A Description of the Northern Peoples

Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus was a monumental work by Olaus Magnus on the Nordic countries, printed in Rome 1555.[1] It was a work which long remained for the rest of Europe the authority on Swedish matters. Its popularity increased by the numerous woodcuts of people and their customs, amazing the rest of Europe. It is still today a valuable repertory of much curious information in regard to Scandinavian customs and folklore.

"On the three Main Gods of the Geats." From left to right; Frigg, Thor and Odin.
"The Alphabet of the Geats", showing the runic alphabet used by the Geats.

It was translated into Italian (1565), German (1567), English (1658) and Dutch (1665). Abridgments of the work appeared also at Antwerp (1558 and 1562), Paris (1561), Basel (1567), Amsterdam (1586), Frankfurt (1618) and Leiden (1652).

An exemplar was given to William Cecil during the Swedish king's wooing of queen Elizabeth I of England, and in 1822 it would be referred to by Sir Walter Scott.[2]


  1. ^ Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus, Rome, 1555 (available free at Google Books)
  2. ^ Wawn, Andrew (2000). The Vikings and the Victorians: Inventing the Old North in Nineteenth-Century Britain. Cambridge: Brewer. ISBN 0-85991-575-1. pp. 17f.


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