National Records of Scotland recently welcomed a group of staff and history students from the University of Iceland at General Register House, Edinburgh.

The visit involved an introduction to Scotland’s archives and a seminar to consider Scotland and Iceland’s respective national histories, and the nature and survival of historical records.

As part of the visit, our Heads of Digitisation and Learning, Robin Urquhart and Tessa Spencer, as well as Samantha Smart from Digital Services, looked into our archives for interesting documents from Iceland and Icelanders, some demonstrating historic links between our two countries.

We’ve included images of some of the more striking documents from our archives:

– an Icelandic calendar and a book of devotion from 1588-1589;

– a map of Iceland, c. 1748;

– an extract from Sir George Steuart Mackenzie’s travels in Iceland in 1810; and

– an inventory of Thiorbjorn Jonasson, a merchant in Reykjavik who died in Leith in 1895.

We also looked into the Scottish Register of Tartans and found some colourful designs inspired by Iceland’s rugged terrain, including the Volcano tartan.



Map of Iceland c 1748 RHP22361 3 George Louise Le Rouge

Ahead of the visit, our colleagues dug into our records to create a feature on Sveinbjörn Sveinbjörnsson (1847-1927), who composed the Icelandic national anthem while resident in Edinburgh. Sveinbjornsson has now joined hundreds of notable Scots and former residents in the Hall of Fame on the NRS website.

The seminar involved a lively discussion and enthusiastic participation from the students, as well as a bit of friendly rivalry regarding the survival of records!

We hope to arrange another seminar with our Icelandic colleagues and we’re looking forward to engaging with them on other academic projects in future.

If you’re a teacher and would like to learn more about our education services, including workshops for primary and secondary schoolchildren, please see the Services for Schools section of our website.

For more information on school visits and workshops, as well as resources to help pupils connect with Scotland’s history, heritage and culture, you can also visit the Scottish Archives for Schools website or contact our learning team at


One thought on “In From The Cold…

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