THE HISTORICAL JOURNEY OF A
by Torgrim Titlestad, Dr.Philos.
Flateyjarbók is an unknown work to most Norwegians. But with the first translations from Saga Bok, Volume 1 (2014) and Volume 2 (2015) to date, this work has begun to find a place in Norwegian homes. Because Flateyjarbók has been overshadowed by other sagas for the last 600 years, we still know little about its original development and history. But in this presentation we may at last attempt a survey of the work’s journey, from its origins in 1387 up to today. Certain important questions are answered, although a number of problems must be left to future research.
Iceland’s secret – a “Noah’s Ark” of ideas
In the farthest north of Iceland, at Hólar in Skagafjord, dwelt the mathematician, cartographer, culture-builder and bishop Guðbrandur Þorlaksson (1541–1627). He was the first to draw a good map of Iceland. He had a printing press at his disposal and published/edited 80 books. A graduate of the University of Copenhagen, he was the first to publish extracts of the Bible in Icelandic. In this way he established a more secure basis for a national language than Norwegians possessed – they had to get along for centuries in Danish.
Like other learned Icelanders, Guðbrandur managed to keep current with contemporary European literature about Iceland, noting that Icelandic culture was a subject of derision among arrogant and ignorant authors who believed, for instance, that the crater of the Hekla volcano was the entrance to Hell. The Icelanders wished to counter this tendency. One of their tools was the saga tradition.
These Icelandic scholars had received solid European university educations. Besides Icelandic, they were literate in Danish and Latin. They knew a great deal of world history and culture through their own study and travel, and used these advantages to relate their own history to what they had experienced in the world. Guðbrandur desired to inform his contemporaries about the sagas. It was necessary that they be communicated in Latin, the international language of the day – readable by the entire educated world. The bishop encouraged and supported Arngrimur Jonsson the Learned (1548-1648) to write the Latin work Crymogæa (1609) which provided a concrete picture of the first historiography in Iceland. His work did not mention Flateyjarbók. On the other hand, it was known to Bishop Brynjolv Sveinsson (1605–1675) of Skalholt, who presented the manuscript to King Frederik III (1609–70) in Copenhagen in 1656 with an appeal that the book be published.
Brynjolv built on insight that had been developed within the Icelandic culture ever since Arngrimur’s pioneering work in the 16th Century, but he was possibly more aware than the others of the unique civilization-building impulses contained within the Norse heritage, as expressed especially in Flateyjarbók. Flateyjarbók can be understood as a kind of “Noah’s Ark” of ideas, like a time capsule, stocked with the fundamental concepts of the Norse world for the purpose of surviving in a threatening future. This distinguished Flateyjarbók from older saga literature. The book was a “generational ship,” laden with the experiences of many people over many generations. The Norse culture had grown up outside the sphere of Roman dominion, and thus was different from European feudal culture with its comprehensive, hierarchical class structure. The Icelandic author Bergsveinn Birgisson (1971–) has expressed himself on the message of these medieval authors to the world (2015): “We had our own unique culture up here in the North, with a value of its own, which we desire to preserve for future generations.” And as his spiritual forebear Brynjolv might have said, “And we would wish that the world would learn from it.” Brynjolv desired to send this “ark” to Copenhagen so that the book might be published and made available to European readers. Flateyjarbók was meant to sail out into diverse intellectual harbors and then cast off again for further voyages around the world.
What is Flateyjarbók?
For several centuries, Iceland nursed a secret, a thick manuscript called Flateyjarbók, written around 1387. This work, edited in a unique manner, was not reproduced like other sagas, for example The Saga of Egil Skallagrimsson, of which there exist about 50 exemplars. Flateyjarbók was most likely written at Viðidalstunga and/or Þingeyri Monastery in northern Iceland. The monastery, which lay a day’s journey from Viðdalstunga by horseback, was for about 200 years perhaps the foremost center of learning in Iceland, and had large collections of books in Norse and Latin.
The book was hand written by two priests, under the sponsorship of the rich farmer Jon Håkonsson (1350–ca. 1416). It is uncertain how long the composition took. A reasonable estimate is that it took at least two years. The project cost a fortune, and required the skins of about 113 calves.
