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Lilja wants Icelandic manuscripts home

29.08.2019 - 16:29
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The education ministers of Iceland and Denmark spoke this morning about the possibility of Denmark returning the remaining Icelandic manuscripts that are housed in Copenhagen. The Icelandic minister says she is hopeful the countries will strike a deal; especially because suitable new housing for the manuscripts is in preparation in Reykjavík.

It is nearly 50 years since Iceland received the Flatey Book and the King’s Book back from Denmark in a ceremony at Reykjavík harbour. The Morgunblaðið headline on 21st April 1971 was “The manuscripts are home!” This morning, the paper referenced that day with the headline “Education minister wants the manuscripts home”. 

The Icelandic government decided yesterday that it will start negotiation with Denmark to try and bring more old Icelandic literature from Copenhagen to Iceland. Lilja Dögg Alfreðsdóttir, Minister of Education and Culture, is setting up a working group of members from four ministries and the Árni Magnússon Institute, and led by Guðrún Nordal, to look after the project. Among the manuscripts still in Denmark are Ormur’s Book, one of the main Snorri’s Edda manuscripts, and the oldest manuscript of all, the ‘Reykjabók’ of Njáll. 

Lilja has been preparing this project for a while, as she believes it is within the spirit of the Alþingi resolution to strengthen the Icelandic language. If returned, the manuscripts would join the others already in Iceland at the new House of Icelandic that is about to rise in Reykjavík. 

“And that’s why we see it as appropriate to enter these talks. I had a telephone meeting with the Danish education minister, Ane Halsboe-Jørgensen, and we agreed to sit down and go over this matter [in person]. I am very hopeful that it will go well. This is because one of the things that has been happening in international collections affairs is that more artefacts are being returned to their countries of origin. I think it is exactly now, when we are signing the contract to build the House of Icelandic, that we should start this process immediately,” Lilja says.

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