Árni Magnússon, one of Iceland's national heroes, was born in 1663. His father was a priest and so were both his grandfathers and his two brothers. He went to Copenhagen when he was nineteen year old to study at the University and became assistant to the Royal Antiquarian, Thomas Bartholin. He worked six years for him, then spent two years in Germany and on his return to Copenhagen in 1697 he became secretary to the Royal Danish Archives. Four years later, at 38, he was fortunate enough to get a position as professor of history at the University of Copenhagen. He then spent ten years in Iceland as a member of a royal commission with the instructions to make a register of all farms in the country, take a census, and investigate whether law and order were being maintained by the country's officials, merchants and other people in positions of power. It was a complete investigation of conditions in Iceland that aimed at a general recovery of economics and politics in this extremely poor country of 50 thousand people. After his return to Copenhagen in 1713 he spent a quiet life as professor and librarian until his death in the beginning of 1730. Árni Magnússon's energy throughout his life was spent building up the collection of manuscripts that now bears his name. It has been divided between the two Arnamagnæan institutes at the universities of Reykjavík and Copenhagen. Árni's collection contained some 2500 items, the earliest dating from the late 12th century. Vellum manuscripts comprise about one sixth of the collection, and many of these are fragmentary or defective since Árni appreciated even the smallest fragments that could have cultural and historical significance. The bulk of the collection thus consists of post-medieval manuscripts that he collected or paid scribes to write for him. Manuscripts that contain family sagas numbered about two hundred. Árni also collected documents and charters and in his collection there are 5500 diplomas and no less than 10.400 apographs, transcriptions of documents that he could not buy. Over half of these are from Iceland.