Because Flatøbok existed in only one copy, its very survival into our time is almost unbelievable. At one point it was loaned out by Skálholt Cathedral, where it had been housed for a number of years. Then that beautiful edifice burned, with all its contents. Flateyjarbók might easily have perished in the flames or been lost in some other way. Such an accident would have been irremediable.
Flateyjarbók existed only as a manuscript until the first printed edition was published in Norway in the 1860s. The national archivist, Christian C. A. Lange (1810–610) obtained the necessary funds out of the state budget. He is considered one of the founders of the Norwegian history school of the 19th Century. He worked long and hard studying, gathering, and publishing sources he discovered in Copenhagen, and brought in two contemporary specialists, the Icelander Guðbrandur Vigfusson (1827–1889) and the Norwegian Carl R. Unger (1817–97) to help with the Flateyjarbók project. On the basis of this edition Flateyjarbók early attained an international reputation.
In the USA, there was a request to borrow the original for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, as the Vinland saga is included in Flateyjarbók. The request was refused on security grounds. A facsimile of the Vinland saga was produced, however, and this work roused greater awareness, making Flateyjarbók better known in the scholarly world.
The Flateyjarbók’s long journey – a saga in itself
The heart of Flateyjarbók is the story of the two kings, Olav Tryggvason and Olav Haraldsson. Over the course of the 15th Century, additional material was added. After the owner’s death, the beautiful manuscript passed into the hands of his relations, finally receiving, after a long residence on Flatey Island in the Breidafjord in western Iceland, the name Flateyjarbók (there are some in Iceland today who wish to re-name it Viðidalstungubok; see the newspaper clipping on p. 17). In 1656 the book was transferred to the royal library in Copenhagen.
Bishop Brynjolv Sveinsson, a man of sophisticated historical sense, was deeply interested in Flateyjarbók. He wished to see knowledge of the Icelandic sagas disseminated throughout Europe. He may have owned some copies of the work. We possess a letter revealing that his goal was to have the original printed up in parallel editions in Danish and, eventually, Latin. Antiquarians in Europe must be able to study these important documents themselves. Otherwise they would lie in Copenhagen, mute as dumb statues. That would be the end of them, in Brynjolv’s opinion. As mere museum artifacts they would die. Therefore they must be made available to new readers!
Fredrik III commissioned the young and talented historian Tormod Torfæus (1636–1711) to do a translation of the book. This translation can be seen today in the royal Black Diamond library in Copenhagen, and consists of four volumes in all – 2,500 pages. The king wished to promote the book, so significant for the history of Norway, Iceland, and Denmark. Nevertheless the translation was never published, aside from the Foreword (Titlestad, 2003). Thus this “generational ship” came to sit derelict in Copenhagen for many years.
Torfæus, who had himself been a student of Bishop Sveinsson at Skalholt, was perhaps one of the first people ever to read the work in its entirety. In 1682 the king gave him special permission to borrow the original from Copenhagen and bring it to his home on Karmøy Island in Rogaland, Norway. Torfæus kept it for 22 years, using it as a source for his great Latin history of Norway, Historia rerum Norvegicarum (History of Norway) which was published in Norwegian translation in seven volumes in 2014 (the undersigned is chief editor of that work). After Torfæus’ death the book was shipped back to Copenhagen, where it resided in the Royal Library until 1971. After many years of difficult negotiations, the Icelanders had their spiritual treasure restored to them – on a war ship. The Danish Minister of Education Helge Larsen delivered the book with the laconic comment, “Flateyjarbók – vær så god!” (“Kindly accept the Flatøy Book!”). The harbor in Reykjavik was packed with jubilant Icelanders that day when Flateyjarbók came home to Iceland.
Who read Flateyjarbók?
There is no record that anyone other than Torfæus made use of the book as a source. It seems to have languished untouched, while Torfæus’ history of Norway in Latin became an international reference to it. Torfæus was afterward cited by, among others, Gerhard Schöning (1722–1780), the first significant Norwegian historian (though he wrote in Danish). Christian A. C. Lange’s edition in the 1860s was a breakthrough, although the book itself was still in Old Norse. The next publication was the so-called Akranes (1944–45) edition by Prof. Sigurður Nordal (1886–1974). This version contains 2,000 printed pages in four volumes, and is also in Old Norse.
What is contained in Flateyjarbók?
