Travels in the Island of Iceland, during the Summer of 1810
George Steuart Mackenzie (Edinburgh, 1811)
George Steuart Mackenzie, a mineralogist and member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, was drawn to Iceland by the extraordinary natural phenomena. He saw in Iceland ‘…a country which everywhere presents objects to fill the scientific mind with astonishment and delight’. He was accompanied on his journey by two companions, Henry Holland and Richard Bright and all three contributed to the content of the book.
Mackenzie wrote a journal of their travels with particular detail on the mineralogy, some of which is technical and academic in style, some which demonstrates an infectious enthusiasm for his subject. The sulphur mountains inspire awe: ‘..quite beyond my power to offer such a description of this extraordinary place, as to convey adequate ideas of its wonders, or its terrors…’ On seeing the geysers he talks stirringly of ‘the mingled raptures of wonder, admiration and terror, with which our breasts were filled’ and believes them ‘among the greatest wonders of the world’. Nor is he too engrossed in his own interests to ignore the challenges that face the people he meets. He writes movingly of the harsh conditions in which many Icelanders live.
Holland wrote chapters on history and literature, on government and religion, and Bright an account of the zoology and botany of Iceland. The combined contributions of all three writers give a very detailed picture of Iceland at the beginning of the 19th century. It is a rich source of historical, social and scientific data.
Fabulous Iceland Feature