The Selma Lagerlöf Collection

Selma Lagerlöf around 1900 
Selma Lagerlöf around 1900

The Selma Lagerlöf Collection at the National Library of Sweden runs to approximately 70 meters of shelf space and has been progressively built up through donations and purchases. It consists of a variety of materials including letters, manuscripts, printed publications, press cuttings, and photographs.

Willed to the National Library

The first Lagerlöf material arrived at the National Library in October 1927 and contained letters and notes related to the advent of The Wonderful Adventures of Nils. Additional manuscripts and proofs of the same book were acquired the following year. The majority of the Selma Lagerlöf collection is made up of a deposit from the Mårbacka Foundation. In her will of 1933 (under clause IX), Selma Lagerlöf stipulated that:

…the manuscripts and letters shall be deposited with the National Library of Sweden in Stockholm, the letters shall be sealed under the condition that they may not be opened until fifty (50) years after my death, and letters written by then living persons shall not be made available to the public and researchers until the letter writer has died, and the manuscripts and letters shall not be transferred.

In the event that the Mårbacka Foundation were ever wound up, Selma Lagerlöf decreed that the deposit should become the property of the National Library.

Letters to Sophie Elkan

The predominant document categories are manuscripts and letters, with the letters consisting mainly of letters to Lagerlöf. The papers of private persons usually do not include any of their own letters, as they are of course held by the recipients. But one special thing about the Lagerlöf collection is that it includes letters she wrote, in addition to those she received. The reason is that the more than 2,000 letters she had sent to her friend Sophie Elkan were returned to her after Elkan died in 1921. These letters are kept in the Sophie Elkan Collection, L 84.

Organizing the Collection

In April 1940, about a month after Lagerlöf’s death, the Assistant National Librarian (later National Librarian and head of the National Library Manuscript Division) Nils Afzelius was asked by an attorney, Eva Andén, to organize the literary legacy of Selma Lagerlöf – material found at Lagerlöf’s home, Mårbacka, and in the city of Falun. Afzelius was a distant relative of Lagerlöf and was to be a key figure in the work with the collection. Even during Lagerlöf’s lifetime, he had assisted her with organizing her collection of press cuttings.

Mårbacka During the War

Afzelius stayed at Mårbacka for a month in the spring of 1940 – a time he used to go through essentially all of her papers. His description of the organization project is dramatic:

It was during that dreadful time when both the windows of trains and those of the library at Mårbacka were covered with blackout paper, when the thunder of guns was heard from the Norwegian border, and when Sweden was awaiting her turn to be attacked. It was a joy during such a time to be able to throw oneself into the work, far into the nights. New bundles, new boxes, new packing cases of letters spilled forth from everywhere that had to be sorted, new manuscripts. It took more than 20 packing cases to store all of this.
Last updated: 2016-02-09
Contact person: Katinka Ahlbom, e-mail:

From the Collection

The collection's bulk is about 70 running meter.

Nils Afzelius notes in the Manuscript Department's diary, 1950.

Fragment of the script to The Wonderful Adventures of Nils, which were found on the demolition site to the Lagerlöf ranch in Falun.

Portrait of Selma Lagerlöf by Henry B. Goodwin, 1916 (the picture is cropped).

Detal of a letter from a child to Selma Lagerlöf, 1932.

Books från our collections

National Library