The book contains origin myths describing Norway’s coming into existence in the earliest ages – different myths from those we find in Snorre Sturlason’s Ynglingasaga – ethnic origin sagas, Icelandic sagas, kings’ sagas, and more, along with annals. In brief, Flateyjarbók includes all kinds of sagas in one binding, including stories not found elsewhere.
It is also worth noting that Flateyjarbók, consistent with the old saga mentality, presents heathens as equal to adherents of the Christian faith. Heathen sanctuaries, as well, are described as beautiful works of art. In one instance, Olav Tryggvason spares a richly ornamented temple, because its owner accepts baptism and vows never to sacrifice again. On these terms, the magnate Svein is allowed to keep his valuable artwork. But that reprieve ends when Svein’s younger son Finn returns home from Denmark and razes the artistic treasure, enraged that the king had permitted it to stand. Flateyjarbók depicts Finn as Norway’s first Christian fundamentalist, a cautionary example.
Without the survival of the Flateyjarbók manuscript, irreplaceable knowledge about the history and ancient thinking of the Norse world would have been lost. This history has up to now been hidden from most people, as translations were lacking. Now it has come to Norway in a translation from Saga Bok. The “generational ship” has returned to its home harbor at last – just as Brynjulv Sveinsson dreamed in 1656!
Older views of Flateyjarbók – the controversy after 1911
The printed Norwegian Old Norse edition from the 1860s aroused interest in Flateyjarbók in the scholarly world. But after the revolution in radical saga criticism that followed 1911, that interest turned negative. Gradually the book was marginalized in favor of older sagas. In scholarly circles a conception held broad sway that Flateyjarbók was of little importance, since it came into being as late as the end of the 14th Century.
This attitude had much to do with the delay in translating it into modern Norwegian. Such scholars did not appreciate the process by which the book came into being, or the fact that the writers were competent and learned researchers. In point of fact they had access to many of the same sources that Snorre Sturlason possessed, sources going back to the 12th Century. Even today some historians continue to make and communicate the same error.
Any reader of Flateyjarbók soon discovers that the book from time to time obliquely criticizes Snorre Sturlason. The writers include insights that Snorre either never had, or chose not to include, for example information on Olav Haraldsson’s birthplace (something that would have been an important detail at the end of the 14th Century). Snorre preferred to avoid metaphysical stories of angels, demons, giants, and trolls – fascinating information about the beliefs of our ancestors, rich material generously provided in Flateyjarbók. Here we find, for instance, the gruesome story of the battle against the “Norwegian primordial troll”, an account symbolic of the struggle between Christianity and heathenism.
Previous analysis of Flateyjarbók
In addition, for a long time scholars who had the privilege of evaluating Flateyjarbók operated on a model that designated the 13th Century the “golden age” of saga writing. This was an 18th Century academic construction built around Snorre Sturlason’s monumental Heimskringla (assuming it was he who wrote it. That remains disputed). Thus Heimskringla was placed at the top of a saga pyramid erected by the scholarly community. After that achievement things went downhill, and Flateyjarbók became an emblem of a literary form in decline. For that reason it has rarely been the object of scholarship, and has not been studied in its entirety.
The organizatiaon of Flateyjarbók
A turning point in the appreciation of Flateyjarbók came with Elizabeth Ashman Rowe’s 486-page dissertation in 2005: Development of Flateyjarbók: Iceland and the dynastic Crisis of 1389. On the basis of her extensive work and personal research, I divide the book into four main parts:
I) Volumes 1–3: “The Royal Gift”: Origin myths of Norway, and Olav Tryggvason’s and Olav Haraldsson’s stories. Conceivably an educational and advisory gift to King Olav IV (1370–87).
II) Volumes 4–5: The Orkney sagas, King Sverre’s saga, and Håkon Håkonsson’s saga. Political history.
III) Volumes 5–6: More on St. Olav (Olav Haraldsson), Magnus the Good’s and Harald Hardråde’s sagas, together with further material on Harald Finehair, etc. Supplemental historical material.
IV) Volume 7: Annals, that is, chronological information from the time of Julius Cæsar to 1394.
This division makes it clear that the book is not an easy one to penetrate and master. Parts 1 and II must especially be studied in context, while III and IV were created as supplements to what I call “the royal gift,” which concentrates on Norway’s origins and the three kings, Olav I, II, and IV.
