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Iceland Mag

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Manuscripts of Icelandic Sagas threatened by silverfish infestation at University storage facilities

By Staff

Last week the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, revealed silverfish had been found in its manuscript storage, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service reports. The infestation is considered extremely serious, as the institute preserves medieval Icelandic manuscripts, including many of the most valuable manuscripts of the Icelandic Sagas. The silverfish (a small wingless insect inhabiting moist areas) pose an immediate threat to the manuscripts, since they can eat the ink off the parchment, the glue holding the books together and under correct conditions, they can even eat the parchment itself.

Read more: Interactive map helps you trace your steps through the Sagas as you travel around Iceland

Guðrún Nordal, the chairman of The Árni Magnússon Institute told The Icelandic National Broadcasting Service that the silverfish have not yet been found inside the locked inner storage, where the most valuable manuscripts are kept, but that the very fact that the pests have been found on the premises shows that the institute‘s housing is inadequate. Silverfish only thrive in moist conditions, and moisture is extremely dangerous to delicate manuscripts.

She points out that the urgent need for new housing for the institute has been clear for a number of years. This is not only a question of preserving the manuscripts, she points out, but also of their display. Currently the Institute lacks facilities to display these treasures to the public.

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