• Lbs_656_I-VII_4to,

Wheel of Fortune

In a manuscript from the mid-19 th century there is an illustration of this wheel of fortune. It depicts a beautiful girl at the centre of a wheel held by four well-dressed men. Perhaps they are her suitors. The man who sits at the top of the wheel has a crown on his head but the girl's face is inscrutable. The idea of a wheel of destiny or fortune comes from an ancient story about the goddess of destiny who controls the fate of men by turning a wheel they are stuck to. Some fall into despair while others are blessed with great fortune.


The illustration is very similar to one in the ancient European manuscript of the poems Carmina Burana where a crowned woman is depicted in the centre of a circle. Axes connect the centre to the wheel and four men hang on the wheel. The top one is crowned, the one at the bottom is losing his crown and the other two have no crowns. The men are marked with the words Regno, Regnavi, Sum sine regno and Regnabo ( I rule, I ruled, My kingdom has come to an end and I will rule). This visual contemplation on the power struggles of men has somehow found its way to Iceland in the illustration on display here. The manuscript that depicts the Icelandic illustration has stored various fractions of the 18 th and 19 th centuries including a few letters, an account of turf farms in Reykjavík, a poem by Hallgrímur Pétursson, notes on levelling fields, medicinal practices of the commoners and more. The collection of material comes from a number of individuals such as Dr. Jónas Jónassen, Judge Vilhjálmur Finsen and Steingrímur Thorsteinsson, headmaster of the Latin School.


Lbs 656 4to

National and University Library of Iceland