The creation of the book
To understand Flateyjarbók, we first must explain its origin and creators. We know the names of the writers of the original version, the priests Jon Tordsson and Magnus Torhalsson. We also know who financed and edited it, “he who determined what would be included” – the rich farmer Jon Håkonsson. All this is written in the foreword which has been preserved (p. 45 in our Vol. 1): May Almighty God give joy to those who wrote and he who determined what would be included.
We reckon 1387 as the year when Volumes 1–3 of our edition were completed because it was that year that the priest Jon Tordsson retired as a writer. At that point the work changed course in terms of its contents. Thereafter it deals primarily with the stories of King Sverre Sigurdsson and Håkon Håkonsson. By and large, the period of reflective and enigmatic short personal histories of men who are not kings is over. Nevertheless, the book remains just as much a guide to political governance as before.
Meanwhile something appalling and dramatic had happened in Norwegian and Icelandic world: The last king of the Norwegian dynastic line died suddenly and mysteriously in 1387, only 17 years old. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Volumes 1-3 of our edition were intended for him. It had been customary from the 13th Century until the time of Flateyjarbók to write educational works for royals. Reading such literature was meant to inform and ennoble the reader’s mind (E. A. Rowe: 54). It is unquestionable that Flateyjarbók was the most beautiful Norse book of the middle ages, adorned with many fine illustrations. It was a gift fit for a king.
The origin and social background of the Flateyjarbók
Until recently many have believed that it was the writers who were central to the work, overshadowing the importance of the person who came up with the idea. The originator was clearly the book’s sponsor, Jon Håkonsson. He belonged to one of the foremost families in Iceland, and was a distinguished political figure. So Professor Helgi Þorláksson of the Icelandic University in Reykjavik was plainly correct when he wrote in 2014: It is at least unlikely that the scribes of the Flateyjarbók would have put down any word on vellum knowing that it would displease Jon. (p. 287; see also E. Row: footnote, p. 56.)
In light of the catastrophic conditions in Norway (and consequently in Iceland) following the Black Death of 1350, Jon Håkonsson may have thought: “Can I, with my personal background, influence the Norwegian monarchy which is now primarily focused in Denmark and Sweden by way of Olav’s mother, Queen Margrethe I?” Iceland had been spared the Black Death up to that point, but contemplated the catastrophe in Norway with terror and disbelief: The Icelanders might themselves be affected due to their close ties with Norway, economic, cultural, and familial. But Iceland still had a few good years in which to create an intellectual masterpiece like Flateyjarbók. These facts put the production of Flateyjarbók in a dazzling light, in between the two deadly plagues.
Jon Håkonsson’s role in the history of the work
We can assume with fair certainty that Jon Håkonsson was in a position to be well acquainted with Norway’s history, thanks to the role of the Icelandic skald Sigvat in Norwegian politics from the time of the reign of St. Olav through that of his son, Magnus the Good. We know this because Jon Håkonsson’s chief non-political interest was gathering and transcribing sagas; he already owned the large saga collection known as Hulda (E. Rowe: 13), in which Sigvat the Skald plays a special role. It was Sigvat who composed Norway’s unique freedom poem, Bersoglivisur, around 1040.
In that poem Sigvat candidly counsels King Magnus to turn away from oppression.
Sigvat actually succeeded in persuading Magnus to abandon his plans for dictatorship in Norway around 1041. Through his comprehensive study of Norwegian history up to the 14th Century, Jon Håkonsson understood with certainty that an Icelandic skald had once influenced Norwegian politics. And now – around 1380 – another Icelander might possibly influence the course of Norwegian history, which – in my view – he desired to do with Flateyjarbók.
A royal return gift?
Norse culture demanded that any gift must always be followed by a return gift. The sagas tell how a skald would recite an ode to the king. The skald would request that, in return, the king should listen to his message. In the same way, Flateyjarbók ought to bring a return gift fit for a king. The receiver must pay careful attention to the message of Jon Håkonsson’s rich present:
Good King of Norway: Turn your eyes away from Denmark and Sweden to Norway, Iceland, and the western isles. Learn of your historic heritage. Rule as did the foremost ancient Norwegian kings, who built up the Norwegian domain.
We can see from the contents of Volumes 1–3 of Flateyjarbók how Jon Håkonsson communicated a political philosophy through examples drawn from Olav Tryggvason’s and Olav Haraldsson’s regimes, in order to show the new king how he ought to behave, based on the dear-won experience of earlier times. The new king was at the most suggestible age, and he needed the guidance of learned, wise men, in order to rule in an accomplished way. Flateyjarbók would give King Olav the proper foundation for a virtuous and wise reign.
