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Overviews of the Collections

The Danish Collections at the Library of Congress

Grant Harris
Chief, European Division

The General Collections

The Library's general collections of monographs, bound periodicals, and annuals include nearly 80,000 titles from or about Denmark. The total number of volumes is estimated at between 115,000 and 125,000, as many of the individual titles are multi-volume. These materials cover all disciplines of the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences, with particular strengths in history, language, and literature. Nearly 75 percent of these materials are in Danish. More than 15 percent are in English, with the remaining 10 percent in German, Swedish, French, and more than a dozen other languages, including approximately 250 titles in Latin. During the 1990s, the Library averaged annual receipts of approximately 650 monographic titles: 600 titles from Denmark, 25 Denmark-related titles published in the United States, and 25 Denmark-related titles published outside Denmark and the United States.

In addition, the Library has materials concerning the Danish dependencies Greenland and the Faroe Islands, as well as the former Danish West Indies:

  • The Library has more than 2,500 monographs from or about Greenland, mostly in English (50%), Danish (25%), German (10%), and French (5%). At least several dozen books are in the native Greenlandic language of Kalatdlisut, which is an Inuit language.
  • Monographs from or about the Faroe Islands number about 700. Forty percent of these are in Faroese, a Scandinavian language similar to Danish. Nearly 30 percent are in Danish, 15 percent in English, and 15 percent in other languages. For more information, see the Icelandic and Faroese Collections at the Library of Congress.
  • In 1917, Denmark sold to the United States the Danish West Indies, now known as the U.S. Virgin Islands. Many of the Library's more than 750 books about these Caribbean islands discuss Denmark's colonization of the islands, beginning with the acquisition of St. Thomas in 1666. In 1901 the Library of Congress produced a bibliography entitled A List of Books (with References to Periodicals) on the Danish West Indies.

The European Reading Room

The European Reading Room provides direct access to a large number of reference works on Denmark, such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, atlases, histories, biographical directories, bibliographies, and other reference sources. The reading room makes available for onsite use numerous bibliographic databases and full-text resources, many of which contain citations or texts pertaining to Denmark. The multilingual reference staff provides research guidance in using these resources. Materials from the general collections can be requested from this reading room or from several other reading rooms.


The Library's collections include runs of more than 2,000 retrospective or current newspapers, magazines, journals, bulletins, annuals, and other serials from or about Denmark. Most of these are in the general collections. Current Danish periodicals are available in the Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room. In addition, that reading room provides holdings of current and retrospective Danish newspapers. Among the many newspapers with long runs are:

Jyllands-Posten 1968-June 1979

Det Fri Aktuelt 1962-91
Berlingske tidende 1950-2000
Borsen January, 1942-September 1943; July, 1944-2002
Information 1984-2000
Land og folk July 2, 1945-April 30, 1950; July 1, 1950-90
Politiken January, 1902-September 25, 1944; November, 1944-2001

Fyns tidende January-June, 1945; 1950-Aug 21, 1979

Rare Books

The Library's Rare Book and Special Collections Reading Room has custody of approximately 1,000 volumes from or about Denmark. Most were published before 1800. (As a general rule, works published before 1801 are found in the Rare Book Reading Room; later publications usually are in the general collections.)

Selected rare books:

Brahe, Tycho. Opera omnia; sive, Astronomiae instauratae progymnasmata [Complete works: or introduction to the new astronomy] Frankfurt, 1648. Thomas Jefferson acquired a copy of the 1648 edition of the complete works of the important Danish astronomer, Tycho Brahe. Jefferson's copy became part of the Library of Congress' collections, but the copy was destroyed in a fire in 1851. The Library subsequently acquired a replacement copy.

Catalog of the Jean Hersholt Collection of Hans Christian Andersen. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1954. This catalog describes the collection of Andersen manuscripts, letters, first editions, presentation copies, and related materials that Jean Hersholt presented to the Library of Congress in 1953. It is the largest collection of Anderseniana outside of Denmark. Not just a collector, Hersholt was the first translator of all of Andersen's tales into English. Born in Denmark in 1886, Hersholt came in 1914 to the United States, where he had a long and highly successful career as an actor in motion pictures. He appeared in several hundred films, some of which, Grand Hotel and Dinner at Eight, for example, are regarded as classics. Offstage, he was active in numerous charitable organizations, for which he was honored after his death in 1956, when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences created a new Oscar, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

Andersen, Hans Christian. Mit Livs Eventyr. "Transcript, with numerous corrections and additions in Andersen's hand.... This third and last installment of Andersen's autobiography, My Life's Fairy Tale (sometimes called The Story of My Life) covers the period from April 2, 1855, to December 6, 1867. The original manuscript is at the Royal Library in Copenhagen, but the present transcript was made under the personal supervision of Andersen by a copier named Naumann. The author mailed this corrected transcript to Horace Scudder, who translated it into English." Description from Catalog of the Jean Hersholt Collection of Hans Christian Andersen.

Picture Book prepared by Hans Christian Andersen. "A unique work prepared by Andersen in collaboration with Councilor of State A.L. Drewsen (1803-1885) for the latter's grandson, Jonas Drewsen. The book comprises 140 pages of heavy handmade paper on which are pasted hundreds of pictures cut from English, German, and American newspapers, illustrated magazines, etc. The volume was composed about 1862, and through these many hand-colored pictures Hans Andersen told little Jonas Drewsen, then about eight years old, many a fairy tale and story. Furthermore he wrote original verses and rhymes beneath 19 of the most interesting pictures." Description from Catalog of the Jean Hersholt Collection of Hans Christian Andersen.

