The Arnamagnæan Institute

Research at the Arnamagnæan Institute is primarily focused on philology, manuscript studies and language studies, specifically West Norse (Old Icelandic, Norwegian and Faroese) and East Norse (Old Danish and Swedish) in addition to modern Icelandic and Faroese.

Courses are taught in the following subjects:

  • The Nordic languages in the middle ages
  • Old Icelandic
  • East Norse
  • Old Norse-Icelandic literature
  • Modern Icelandic language and literature
  • Modern Faroese language and literature

The Arnamagnæan Institute's chief function is to preserve and further the study of the manuscripts in the Arnamagnæan collection, in accordance with the terms of the Arnamagnæan Foundation, established in 1760. The collection, which comprises some 3000 items, is now divided between Copenhagen and Reykjavík. In 2009 the collection was added to UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register in recognition of its historical value.

In collaboration with the Arnamagnæan Commission the institute publishes the series Bibliotheca Arnamagnæana and Editiones Arnamagnæanæ. A new series of digital editions, Editiones Arnamagnæanæ Electronicæ, is under development.

Attached to the section there is a photographic studio and a conservation workshop, as well as a manuscript reading room and a library containing numerous volumes mainly covering language and culture in the Nordic countries from the Middle Ages till today.  Access to the reading room and library is subject to appointment.

Viewings of manuscripts are regularly arranged for secondary schools, students, associations and other interested parties. Visits can be arranged by writing to


The institute was originally formed in 1956 as an independent institute under the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Copenhagen, with the aim of furthering the academic research into the Arnamagnæan manuscript collection, which the Icelandic philologist and historian Árni Magnússon had bequeathed to the university upon his death in 1730.

The bulk of the manuscripts are of Icelandic origin, but the collection also contains Danish (approx. 250), Norwegian (approx. 250) and Swedish (approx. 30) manuscripts, as well as approx. 100 manuscripts of other provenance.

In 1965 the Danish parliament passed legislation which decreed that a significant part of the collection, just over half, should be returned to Iceland. The transfer started in April 1971 and lasted until the summer of 1997. This part of the collection is now housed in the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies in Reykjavík.