At the beginning of chapter 2, Professor Liedenbrock is a very excited man. He just bought a very old book—seven hundred years old, to be precise—which he is perusing enthusiastically in his study as Axel walks in. The beautifully bound quarto is an original chronicle of the exploits of the Norwegian kings who once ruled Iceland. It is a Runic manuscript meticulously handwritten in ancient Icelandic. It's clearly a very important discovery, although Axel finds it hard to get worked up about it.
However, Axel's interest is soon piqued when a dirty slip of parchment falls out of the book and onto the floor. The curious professor quickly swoops down and picks up the piece of paper, which he then spreads out on the table. On the parchment, there is some strange runic letters of the kind seen in the book that the piece of paper fell out of. Professor Liedenbrock is stumped, much to Axel's secret delight. He knows that the runes are written in old Icelandic, but he hasn't the faintest idea of what they could mean. In the following chapter, he will tirelessly set about solving the mystery of their meaning; he is determined to find the key that will unlock their secrets.