The Book of Åland


Thirteen years ago I enjoyed a winter holiday in the Arctic that took me all the way to Vardø and Vadsø, Norway. I also spent that time in January 2002 cycling around the Åland Islands. I was the only cyclist on the road. The bike lanes at the side of the road were all piled with snow. While in the Åland capital of Mariehamn I picked up The Book of Åland, which was originally written in Swedish, the language spoken there. This book covers many aspects of Åland history and culture, with page-long essays by different authors. The English translation was by Jocelyn Palmer, yet it was a rather inelegant and, frankly, a boring read. A fast read this book definitely wasn’t, and its 111 pages took me four days to finish. The translation and editing were appalling, with ungrammatical sentences and spelling errors throughout. How can a translator allow such ghastly mistakes such as “Miccle Ages” and

“The building was to bake it clear to Sweden where the boundary of the Russian Empire then lay.”

pass through without an editor noticing? The mistakes on the other hand might have been caused by the printer, yet what an embarrassment to have one’s printing company tied to this horrible job.

The Book of Åland was laid out with text on the left and illustrations on the right. The layout made an attractive presentation with photos of paintings, engravings, landscapes and people from Åland history. I was, and still am taken by the high quality of the paper, the glossy cover and the photo illustrations. The back cover of the book, which I normally do not post with my book reviews, shows the coats of arms of the sixteen municipalities of Åland. The front cover shows a stag, which is featured on the Åland coat of arms. The book states that because of the abundance of wildlife, King Gustav I declared Åland a royal hunting park in 1587. I have a problem with this date, however, since Gustav I died in 1560. When you’ve got deer and elk roaming a small archipelago it’s only a matter of time before you end up killing everything off, and, sadly, the last elk was shot in 1769. 

This was a beautiful book to look at but unfortunately, not a pleasure to read.

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