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King Harald I of Norway receives Norway out of his father's hands in this illustration from the Flateyjarbók.

The Flatey Book, (Icelandic: Flateyjarbók; lit. "Flat-island book") is an important medieval Icelandic manuscripts. It is also known as GkS 1005 fol. and Codex Flatöiensis. Sometimes anglicized as Flateyjarbok.



The Flatey Book is the largest of medieval Icelandic manuscripts, comprising 225 written and illustrated vellum leaves. It contains mostly sagas of the Norse kings as found in the Heimskringla, specifically the sagas about Olaf Tryggvason, St. Olaf, Sverre, Hakon the Old, Magnus the Good, and Harald Hardrada. But they appear here expanded with additional material[1] not found elsewhere (some material being very old) and with other unique differences. Most, but not all, of the additional material is placed within the royal sagas, sometimes interlaced. Also in the manuscript is the only copy of the eddic poem Hyndluljóð, a unique set of annals from creation to 1394, and many short tales not otherwise preserved such as Nornagests þáttr ('Tale of Norna Gest').

Especially important is the Grœnlendinga saga ("History of the Greenlanders") giving an account of the Vinland colony with some differences from the Eiríks saga rauða ("History of Eirík the Red"). Here also is preserved the only Icelandic version of the Orkneyinga saga ("History of the Orkney Islanders") and Færeyinga saga ("History of the Faroe Islanders").


From internal evidence the book was being written in 1387 and was completed in 1394 or very soon after. The first page states that its owner is "Jonn Hakonar son" and that the book was scribed by two priests. One of them, "Jon prestr Þórðar son", inscribed the contents from the tale of Eirík the Traveller down to the end of the two Olaf sagas and the other, "Magnús prestr Thorhallz sun", inscribed the earlier and later material and also drew the illustrations.

Further material was inserted towards the end of the 15th century.

The manuscript first received special attention by the learnèd in 1651 when Bishop Brynjólfur Sveinsson of Skálholt, with permission of King Frederick III of Denmark requested that all folk of Iceland who owned old manuscripts to turn them over to the Danish king, either providing the original or a copy, either as a gift or for a price. Jon Torfason, son of Rev. Torfi Finsson, who resided on Flatey ('Flat Island') in Breiðafjörður on the west coast of Iceland, was then the owner of book which was already known as the Flateyjarbók. At first Jon refused to release his precious heirloom, the biggest and best book in all of Iceland, and Jon continued to refuse even when Bishop Brynjólfur paid him a personal visit and offered him five hundreds of land. But Jon only changed his mind and bestowed it on the Bishop just as the Bishop was leaving the region and in return Jon was exempted from all future ecclesiastical taxes.

The manuscript was given into the keeping of Thormod Torfæus, in 1662, as a present from Bishop Brynjólfur to King Frederick III and placed in the Royal Museum of Copenhagen. (The rest of Bishop Brynólfur's collection was dispersed by his heirs who had no interest in a collection of old mansucripts and most disappeared for ever, though fortunately transcripts to paper had been made from many of them.) In 1971 the Flatey Book and the Codex Regius were repatriated to Iceland as Icelandic national treasures and are preserved and studied by the Árni Magnússon Institute.


Flateyjarbók consists of the following texts:


  1. ^ Such as Norna-Gests þáttr ('the Story of Norna-Gest'), Styrbjarnar þáttr Svíakappa ('Tale of Styrbjörn the Swedish Champion'), Hróa þáttr heimska ('The Tale of Roi the Fool') and Völsa þáttr ('the Tale of the Phallos').


  • Rowe, Elizabeth Ashman (2005). The Development of Flateyjarbók. Odense: The University Press of Southern Denmark.
  • Vigfússon, Guðbrandur (ed.); Unger, C. R. (ed.) (1860–1868). Flateyjarbok: En samling af Norske Konge-saegar, 3 Vols. Christiania [Oslo]: P. T. Mallings forlagsboghandel.
  • Anderson, Rasmus B. (trans. ed.) (1906). The Flatey Book and Recently Discovered Vatican Manuscripts Concerning America as Early as the Tenth Century. London: The Norroena Society. (Facsimiles of Icelandic text, Icelandic transcription, Danish translation, English translation of Vinland material and related material only.)

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