The organization and development of the Fiske Icelandic Collection owe their success principally to Halldór Hermannsson, the first curator.
Halldór Hermannsson was born on 6 January 1878 at Völlur, Rangárvellir, in southwest Iceland, to a well-read family. He commenced study of law in Copenhagen after graduation from high school, but soon met Willard Fiske, who was seeking young Icelanders to assist him with his Icelandic collection.
This early association with Professor Fiske led to a career as curator of the Fiske Icelandic Collection from 1905 until Halldór retired in 1948. For most of these years, Halldór was also a professor of Scandinavian languages and literatures.
During these more than forty years, the Fiske Collection grew from 8600 volumes to more than 22,000 (21,830 volumes in 1942). As important as its growth were Halldór’s systematic cataloguing of the collection’s acquisitions; his publication of the Catalogue of the Icelandic Collection bequeathed by Willard Fiske (1914), supplemented by Additions for 1913-1926 and 1927-1942; his compilation of the Catalogue of Runic Literature forming a part of the Icelandic Collection bequeathed by Willard Fiske (1918); and his editorship and authorship of dozens of volumes in the Islandica series.
P. M. Mitchell, a student of Halldór’s, later a respected scholar of Danish, German and Old Norse literatures and from 1986 to 1993 himself curator of the Fiske Icelandic Collection, wrote a biography of Halldór Hermannsson, published as Islandica volume 41 (1978).
Six curators followed Halldór Hermannsson: Kristján Karlsson (1948-1952), Jóhann S. Hannesson (1952-1959), Vilhjálmur Bjarnar (1960-1983), Louis Pitschmann (1983-1985), P. M. Mitchell (1986-1993) and Patrick J. Stevens (1994-present).