Posters in Our Collections

The National Library of Sweden has one of the largest, oldest, and best preserved collections of posters in the world. It contains more than 500 000 posters from the 1690s to the present day.

 Poster by Carl Larsson, 1897 ©Carl Larsson 1897

The National Library Collections

You can search for the posters that have been cataloged and digitized in LIBRIS Web Search and view them on a screen on the library premises. We do not retrieve the original poster if we can offer a digital copy.

About 6 000 posters are added to the collection every year. Many are printed on poor-quality paper, but we have started a project to rescue the material. We have applied protective film to and digitized 17 000 political posters and 6 200 illustrated movie posters from the silent film era. The project is reducing wear on the original posters and improving accessibility.

Poster Criteria

A poster must always contain text. The text is the carrier of the information, even if there are illustrations as well. In most cases, the poster is a current message presented on a one-page document printed on one side only. The size varies from A4 format and larger. A poster is meant to be hung on a wall or comparable surface. If it is not, the document may be considered a flyer. According to the National Library rules, if there is no text, the document is included in the Picture Collection instead.

Poster by Caleb Althin, 1895 ©Caleb Althin 1895


Posters are defined as elements of advertising, propaganda, or information with a text and visual message designed to communicate the message. The poster may contain a government message aimed at bringing something to public attention. It may also advertise a performance or show. A poster may advertise a product or function as a political instrument. Posters must be current; that is, they must make some kind of contemporary comment.


The oldest poster in the National Library collection was used to advertise a theatrical performance at Bållhuset in Stockholm in the 1690s. People have always needed to communicate messages, and in the olden days they posted handwritten messages on walls and fences. The advent of the art of book printing made it mass production of posters possible. True poster art came into being with color lithography in the mid 19th century. A large portion of the National Library’s collection consists of posters that contain only text. It was not until the late 19th century that people realized how important it was to make the message more eye-catching and that visually appealing posters worked better. Illustrations have been an expected element of posters ever since.

Last updated: 2012-05-14
Contact person: Catarina Nordling, e-mail:

Related Information

Digitalized Posters
(In Swedish)

Request Posters

More reading

 History of Posters

You need Acrobat Reader to read documents in pdf-format. You can download it free from their web site.

Books från our collections

National Library