The Travels of Reverend Ólafur Egilsson
(Reisubók Séra Ólafs Egilssonar)
The story of the Barbary corsair raid on Iceland in 1627
Translated from the original Icelandic text and edited by
Karl Smári Hreinsson and Adam Nichols
In the summer of 1627, Barbary corsairs from North Africa raided Iceland. They attacked settlements on the eastern and southern coasts, and on the Westman Islands off the south coast, taking close to four hundred captives away into slavery. Among those captured on the Westman Islands were the Reverend Ólafur Egilsson, a Lutheran minister in his sixties, and his family.
The Travels of Reverend Ólafur Egilsson (Reisubók Séra Ólafs Egilssonar) is Reverend Ólafur’s own account of his capture in Iceland, his time as a captive in Algiers, and his subsequent travels across Europe to Denmark to raise ransom money for his wife and children. Along with Reverend Ólafur’s first-hand account, the book also contains a contemporary report on the raid based on eye witness testimony plus a series of letters written by the captives themselves. There are also Appendices presenting background information on the cities of Algiers and Salé in the seventeenth century, on Iceland in the seventeenth century, on the manuscripts accessed for the translation, and on the book’s early modern European context.
Reverend Ólafur’s account describes both Christian and Islamic civilization in the first quarter of the seventeenth century and tells a powerful, altogether remarkable story, while the report and the letters bring to life both the harrowing details of the raid itself and the conditions the Icelandic captives endured as slaves.
The Travels of Reverend Ólafur Egilsson is the first-ever English translation of both Reverend Ólafur’s travel memoire and of the report and the letters. None of this has ever before been available to English language readers.
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