was a pioneering Icelandic woman who one thousand years ago traveled
to the New World and gave birth to the first child of European descent
in North America, before returning to Iceland. She then went to Rome
on pilgrimage, very likely offering the Vatican a first-person account
of her journeys. Her story is just one facet of "Living and Reliving
the Icelandic Sagas," the fall exhibition on display in Kroch Library
from August 17 through October 10. The exhibition is an initiative of
the National and University Library of Iceland, the Library of Congress,
the University of Manitoba Libraries and Cornell University Library.
It has already been on display in Iceland and at the Library of Congress,
and moves in October to Winnipeg. The final venue on the international
tour of "Living and Reliving the Icelandic Sagas," slated for January
2001, is Scandinavia House: The Nordic Center in America, the New York
City home of The American-Scandinavian Foundation.
and Rarer Manuscripts
The exhibition chronicles
the history of Icelandic saga literature and consists of scores of items,
including Icelandic paper manuscripts never seen before in North America
and a selection of rare printed books from our own renowned Fiske Icelandic
Collection. With more than 39,000 volumes, the Fiske Collection is the
most comprehensive compilation on Old Norse literature, Icelandic civilization
and Nordic medieval studies in the Western Hemisphere.
By special permission of
the Government of Iceland, a vellum manuscript from about 1460 of Njáls
saga occupies a prominent place among the texts in the exhibition.
This text, Oddabók Njálu, is on loan from the Árni
Magnússon Institute in Iceland, national repository for most
of Iceland's medieval manuscripts.
An Interactive Media Presentation
(IMP), designed by our Icelandic colleagues in the National Library,
accompanies the exhibition of rare texts. The IMP, accessible from computers
in the entrance lobbies of Olin Library, of Uris Library and in the
exhibition gallery, utilizes digital images and an electronic tutorial
to create an in-depth complement to "Living and Reliving the Icelandic
Echoes of the
More than a thousand years
ago, Northmen and Celts sailed across the North Atlantic and settled
a volcanic island they called Iceland. During the Middle Ages, their
descendants established colonies in Greenland and explored the North
American seaboard. Today, North Americans are discovering the rich culture
and literary tradition, preserved for centuries in the Icelandic sagas,
of the people who explored America long before Columbus. These works
rank alongside the masterpieces of western civilization, as precious
a contribution to literary history as the writings of the Greeks and
Romans. For us, however, the sagas are literally and geographically
much closer to home than the works of Homer or Herodotus.
The World of
Icelanders lived in a world
of feuding and vengeance, yet developed a unique form of democratic
government under the rule of law. They lived in a world in which valiant
men and women became heroes and heroines in oral tradition and literature.
The account of their lives and legends is embodied in the sagas, recorded
and handed down through the centuries.
who lived between the cultural worlds of receding Norse paganism and
advancing Christianity, is emblematic of medieval Iceland's restless,
brilliant spirit. Her story, which is documented in both the Saga
of Eric the Red and the Greenlanders' Saga, is a remarkable
tale and reflects the dynamic role Icelandic women have played throughout
that country's history.
In welcoming you to this
exhibition, we suggest keeping Guðríður in mind as you
contemplate the precious manuscripts and rare books that have preserved
so much of Iceland'sand America'searly heritage.
Patrick J. Stevens
Curator of the Fiske Icelandic Collection
Reliving the Icelandic Sagas"
is open August 17 - October 10, 2000
from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday - Friday; and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.