The Norse Discovery of America, by A.M Reeves, N.L. Beamish and R.B. Anderson, , at sacred-texts.com
IN addition to the longer sagas of the discovery of Wineland, and the scattered references in other Icelandic historical literature, already adduced, the country finds mention in still another class of Icelandic records. These records are the chronological lists of notable events, in and out of Iceland, which are known as the Icelandic Annals. It has been conjectured that the archetype of these Annals was compiled either by the learned Ari, the father of Icelandic historiography, or in the century in which he lived. Although there is the best of reasons for the belief, that the first writer of Icelandic Annals was greatly indebted to Ari the Learned for the knowledge of many of the events which he records, such written evidence as we have from the century in which Ari lived would seem to indicate that this kind of literature had not then sprung into being,
A recent writer in an able disquisition upon this subject arrives at the conclusion, that the first book of Annals was written in the south of Iceland about the year 1280. While this theory is apparently well grounded, it is, nevertheless true that the first writer of Icelandic Annals of whom we have definite knowledge, was an Icelandic priest named Einar Haflidason, who was born in 1307, and died in 1393. The fact that Einar was the compiler of such a book is gleaned from his own work, through an
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LETTER OF POPE INNOCENT III TO NORWAY BISHOPS.
PERHAPS the greatest literary discovery of a century are encyclical letters addressed to the bishops of Norway by Popes Innocent III, IV, V, John XXI, Martin IV, Nicholas III, Clement IV, Innocent VIII, and Martin V, in which reference are made to interests of the church in Greenland. The earliest of these documents thus far found is one from Innocent III, hearing date of February 13, 1206, and the mention therein of Greenland sets at rest, finally and absolutely, the long disputed question of the discovery of America by Norsemen several centuries before the time of Columbus. These manuscript letters were resurrected from their, ancient repository in the Vatican in the year 1903, and by special authorization of Cardinal Merry del Val, Papal Secretary of State, they are reproduced, with English translations, and appear in print for the first time in the Flatey book volume of this Norroena series. A part of Pope Innocent III's letter is shown on the accompanying page.
entry under the year 1304, in which his birth is recorded in such wise as to point unmistakably to his authorship. This collection of Annals is contained in the parchment manuscript AM. 420 b, 4to, which has received the name, "Lewman's Annals" probably from the office held by some one of its former owners. Under the year 1121, we find in these Annals the entry: "Bishop Eric Uppsi sought Wineland."
The next considerable collection of Annals, the date of which we are enabled to determine with tolerable accuracy, is that appended to the Flatey Book, the manuscript of which has already been described. These Annals were written by the priest Magnus Thorhallsson, and doubtless completed before the year 1395, for all entries cease in the previous year. Among the recorded events of the year 1121 it is stated that "Eric, the Bishop of Greenland, went in search of Wineland."
Of a riper antiquity than either of the foregoing works are, in all likelihood, the so-called Annales Reseniani, the original vellum manuscript of which was destroyed by the fire of 1728. A paper copy from this original, written by Arni Magnusson, is preserved in AM. 424, 4to, The dates included in these Annals extend from the year 228 to 1295 inclusive, and it has been conjectured that these records were compiled before the year 1319. Here, under the year 1121, occurs the statement: "Bishop Eric sought Wineland."
A parchment manuscript is preserved in the Royal Library of Copenhagen, No. 2087, 4to, old collection, which contains the annals known as Annales regii. These are
written in various hands, and are brought down to the year 1341. From the first entry down to the year 1306 the hand is the same, and from this fact the conclusion has been drawn that this portion of the manuscript was completed not later than 1307. Against the year 1121 we find the entry: "Bishop Eric of Greenland went in search of Wineland."
Similar entries to these occur in two other collections of Icelandic Annals, which may be mentioned here, for while these are, in their present form, of much more recent creation than those already noticed, they still seem to have drawn their material from elder lost vellums. One of these, Henrik Hoyer's Annals, derives its name from its first owner, who died in Bergen in the year 1615. It is a paper manuscript contained in AM. 22, fol., and bears strong internal evidence of having been copied from an Icelandic original, which has since disappeared. The entry in this manuscript under the year 1121 is: "Bishop Eric sought Wineland."