This view was first suggested in the 1990s by the renowned Icelandic scholar Ólafur Halldórsson (1920-2013), and the suggestion was followed up especially by Rowe. This theory has encountered opposition in parts of the scholarly community. But study of the work itself reinforces the conviction that Ólafur Halldórsson’s original idea holds up well. Or as Prof. Guðrun Nordal, Director of the Arnemagnean Institute in Reykjavik, said in a Norwegian Broadcasting interview of Flateyjarbók: “The book was perhaps intended to ‘relocate’ to Norway – as a royal gift.”
Jon Håkonsson’s personal background
This view has been reinforced through the reading of Flateyjarbók in its entirety, combined with information we have about Jon Håkonsson’s family, environment, and times. He had a remarkable ancestor in his grandfather, Gissur Galle (1269-1370), who lived a full 101 years, at which point Jon was almost 20 years old. Gissur was a hero, with close ties to the Norwegian royal house as a courtier and a diplomat for King Håkon Magnusson.
One of his many achievements was to end a state of war between the king and the nomadic Sami people, persuading the Sami to voluntarily pay taxes. As thanks for his services, he was given great riches. In return for the king’s generous rewards, Gissur chose to name both his sons after Norwegian kings – Håkon and Magnus. This was a sign of his respect for the Norwegian dynasty. Jon Håkonsson inherited the bulk of that fortune.
Who was Jon Håkonsson?
Jon Håkonsson was not only distinguished by his wealth, but also because of his well-documented intellectual interests. His circle of acquaintances included the priest Einar Havlideson, who had studied in Paris, had served in the papal court in Avignon, and had written Lavrans’ Saga. The chieftain and rich farmer Bjørn Einarson the Crusader was a saga collector and a close relative of Jon’s wife. Jon also knew the Lawspeaker Einar Gilsson (see Vol. 1). If we list only Jon Håkoonsson’s personally produced and self-financed “great works,” they thus include:
1) Flateyjarbók, still extant
2) Hulda (burnt, though most has been preserved)
3) Vatnshurna (burnt, but the majority of its contents are preserved through copies)
Jon Håkonsson’s place in Icelandic politics
Jon also participated in Icelandic politics, as had Snorre Sturlason. In this connection I would like to recommend a relatively new work on this subject, edited by Professor Emeritus Steinar Imsen, published just before Christmas 2014 in Bergen: Rex Insularum. In this book Prof. Helgi Þorlaksson has contributed a comprehensive article on Icelandic politics from Iceland’s subjection under Norway beginning in 1262, up to the 1400s.
His chief hypothesis is that Icelandic politics were characterized by shifting conflicts between the power of the Ting and the power of the king, and that the majority of the farmers throughout that period desired to seize and hold as much Ting power as possible, in opposition to the interests of the monarch, in order to exploit the resources of Iceland. But certain of the Icelanders were loyal to the king in Norway. Prof. Þorlaksson identifies Jon Håkonsson as one of those royalist partisans (p. 286-87).
Having studied Flateyjarbók as an expression of Jon Håkonsson’s political philosophy, we think we need to moderate Þorlaksson’s view of the man. There can be no doubt that Jon was extremely friendly toward the Norwegian monarchy as a form of government. This was partly on account of his grandfather’s background and influence on him. On top of that, Flateyjarbók clearly shows his pride in his Norwegian ancestry, going all the way back to the time of Harald Finehair. He views himself as a descendent of the first Norwegian settlers who fled Harald. Chief among them is Horda-Kåre from west Norway. It was Jon who commissioned the transcription of the only saga about one of Horda-Kåre’s men (Vatnshyrna), namely Tord the Intimidating, and that saga also includes the genealogy of Jon Håkonsson. We also note that it is Flateyjarbók that includes the most positive and original material about the magnate Erling Skjalgsson. This stands in sharp contradiction to The Great Saga of Olav Tryggvason, which contains condemnations of Erling (Chap. 277: 183, K. Flokenes, 2003). In Flateyjarbók Erling opposes tyrannical Norwegian kings. Flateyjarbók also contains the most negative of the origin myths told about Harald Finehair, where the young king is fostered by a jotun, a narrative that emphasizes the “totalitarian” elements of Harald’s reign. We may interpret, similarly, the description of Olav Tryggvason’s “flight” from the battle of Svold as a criticism of the forced conversion of Norway. The point of the story is that Olav refused to accept fresh, overwhelming resources in order to continue fighting the victors of the battle and retake Norway. He believed that God had disapproved of his reign. Another such sentiment is expressed when he is 80 years old, in Syria.
