The dark edge of the north

Olaus Magnus's woodcuts as a basic portrait of Lapland myth.

The images and captions of the presentation are from the book Pohjoisten kansojen historia (History of the Northern Peoples) by Bishop Olaus Magnus, the original Latin publication of which was published in 1555 with the related first edition of Carta Marina published in 1539. Background material providing further information is Heli Saarinen's study of the wood engravings of Olaus Magnus as original depictions of the Lapland fable. Some of the images refer to the Finnish-language version of Pohjoisten kansojen historia (History of the Northern Peoples) and the English-language translation of the work.

Olaus Magnus (1490 - 1557) was a Nordic historian renowned for Pohjoisten kansojen historia [A History of the Nordic Peoples] and as an author of Carta marina, closely connected with the same. He was a highly learned clergyman who is often referred to as the last Roman Catholic bishop of Swedish Finland. In reality he did not attend to his bishop vocation for even as long as a day, because King Gustav had changed Sweden into a land of Lutheranism and could not approve a Catholic bishop appointed by the Pope. Olaus Magnus lived in exile for the rest of his life and died in Rome.

From 1518 to 1519, Olaus Magnus made a journey across Sweden. During his trek, he collected information connected with nature as well as the people and their habits, which serve as the foundation of his works. Pohjoisten kansojen historia [A History of the Nordic Peoples], which was published in 1555, was the first literary and pictorial presentation of Lapland. Olaus relates his own eyewitness observations of Tornionlaakso Valley, as his journey extended as far as Pello. With respect to the rest of Lapland, his description is based on antique and medieval literary sources and oral accounts which were mixed up with plenty of imagination and prejudices.