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WERE it necessary to offer any apology for the publication of this Volume, it would be amply furnished by the interest which has been excited in the public mind in behalf of the island of which it treats. Not only have individuals, of purely scientific habits, had their curiosity awakened and gratified by the details of natural research, with which they have been presented by those who have recently visited Iceland, with a view to explore its extraordinary phenomena; but such as bend their attention more to the history of man, and especially those who wish to contemplate him as affected by the influence of moral and religi ous principle, have felt a most lively concern about the inhabitants of that remote country, and expressed an ardent desire of becoming more intimately acquainted with the peculiarities of their character and habits of life.
The object which the author had in view in visiting Iceland, was exclusively to investigate the wants of its inhabitants with respect to the Holy Scriptures; to adopt the most eligible measures for the speedy distribution of the copies which had been provided for them by the bounty of the British and Foreign Bible Society; and to establish a similar institution among
the Icelanders, for the purpose of providing them in future with seasonable and adequate supplies of this invaluable repository of Divine Revelation. On his arrival, he found that it would be impossible for him to attain this object, except by making the tour of the island, and visiting those of its inhabitants whose concurrence and co-operation were deemed of importance to the execution of his plan; and as its extent, and the difficulties necessarily connected with travelling, are very considerable, he was obliged to spend upwards of a year in that country, and make his projected tour at different times.
The present work contains the result of the observations which he made in the course of these journies. Where he went over the same ground with former travellers, he has in a great measure been anticipated by the remarks which they have laid before the public; although he flatters himself the reader will not peruse even this part of his narrative without meeting with instances both in confirmation and amplification of their statements. But most of the regions through which he passed have never been visited by any native of Great Britain, and many of them had been wholly unexplored by foreigners.
The very prominent place which the natural appearances of the island occupy on almost every page, arises from the predominance and extraordinary characters of these phenomena. It is impossible for a stranger to take a single step in Iceland, without having some uncommon object of this description presented to his view; and, in taking down notes of his progress, his principal difficulty lies in the selection of subjects where such a multiplicity claim his attention. It not unfrequently happens that he is denied the
pleasure of seeing a human being for several days together, when proceeding from one part of the island to another. In crossing the deserts of the interior, he may travel two hundred miles without perceiving the smallest.symptom of animated being of any description whatever; and, even in traversing the inhabited parts, he still finds himself more surrounded by nature than by human society, owing to the distance from one farm-house to another.
It was not the intention of the author to have entered at all on the subject of the history and literature of Iceland, especially as they have been treated with such consummate ability by Dr Holland, in those parts of Sir George Mackenzie's Travels which are furnished by his pen; but it afterwards occurred to him, that many of those who perused this volume might not have an opportunity of seeing that work; and, in order to remove the defect which must thus have attached to it, he has drawn up a brief sketch of the island and its inhabitants, and given it the form of an Introduction. Such as may wish to obtain fuller information on these subjects, he most cordially refers to Dr Holland's Preliminary Dissertation.
The inquiry into Icelandic Poetry, was occasioned by a close study of that species of composition, with a view to ascertain the meaning of the Edda, in which is contained the ancient mythology of the Scandinavian nations. In this study the author was greatly assisted by a Danish work, entitled, "Nordens Ældste Poesie," by Jon Olafson, a learned Icelandic antiquary and philologist.
The Map is constructed from the most recent maps which we have of Iceland, with a number of correc
tions, made from the author's personal observation, assisted by an accurate sketch, which was kindly furnished him by one of the Danish officers employed in surveying the coasts.
For any inaccuracies, in point of language, the author claims the indulgence of his readers; which he feels assured they will not deny him, when he informs them, that, during an absence of thirteen years from his native country, his attention has been more directed to the study of other languages, than to the cultivation of his own.