The other modern collection, known as Gottskalk's Annals, is contained in a parchment manuscript in the Royal Library of Stockholm, No. 5, 8vo., which it is believed was chiefly written by one Gottskalk Jonsson, a priest, who lived in the north of Iceland in the sixteenth century, and it has been conjectured, from internal evidence, that the portion of the compilation prior to the year 1391 was copied from a lost manuscript. The entry under the year 1121 corresponds with those already quoted: "Eric, the Greenlanders' bishop, sought Wineland."
Prom these different records, varying slightly in phraseology,
but all of the same purport, we may safely conclude that, in the year 1121, a certain Bishop of Greenland, called Eric Uppsi, went upon a voyage in search of Wineland. It is the sum of information which the Annals have to give concerning that country, and is meagre enough, for we are not only left unenlightened as to why the voyage was undertaken, but we are not even informed whether the bishop succeeded in finding the country of which he went in search. It is not possible to obtain much additional knowledge concerning this Bishop Eric elsewhere. It seems altogether probable that he was the "Greenlanders' Bishop Eric Gnup's son," mentioned in a genealogical list in Landnama, and it is clear that if this be the same Eric, he was by birth an Icelander. This view is in a slight measure confirmed by an entry in the Lawman's Annals under the year 1112 [in the Annals of the Flatey Book under the year 1113] wherein the journey of Bishop Eric is recorded, a "journey" presumably undertaken away from Iceland, and probably to Greenland. In the ancient Icelandic scientific work called Rimbegla, in a list of those men who had been bishops at Gardar, the episcopal seat in Greenland, Eric heads the list, while in a similar list of Greenland bishops in the Flatey Book, Eric's name is mentioned third. No record of Bishop Eric's ordination has been preserved, and none of his fate, unless indeed it be written in the brief memorial of his Wineland voyage. It has been conjectured that this voyage to Wineland was undertaken as a missionary enterprise, a speculation which seems to have been suggested solely by the ecclesiastical office of the
chief participant. It has been further conjectured, since we read in the Annals of the ordination of a new bishop for Greenland in 1124, that Eric must have perished in the undertaking. The date of his death is nowhere given and it is possible that the entry in the Annals, under the year 1121, is a species of necrological record. It is, in any event, the last surviving mention of Wineland the Good in the elder Icelandic literature.
Although no subsequent visit to Wineland is recorded a portion of the American coastland, seen by the original explorers, does appear to have been visited by certain of the Greenland colonists, more than a hundred years after Bishop Eric's Wineland voyage.
A parchment manuscript, AM. 420 a, 4to, contains a collection of Annals, known as the Elder Skalholt Annals not heretofore cited because of a lacuna covering the year 1121. This manuscript, which Arni Magnusson obtained from Skalholt, in the south of Iceland, and which he conjectures may have belonged to Skaholt church, or to Bishop Bryniolf's private library, is believed to have been written about the year 1362. We find in this, against the year 1347, the following record: "There came also a ship from Greenland, less in size than small Icelandic trading vessels. It came into the outer Stream-firth. It was without an anchor. There were seventeen men on board, and they had sailed to Markland, but had afterwards been driven hither by storms at sea." The Annals of Gottskalk record the simple fact in the same year: "A ship from Greenland came into the mouth of Streamfirth." On the other hand the Annals of the Flatey
[paragraph continues] Book, under the year 1347, have the following more particular record: "A ship came then from Greenland, which had sailed to Markland, and there were eighteen men on board."
This scanty record is the last historical mention of a voyage undertaken by Leif's fellow-countrymen to a part of the land which he had discovered three hundred years before. The nature of the information indicates that the knowledge of the discovery had not altogether faded from the memories of the Icelanders settled in Greenland. It seems further to lend a measure of plausibility to a theory that people from the Greenland colony may, from time to time, have visited the coast to the southwest of their home for supplies of wood, or for some kindred purpose. The visitors in this case had evidently intended to return directly from Markland to Greenland, and had they not been driven out of their course to Iceland, the probability is that this voyage would never have found mention in Icelandic chronicles, and all knowledge of it must have vanished as completely as did the colony to which the Markland visitors belonged.