Jon Håkonsson’s ideology
Side by side with the material critical of the monarchy, we can see clear evidence of Jon Håkonsson’s belief that a Christian “righteous king” (Rex iustus) is able to promote stability and harmony in a community, in much the same way that we today believe in “democracy.” On the basis of these declarations, we may trace the contours of a political environment in Iceland which, at the end of the 14th Century, is bracketed by the oppositionist Ting power supporters, and the more pro-monarchist forces. Jon represents a “third way” for Iceland. He and his partisans aspire to a political utopia in the midst of an agonizing time of crisis for Iceland and Norway: “Reestablish the Norwegian North Sea dynasty under a righteous king, in the spirit of the best lessons of history!” This is the opportunity contained in the crisis, in their eyes. Times of crisis often inspire dreams of political utopias.
Why a reevaluation of Flateyjarbók?
So we now have fresh evaluations of Flateyjarbók, since up to now the work has been mainly studied piecemeal and classed as a third-rate saga collection composed long after the “golden age” of the sagas in the 13th Century, and because the book has been judged chaotic or a “thicket of stories” (Sigurður Nordal). One and all have simply overlooked the author’s own description of the structure of the book:
If many stories and legends have been written down in this account which might be thought perhaps to have small relevance to the saga of Olav Tryggvason, this is nothing to wonder at, for just as running water flows from various sources, all descending to a place where they are equal, these stories of various origins have a single goal: to clear the way for events in which King Olav Tryggvason or his men are involved. (Vol. 2, p. 18 or 225).
Moreover, in the tradition of narrow philological approaches, researchers have focused on the scribes, searching for their “fingerprints” in the work. For centuries hardly anyone has noticed the sponsor, Jon Håkonsson, and it is doubtful whether, since the release of the printed edition in the 1860s, many have read the work in its entirety.
On the scholarship side, no one realized that the work must be viewed as a unity, or at least as two unities:
1) Jon Håkonsson’s “unity,” our volumes 1–5 – up to about 1500. Torfæus, 1663: “The history of the Norwegian kings.”
2) A new editor for the section corresponding to our volumes 6–7.
This misunderstanding of the unity of the work, which certain scholars first began to correct in the 1990s with Ólafur Halldórsson’s theory and Rowe’s dissertation, meant that scholars – historians, literary scholars, religious scholars, linguists, and various kinds of philologists, had up to then only studied isolated portions of the work from the perspectives of their own scholarly interests. Therefore no one grasped that over half the work deals primarily with political leadership, that is, it has a strong character of an attempt at a work on political science and governmental philosophy – to a far greater degree than Snorre Sturlason’s dynastic book about the Norwegian kings.
If the archaeologists who discovered the Oseberg Ship had simply removed interesting individual objects from the ship burial and allowed the rest of the ship to lie where it was, one can imagine how much poorer we would be today in terms of understanding our cultural heritage. Only now are we beginning to recognize the earlier neglect through which we failed to translate the whole Flateyjarbók – a work we might profitably regard as a sort of intangible Oseberg Ship.
The time has come to revise the assumptions of earlier generations of scholars concerning the Flateyjarbók, and to regard it as just as central, though different and more comprehensive, a work as Heimskringla. The secret is that Flateyjarbók, due to Jon Håkonsson’s special family background, is the last great Icelandic saga work composed on the basis of a sentiment of Icelandic-Norwegian brotherhood. It is clear that posterity gave Snorre Sturlason too overshadowing a role in the saga world – a role which now at last he must share with another significant, though until now forgotten, man – Jon Håkonsson. Through this publication of Flateyjarbók in a complete modern Norwegian translation, non-specialists may read and evaluate the book. Flateyjarbók escapes the fate of a “dumb statue” in a library. The history and message of the work have been revived. It will also reach an even larger international public in English. Thus Brynjolv Sveinsson’s 1656 vision will be fulfilled.