Icelandic Literary Society

The Icelandic Literary Society (Hið Íslenzka Bókmenntafélag), founded in 1816, is a society dedicated to promoting and strengthening Icelandic language, literature and learning.

The Society was founded in 1816, when the Icelandic independence movement was in its infancy, at the instigation of Rasmus Rask and Árni Helgason. Its stated purpose was "to support and maintain the Icelandic language and literature, and the civilization and honor of the Icelandic nation, by the publication of books or by other means as circumstances would permit."[1] The first meeting of the Copenhagen branch was held on 13 April 1816, and the first meeting of the Reykjavík branch on 1 August 1816.[2]

Rask was the first president of the Copenhagen branch; the first president of the Reykjavík branch (until 1848) was Árni Helgason. Jón Sigurðsson, an Icelandic cultural hero, served as president of the Copenhagen branch from 1851 to 1879. In 1912 the two branches were united and Björn M. Ólsen, president of the Reykjavík branch, continued as president of the whole society.[3]

The first book the society published contained Sturlunga saga together with Saga Árna biskups Þorlákssonar, in 1817.[4] The Icelandic branch published its first book in 1849.[1] In the last few decades, the society has been influential in publishing Icelandic translations of key non-Icelandic academic and literary works; these books are known as Lærdómsrit hins íslenzka bókmenntafélags, and their publication was initiated by Þorsteinn Gylfason, who served as chief editor for over two decades.

The society publishes the magazine Skírnir, which succeeded its first annual, Íslenzk Sagnablöð, in 1827.[5][6]


  1. 1 2 Halldór Hermannsson, The Periodical Literature of Iceland Down to the Year 1874, Islandica XI (1918), p. 26.
  2. Sigurður Líndal, Hið Íslenzka Bókmenntafélag: Söguágrip, Reykjavík: Morgunblaðið, 1969, p. 18.
  3. Söguágrip p. 48.
  4. Söguágrip pp. 20, 22.
  5. Halldór Hermannsson, p. 32.
  6. Söguágrip pp. 20, 44.

External links

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