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The Island at the Bottom of the World

Ever since its publication in 1942, more than 10 years after the author’s death, the utopian novel Islandia by Austin Tappan Wright (1883–1931) has had the status of a cult classic. Wright, a professor of corporate law at Harvard University, had developed a considerable amount of background information on the setting of his only novel, which – as everyone knows – is located at the farthest end of the continent of Karain in the southern hemisphere.

Information about the Icelandic language was previously only available in a small and extremely rare bound booklet titled An Introduction to Islandia, compiled by Basil Davenport (New York & Toronto: Farrar and Rinehart, s. d.), which accompanied the first edition of the novel. Wright's own unpublished Islandia: History and Description, a 392-page typescript attributed to Jean Perrier, the first French consul at Islandia, and purportedly translated by John Lang, the first American consul and hero of the novel, was recently made available online as a PDF file taken from the extant carbon copy by the Houghton Library at Harvard University, holder of the Austin Tappan Wright papers. This fortuitous circumstance not only makes it possible to compare Davenport's excerpts with the author’s original manuscript, but also to gain some further insight into the fabulous history and way of life, and the language of Islandia.