Renæssanceforum 3 • 2007

Sigurður Pétursson
Saxo og Cardanus yderst mod Norden

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Saxo and Cardanus in the far North: Due to the influence of a rich landowner named Magnús Jónsson (1637-1702) a lively literary activity flourished in the last decades of the 17th century on the small island of Vigur located in Ísafjarðardjúp, the largest fiord in the inclement northwestern part of Iceland. Magnús Jónsson never finished the regular Latin school curriculum nor held any public offices, but he utilized his advantageous economical situation to pursue his diverse literary interests, which were mainly focused on various aspects of Icelandic literature. In a manuscript partly written by Magnús Jónsson himself, the author ponders, among other things, whether the stylistic device of hyperbole should be permitted in historical writing. In support of the affirmative answer, Magnús quotes the humanist writer Hieronymus Cardanus (1501-1576) who claims that the renowned Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus reaped much praise for the exaggerations in his Gesta Danorum. Thus, in a location quite remote from the learned world of Europe, Magnús Jónsson introduces as authorities both a Humanist writer and a medieval Latin author into a short treatise composed in Icelandic and devoted to a literary topic likely to foster diverging opinions.