About Thormodus Torfæus
- Islandsk historiker Tormod Torfæus, wikipedia
Thormodus Torfæus (Thormodr Torfason, Thormod Torfæus, or Þormóður Torfason) (1636—1719) was an Icelandic historian, born May 27, 1636, at Engey, Iceland, and educated at the University of Copenhagen. He lived and worked for most of his life in Kopervik, Karmøy, Norway. In 1667 he was appointed royal antiquary of Iceland, and in 1682 King Christian V of Denmark appointed him Royal Historian of the Kingdom of Denmark-Norway. He translated several Icelandic works into the Danish language and was the author of Historia Vinlandiæ Antiquæ (1705); Grœnlandia Antiqua (1706); and Historia Rerum Norvegicarum (four volumes, 1711).
In 1711, Torfæus's Historia rerum Norvegicarum (history of Norway, written in Latin) was published in four folio volumes. It was the first comprehensive presentation of Norwegian history since Snorri Sturluson's Heimskringla. The work covers Norwegian history, from its earliest beginnings until 1387. The focus – and the strength of the work – lies in the older, medieval history. Torfæus had at his disposal a number of medieval Old Norse saga manuscripts, and he was a pioneer in using these as source material. He reworked this Old Norse literature into a coherent Latin history. As well, he built on a large amount of historical narratives in Latin, both medieval and more recent. Thus, the work is based on a mixed foundation of medieval Old Norse saga tradition and contemporary continental Latin culture. Through his adaptation this Norse literary tradition became known to a large public – Dano-Norwegian as well as European. What was written during the next century about older Norwegian history was almost invariably based on Torfæus's work. Ludvig Holberg praised the work as "one of the most impressive and wonderful histories ever to have seen the light." Torfæus died on July 31, 1719 in Stangeland, Karmøy.
A Norwegian state-funded project is currently in the process of translating all of his work into Norwegian.