripts that he collected in Iceland to Copenhagen and preserved his collection there. Part of it was lost in a the Great Fire of Copenhagen in 1728, but Árni and his assistants managed to save much of the collection, among it most of the valuable vellum (calf-skin) manuscripts.

Árni Magnússon bequeathed his manuscript collection to the University of Copenhagen after his death, and that is where the manuscripts were kept for the next centuries. Icelanders fought long and hard to reclaim the manuscripts and in 1961 Denmark and Iceland brokered a deal, which was finalized in 1986, to devide the collection between them. The manuscripts were transferred little by little to Iceland, and the last ones were handed over in a formal ceremony at the University of Iceland on June 20th 1997. The Arnamagnean Institute in Copenhagen still preserves a part of the collection and collaborates with the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies in Reykjavík on various projects. 

These two institutions preserve the Árni Magnússon Manuscript Collection that was added to the Memory of the World Register in 2009, and is said to ‟preserve priceless manuscripts on the history and culture of the Nordic Countries, and in fact a large part of Europe, from the Middle Ages to the new age.“