The Dark Edge of The North -
Olaus Magnus's woodcuts as a basic portrait of Lapland myth
Finnish flag Suomeksi

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.

carta marina 1539/1572

CARTA MARINA 1539/1572

Antonio Lafreri's copy of Carta Marina by Olaus Magnus is the most renowned copper engraving based on the original nine-leaf wood engraving. The map on the right is a facsimile copy from 1967. French cartographer Antonio Lafreri (1512-1577), whose name in French is written Antoine Lafrery, engraved downsized versions of a number of maps, including Carta Marina in 1572. This map was published in Italy.

Olaus Magnus (1490-1557) was a catholic priest. He was sent to the northern parts of the kingdom on church business in 1519, exploring the Tornio River Valley to reach Pello. Receiving great inspiration from his trip, he published the diligently translated and long-standing influential classic Historia de gentibus septentrionalis (1555; History of Northern Peoples.)

Olaus Magnus published Carta Marina in 1539 as his preliminary historical work, the first map that came close to depicting the true geography of the Nordic countries. The inland areas of the nations were still rather arbitrarily drawn, yet the shorelines were drawn more realistically.

This site is produced as a part of international eLibrary & Culture without Borders project. The purpose of the project was to bring available the information of the Barents regions cultural heritage and the research information unto the general public, researchers, actors in cultural organizations, educational institutions and experts. eLibrary & Culture without Borders project was funded by European Regional Development INTERREG III A North program, Council of Lapland and Rovaniemi.
The map and the pictures:
Public Domain
The site is updated 2021. Web design and realisation by K. Simonlehto. Translation into English: Peter Culley.

Culture Pictures of Lapland

Rovaniemi City Library. Lapland-department.
Jorma Eton tie 6, 96100 Rovaniemi
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kirjasto.lappi-osasto at rovaniemi.fi