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The Survey of Iceland - The maps of Björn Gunnlaugsson

In 1776-1818 Iceland´s coastal areas were surveyed and maps drawn that were printed later on. Although the coastal surveys were an important step forward people still had to wait before a satisfactory map of the whole country was made, of both inhabited and uninhabited areas. One of those who thought this was a very important task was Björn Gunnlaugsson, a teacher at Bessastaðir, who tried to motivate the authorities to do something about this issue. When Björn’s wishes were not listened to The Icelandic Literary Society decided to intervene and agreed to spend some of its annual income to support Björn in his task of surveying the whole country. Although the authorities had not taken the initiative they still aided The Icelandic Literary Society financially in this endeavour. Björn worked on the survey during the years 1831-1843, except for the summer of 1836. He probably travelled for over 700 days during his surveying expeditions. His work yielded a map of Iceland, published by The Icelandic Literary Society on four sheets in 1844-1848. In 1849 a smaller one-page edition was published. Björn Gunnlaugsson's survey and mapmaking are considerable scientific achievements. For the first time a reasonably accurate map of the country was available. Later it became Þorvaldur Thoroddsen´s task to fill the gaps Björn left behind. The maps of Iceland constructed by Björn can be seen in an exhibition commemorating the 200 year anniversary of The Icelandic Literary Society.

Here you can read Björn Gunnlaugsson´s report in the journal Skírnir:


Here you can see Björn Gunnlaugsson´s maps:


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