Carl Christian Rafn

Carl Christian Rafn (January 16, 1795 – October 20, 1864) was a Danish historian, translator and antiquarian. His scholarship to a large extent focused on translation of Old Norse literature and related Northern European ancient history. He was also noted for his early advocacy of the recognition of Viking explorations of North America.[1][2]


Carl Christian Rafn was born in Brahesborg on the island of Fyn, in Funen County, Denmark. After attending the Cathedral School in Odense (Odense Katedralskole), he entered the University of Copenhagen where he earned his law degree and graduated (1816). After having been employed as a lieutenant with the Funen light dragoons in Odense, in 1820, he became a teacher at the 1820 Army Cadet Academy (Landkadetakademiet) in Copenhagen in Latin and grammar.[3]

Rafn was particularly interested in discovering the location of the Vinland mentioned in Norse sagas. With Finnur Magnússon and Rasmus Rask, he founded the Royal Norse Ancient Writings Society (Det Kongelige nordiske Oldskriftselskab). He was a member of the Arnamagnæan Commission (Den Arnamagnæanske Kommission) which managed the Arnamagnæan Foundation ( Det Arnamagnæanske Legat), custodians for the collection of manuscripts from Icelandic scholar Árni Magnússon.[4][5]

Rafn published much of his work in 1837 in the Antiquitates Americanæ. It is considered the first scholarly exposition of the Pre-Columbian Norse exploration. At the time of Rafn's research, the Norse sagas concerning Vinland were considered by most scholars to be mere legends. The ideas advanced by Rafn found new support since the 1960s with the discovery of the Viking settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows in northern Newfoundland, Canada.[6]

In 1836, he was admitted as a member of the Royal Danish Society of Homeland History (Det kongelige danske Selskab for Fædrelandets Historie). In 1836 he was also elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society.[7] He was a member of numerous other foreign associations and societies and received the philosophical and legal doctorate from abroad.[8]

Selected works


  • 1821–1826 – Nordiske Kæmpehistorier (3 vols.)
  • 1824 – Jomsvikingesaga
  • 1825–1837 – Fornmanna sögur (12 vols.)
  • 1826 – Krákumál
  • 1826 – 1827 – Kong Olaf Tryggvesøns Saga (3 vols.)
  • 1829–1830 – Fornaldarsögur Norðrlanda (3 vols.)
  • 1829–1830 – Nordiske Fortidssagaer (3 vols.)
  • 1832 – Færeyínga saga
  • 1837 – Antiqvitates Americana
  • 1838–1854 – Grønlands historiske Mindesmærker (3 vols.)
  • 1850–1858 – Antiquités Russes d'après les monuments historique des anciens et des Islandais Scandinaves (2 vols.)
  • 1852 – Saga Játvarðar konúngs Hin Helga (with Jón Sigurðsson)
  • 1856 – Antiquités de l'Orient


  • 1832–1836 – Nordisk Tidsskrift for Oldkyndighed (3 vols.)
  • 1836–1863 – Annaler for nordisk Oldkyndighed (og Historie) (23 vols.)
  • 1836–1860 – Mémoires de la société des antiquaires du Nord
  • 1843–1863 – Antikvarisk Tidsskrift (7 vols.)

See also


Other sources

  • Jespersen, Knud J.V. (1990) Carl Christian Rafn og det Fyenske Militair-Bibliothek (Odenses bibliotekshistorie, Odense Universitetsforlag) ISBN 87-7492-772-8
  • Borring, Laurits Stephan (1864) Notices on the life and writings of Carl Christian Rafn: Permanent secretary of the Royal Society of Northern Antiquaries, Counsellor of Conference
  • Gröndal, Benedikt (1869) Breve fra og til Carl Christian Rafn med en Biographi
  • Widding, Ole (1964) Carl Christian Rafn – Biographie of Old Nordic-Icelandic Studies
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