The History of Lapland

Written by John Scheffer
Oxford 1674

Of the Name of Lapland.

This Country doth not every where pass by the same name. By some ’tis called Lappia, as Johann. Magnus in the Preface of his history, and Saxo Grammat. in his 5th book; by others Lapponia, as Olaus Magnus in the explication of his Map of Scandinavia, and Ziegler in his description of the Northern Countries, and before these Ericus Versaliensis and after them Andr. Buræus. The Swedes usually call the Country Lapmarkia, in whose language Mark signifies Land; the Danes and Norwegians, Laplandia, and also Findmarkia, as appears from Petr. Claudus description of Norway: for no one can gather any thing else but an account of this Country, from his whole 38th Chapt. which himself too seems to intimate, when he promises more about Findmarkia in his description of Lapland. Of i’ts being call’d Findmark, I shall speak in another place; Now we will see why ’tis call’d Lapponia and Lappia, the Etymology of which words is not yet agreed upon by the Learned. Ziegler thinks they were named so by the Germans, from the dulness and stu­pidity of the people, which the word Lappi signifies amongst them; but this seems improbable, since this Country is but of late known to the Germans, and none of their antient Writers make any mention of Lappia. Moreover, the Finlanders, Swedes and Russians, who differ much in their language from one another, as well as from the Germans, call it all by the same name; and the Germans, who are so remote from Lapland, could not transmit this name to these more Northern Countries, especially when they had little or no com­merce with them. Neither are the people so very dull and stupid; as Ziegler him­self afterwards acknowledges, when he confesses they are good at the needle, and make delicate embroidered clothes. Neither can I assent to Wexionius’s opinion, that the Swedes gave them this name from their wearing of Skins; for Lapper and Skinlapper do not signify skins, but the same as the Greeks ῥάκοι (in English Rags) from whence Ol. Petr. Nieuren, who writ of Lapland in Gustavus Adolphus’s time, derives their name from their coming into Swedland every year with rags lapt about them, which is the signification of Lapp in that language. But they do not deserve that name, meerly for this reason, any more than the Finlanders and others, for they are generally cloth’d in good woollen garments, as we shall shew hereafter. Grotius thinks they are call’d Lapps from running or leaping, but lœpa, which in the Swedish language signifies to run, is writ with a single P, and the name of this Country with a double one: and these People naturally are no great runners, tho by an art they have of sliding over the frozen snow, they are very swift in their motions. Some think that the Inhabitants do not denominate the Country, but the Country the Inhabi­tants, as in the name of Norwegians and others, which seems to be strength­ned by this, because Ol. Magnus calls them Lappomanni, after the manner of Nordmanni, Westmanni, and Sudermanni, in which words Manni signifying Men, they were call’d Lappomanni, i. e. Men of Lappia. a Others fancy that the name of the Country is deriv’d from Lappu, which in the Finnonick language is furthermost, because it lies in the farthest part of Scandinavia. There is yet another opinion which may seem no less plausible then any of the former, which agrees as well with the signification of the word Lapp among the Laplanders themselves, as the credit given to what has been matter of fact, viz. that ’twas call’d Lappia, not from its situation, or other such like acci­dent, but from the Lappi that inhabited it. So that I take Lappi to signify no other than banisht persons, which is the genuine signification of Lapp in the Lapland language; for the Laplanders were originally Finlanders, and from leaving their Country may be presum’d to have took their name; and that not of their own choosing, but the Finlanders b imposition, with whom to Lapp signifies to run away: whence the compellation seeming something scan­dalous, no person of quality to this day will endure to be call’d by it, tho from the Finlanders other Nations, as the Germans, Swedes and Moscovites, have learnt to call them so. But they of Lappia Umensis stile themselves Sab­mienladti, and those of Lappia Tornensis, Sameednan, from the word Sabmi or Same; the signification of which, and whence they had it, we shall see hereafter.

At what time this Country and it’s inhabitants were first distinguish’t by these names Lappia and Lappi, ’tis hard to prove: ’tis certain ’twas but of late, for the words are not found in any antient writer, neither in Tacitus, who mentions their neighbours and forefathers the Finlanders, nor in Ptolomy, So­linus, Anton. Augustus, Rutilius, or others, neither in authors nearer home (not to name Jornandes, Paul Warnefrid, &c.) nor in those who have writ the actions of Heraud and Bosa, or Gœtricus and Rolfus, or King Olafus in the Islan­dick, Norwegian or Gothick language: we find nothing of them in Adam Bre­mensis, whose diligence in writing of the Northern Countries, his Scandinavia sufficiently testifies; or in Sturlisonius, who writ very accuratly of these parts in his own language. Therefore I cannot be so easily persuaded with Grotius to believe Cluverius, who says they were mention’d in the Peutingerian Tables, the Author of which is thought to have liv’d at least before Theodosius’s time, i. e. 600 years before Adam Bremensis: how then could he, that was none of the best Geographers, if we may beleive Welserus, and very far distant from these parts, give us any account of them, since Adam Bremensis, who was so near a neighbour, and had commerce with those that lived there, could give us none? Besides, in that Table the Sarmatians are called Lupiones, with whom the Lappi were nothing concerned; neither doth any antient Author say they were seated so far Northward: wherefore the Lupines there described are any People rather then the Laplanders, for at that time, when the Author writ, they were not so much as known to any of their neighbours, the Gothick, Norwegian or Danish writers. The first that mentions Lapland is Saxo Gramat. Hist. Dan. I. 5. who lived and wrote about Ann. 1190, and therefore was after Adam Bremensis (who lived about 1077) near 130 years, in which interval this name must needs come first in use. For Saxo making mention of such a Country a great while before, in the time of Frotho the third contemporary to Alricus King of Swedland (who they say lived before Christ) doth not prove that ’twas called so then, but that that Country might afterwards have had this appellation; and I am fully perswaded, that Adam Bremensis would not have omitted this name if he had had any knowledge of it. Afterward Er. Upsaliensis speaks of it about 1470 i. e. almost 300 years after Saxo, and 200 before this present time. After them Jac. Ziegler made a large and learned description of it, by which it came to be known all over Europe. For however we may meet with the name Lappia in Saxo, none but the Swedes and Finlanders, before Zieglers time, knew any thing of it. And so much for the names of Lapland.

a Johann. Tornæus. b Ol. Petr. Nieuren. Plantin. jun. Præf. MS. Lexic. Lappon.