The Swedish and Foreign Collections

The Swedish Collections

The National Library’s Swedish Collection consists mainly of material supplied under the Legal Deposits Act. Naturally, it includes books, periodicals, and newspapers, but also posters, maps, postcards, musical notes, advertising, catalogs, annual reports, and a great deal else. The boundaries for what the library collects are expanding as the world changes.

The Swedish Collection contains more than three million books and periodicals and is growing by about 1 000 meters of shelf space of Swedish publications every year. Highlights of the collection:

  • One of the world’s biggest and best preserved collections of posters with more than 500 000 posters, which is growing by about 5 000 items a year
  • A unique collection of ephemera (10 000 meters of shelf space) that is growing by 160 000 publications a year
  • 300 000 map sheets, 750 000 portraits, and 500 000 pictures made with various techniques

The National Library’s Swedish Collection also includes foreign publications that have a Swedish connection, which are known as “Suecana”.

The Swedish Collection contains both cataloged and uncataloged material. Quite a lot of the older materials published in 1866 and afterwards can be searched in Regina and LIBRIS: While much of the older material is also found in Regina and LIBRIS some can only be searched in various card catalogs and manual records.

The Foreign Collections

The National Library’s foreign collections consist of materials dating all the way back to the birth of the art of printing in the 15th century. The older holdings include several significant donations of various kinds, mainly books from earlier royal collections. In recent years, such books have also been incorporated into the collections through purchases.

16th Century

Only isolated volumes remain in the collections of the Royal Library that were gathered by the sons of King Gustav Vasa. The many books on 16th century science, technology, and medicine were added to the collection mainly as spoils of war and through later acquisitions. One of the world’s most significant collections of the pamphlets of Martin Luther was given to the library by an anonymous donor in the early 1900s.

17th Century

During the Thirty Years’ War, Sweden took foreign works as spoils of war, which became the platform of development for Swedish universities and libraries. The Bohemian and Moravian books in particular were very significant to the National Library. The royal book collections were decimated in the 17th century, primarily due to the fire in the Royal Palace (Tre Kronor) in 1697.

18th Century

The National Library has compensated for most of the losses in the palace fire through later purchases and donations of foreign literature. The main credit for the library’s extensive holdings of French 18th century literature is due to Carl Gustaf Tessin. Important works of foreign fiction were added to the collection through the book collections of King Gustav III, Queen Lovisa Ulrika, and King Charles XIII. The library also has a fine collection of literature and ephemera from the French Revolution.

19th Century

The National Library did not become a real national library until the 19th century. National librarian Gustaf Edvard Klemming’s accomplishments included acquisitons of foreign books and periodicals that pertained to Sweden in some way. One of the more remarkable donations during the century was Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld’s collection of Japanese books, which is now kept in the library of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities.

20th Century

A far-sighted acquisition policy for foreign literature was drafted in the 1900s and the library thus succeeded in asserting its role as a humanities research library in earnest. By various means, the library acquired a great deal of Russian literature during the century, including a comprehensive collection of revolutionary literature from the period of 1917-21. A literature exchange program was instituted with the Russian National Library in the 1960s.

Foreign acquisition

Today, the National Library acquires foreign literature through purchases, gifts, and exchange programs. Acquisitions are concentrated on the humanities, with focus on European culture. New donations are still enriching the foreign collections.

You can search for all foreign literature published in 1968 and later in Regina and LIBRIS. Much of the older material is also found in Regina and LIBRIS, but some can only be searched in various card catalogs and manual records.

Last updated: 2008-05-12
Contact person: Göran Konstenius, e-mail:
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