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Got Icelandic? This Project is Cataloging Icelandic Immigrant Manuscripts at U.S. Historical Organizations

by Katelin Parsons, University of Iceland on

During the late 19th Century and early 20th Century, thousands of Icelanders immigrated to North America. The majority settled in Canada—mostly in a Winnipeg, Manitoba colony called New Iceland. However, many also settled in the upper Midwest United States, with groups concentrated in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the Dakota Territories. A large Icelandic community was also founded in Utah. These immigrants brought with them many handwritten manuscripts containing the sagas and poetry of their home country. Once in North America, they also continued the tradition of manuscript copying still active in Iceland.

Now, through the Fragile Heritage Project, researchers and students at the University of Iceland are documenting Icelandic-language holdings in historical societies, archives and private collections across North America. There is no central database of these collections, so our goal is to share any information collected in the online catalog handrit.is, which already contains entries on thousands of Icelandic manuscripts from the medieval period to the modern era.

We are looking for:

  • Handwritten books (or fragments thereof) in Icelandic
  • Diaries, memoirs and correspondence
  • Artefacts with inscriptions in Icelandic (including runes)

We are not looking for:

  • Printed books in Icelandic (unless they contain handwritten material, e.g., scraps used in the binding or as bookmarks)
  • Ephemera related to Icelandic cultural events
  • Clippings from printed Icelandic periodicals

If your organization or institution has (or may have) material in Icelandic, please contact us! We would be grateful for information on potentially relevant holdings and happy to assist in identifying unknown writings in Icelandic.

Contact: Katelin Parsons (katelin@hi.is), University of Iceland/Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies

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