History of the Manuscript Department

The origin of the Manuscript Department of the National Library dates back to the purchase of the manuscript collection of Steingrímur Jónsson and his wife Valgerður Jónsdóttir in 1846. In their collection there were, besides their own works, especially documents from his ancestors, Hannes, Finnur and Jón Halldórsson. The Manuscript Department of the National Library (Id: LBS) grew slowly, but gradually more items arrived, in particular after Jón Árnason, the National Librarian, published a booklet in 1862 where he encouraged people to strengthen the library by donating documents for preservation. In 1879 the manuscript collection of Jón Sigurðsson was purchased which contained 1342 items (Id: JS).

In this collection were many precious manuscripts and probably the most unique is the manuscript of Hallgrímur Pétursson‘s the Hymns of Passion in the author´s own writing. In 1901 the Library purchased the manuscript collection of the Icelandic Literary Society, Copenhagen Branch (Id: ÍB) and Reykjavík Branch (Id: ÍBR), which contained about 1800 manuscript or Id-numbers. More manuscript collections came into the Library‘s possession during the first half of the 20th Century and still there are whole collections that arrive to the Library when individuals bring their own documents and those of their forefathers for preservation.

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