Highlight of the month

Oddur Gottskálksson´s translation of the New testament

The translation of The New Testament by Oddur Gottskálksson (1514/1515 – 1556) was printed in Roskilde in 1540. It was the first book printed in Icelandic. Oddur had become acquainted with Lutheranism in his travels in Scandinavia and Germany. When he returned to Iceland he became a writer in  Skálholt in the service of the bishop Ögmundur Pálsson. Perhaps he started working right away on his translation based on the German translation by Martin Luther and the Vulgate, the official Latin edition from 1534 or 1535. He worked on the translation in the cowshed at Skálholt, both in order to hide his activity from Ögmundur and also because of the warmth. A few years later he moved to Reykir in Ölfus and finished the translation there.

In 1539 Oddur travelled to Denmark to get his translation acknowledged by the king, Christian the 3rd. After having the translation compared with the Latin version by some scholars, the king announced the translation to be correct and Oddur could then have it printed, which he did  at his own expense. It´s not known how many copied were printed, but  very likely Oddur wanted every priest in Iceland to have a copy.

The translation is a remarkable pioneering work with lots of new words in Icelandic invented by Oddur. The translations´ influence on the Icelandic  language has thus been tremendous, many of those words are still in use. The translation was published with minor amendments in bishop Guðbrandur Þorlákssons´ Bible in 1584 and some of it is still recognizable in modern versions.

The book was photocopied at S.L. Møller in Copenhagen in 1933 and a copy of this edition can be seen in the exhibition Prentsmiðjueintök (Books-from-printing-presses).

Browse the book on Baekur.is

Entry in the Icelandic bibliography until 1844

The Books-from-printing-presses exhibition

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