Icelandic Cartography: 1849

Uppdráttr Íslands / Carte d’Islande by Björn Gunnlaugsson and Ólafs Nicolas Ólsens, 1849.

Björn Gunnlaugsson was an Icelandic cartographer who along with the Danish army cartographer Ólafs Ólsen is credited with the first complete map of Iceland, even though the ever-present “Vatnajökull eða Klofajökull” space in the south-east was still blank. The Icelander received the Danish Order of the Dannebrog and the French Légion d’honneur for his surveying work, but the map was published under Ólsen’s name in Denmark, so future travelers would constantly refer to the “invaluable Olsen’s map” as essential to their expeditions around the country. Labeled in both French and Danish, the Uppdráttr Íslands / Carte d’Islande was first published in the mid-1840s on four separate folding sheets that could be carried separately (but came in a slim case together). Like the later publication pictured above, panels of paper were pasted onto a thin canvas back so that the panel segments could fold and unfold easily without the wear-and-tear that would otherwise cause the paper to rip at the joints.

The photo of Uppdráttr Íslands / Carte d’Islande above is from the 1849 publication, and is a compilation of eight photos I took of different portions of the map and then stitched together. Unlike Ortelius‘ fanciful map I wrote about earlier, this map comes with coordinates and altitudes of significant peaks on the left, a legend of symbols on the bottom, and a list of the regions or municipalities on the right — the different colors you see on the country demarcate these different provinces. The copy that the Cornell Library owns comes folded in a booklet clearly intended for English readers despite the languages within; as the photo below shows, it was republished or resold in London by Edward Stanford, who we will see again in the next map.

4 thoughts on “Icelandic Cartography: 1849

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