Schønau, Frederik Christian, 1728-72. Samling af danske lærde fruentimer, som ved deres lærdom, og udgivne eller efterladte skrifter have giort deres navne i den lærde verden bekiendte, med adskillige mest historiske anmerkninger forøget. [Danish women scholars who through their published or unpublished writings have made their names known in the learned world; annotated with a number of mostly historical remarks.] Kiøbenhavn, 1753. The frontispiece is an engraving of Leonora Christina, considered one of the two great seventeenth-century masters of the Danish language.

Flora danica. Hafniæ, typis [fratrum] C. [& A.] Philiberti, 1766 [i.e. 1761]-1883. 17 volumes. This botanical work documenting the flora and fauna of Denmark is one of the most important scientific publications produced by Danish naturalists, artists, and engravers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The first seventeen volumes that comprise the collection in the Library of Congress represent the work of the editor George Christian Oeder, who established the scientific arrangement of the work, petitioned and received the patronage of the Danish crown, and insured the continuous publication of this botanical study, which has continued into the twentieth century. The hundreds of hand-colored plates that accompany these volumes are some of the most beautiful and important produced in the eighteenth century. Following the conventions established by Linnaeus, Oeder's Flora danica is first and foremost a scientific work. Each of the flowers and plants studied includes a letter press description based on the Linnaean system and a large engraved image of the flower or plant. The engraving also includes a closely observed rendering of the root system of each plant as well as a depiction of the male and female parts that were used for plant identification. Each of the plates is beautifully colored by a contemporary hand with wash and watercolor. The copper engravings are not signed by either the artists or engraver, but are attributed to the printers C. & A. Philibert and their printing shop in Copenhagen. The importance of Oeder's Flora danica did not escape the notice of other naturalists in Europe and America. The Philadelphia botanist and author, William Barton, modeled his three-volume work, The Flora of North America, published in Philadelphia in 1821 23, after Flora danica, using not only similar nomenclature, but also the designs for the copper plates. Barton's work is the most important and beautifully produced work of botany published in America in the first quarter of the nineteenth century.

Denmark. Lex Regia, 1709. The Rosenwald Collection includes this illustrated edition of the Danish constitution printed in Copenhagen in 1709. The text of this important legal document is engraved and set with a full-page engraved border, decorated with beautifully rendered images from nature, including flowers, birds, lions, elephants, deer, and camels. The work contains a remarkable portrait of Frederic III, where his engraved likeness is set upon a calligraphic rendering of his body and a horse in motion. The designs were created by the Danish artist Claus van Moinchen and engraved by Andreas Reinhard.


The Library has more than 5,000 monographs pertaining to Danish history, beginning with reproductions of a twelfth-century work - Roskildekrøniken [Roskilde chronicle]. Another Danish history, the more ambitious, multi-volume Gesta Danorum, written by Saxo Grammaticus in the early thirteenth century, is available in the original Latin and in Danish, French, and English (The History of the Danes). Grammaticus' chronicle was continued by Arild Huitfeldt up to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in his Danmarckis Rigis Krønicke. Originally published in 1596-1603, the Library's edition of Huitfeldt's work dates to the mid seventeenth century. Historian/playwright Ludvig Holberg is represented in the collections by more than 250 editions of his works, most notably a first edition of Dannemarks Riges Historie [History of the kingdom of Denmark] (Copenhagen, 1732-35). The Library has many periodicals devoted to history. The Library's run, for instance, of the Danish Historical Association's journal, Historisk tidsskrift, is fairly complete from its first year in 1840 through the early 2000s.

Local History and Genealogy

The U.S. Census of 2000 reports more than 1,430,000 American citizens of Danish ancestry. The Library has more than 125 books that focus on the subjects of Danes in the United States and Danish-Americans. Illustrative of these monographs is the following work in Danish:

Danske i Amerika [Danes in America]. Minneapolis; Chicago: C. Rasmussen Publishing Company, 1908. This large volume of nearly 800 pages was published in 1908 by Christian Rasmussen, owner of a large printing company and said to be the "Danish Newspaper King" of the United States. The book chronicles the Danish presence in the Western Hemisphere, beginning with Denmark's first explorations of Greenland in the late seventeenth century and the 1619 voyage to Hudson Bay by Jens Munk, the first Dane to reach North America. The book also tells of the Danish Moravians who settled in Pennsylvania in the eighteenth century, as well as of Danes who fought in the American Revolution. Most of the book, however, deals with the many Danish immigrants of the nineteenth century. It concludes with a detailed panorama of the Danish American community as it existed around 1900.

Many materials relating to Danish-Americans are found in the Library's Local History and Genealogy Reading Room (LH&G). The LH&G Website features a guide entitled Danish Immigration to America: An Annotated Bibliography of Resources at the Library of Congress, first prepared in 1996 due to interest in the subject. Researchers in the LH&G Reading Room also should ask for the vertical file folder labeled "Denmark--Genealogy," which contains ephemera not found elsewhere in the Library of Congress.

The reference collection and catalogs in the LH&G Reading Room are intended primarily to facilitate research in U.S. (including ethnic American) local history and genealogy rather than local history in foreign countries. Research in foreign genealogy or local history should begin with the Library's online catalog and with resources in the European Reading Room and the Main Reading Room.

The Library has approximately 900 works pertaining to genealogy, heraldry, and nobility in Denmark. More than 350 of these monographs can be found in the online catalog by searching the Danish word slaegtsbog, which means family name book; these books typically focus on the genealogy associated with one family name. In addition, more than 1,700 books pertain to Copenhagen and its history, and 800 other monographs focus on cities, regions, and local history in Denmark other than in Copenhagen.

The Library has many books on minorities and ethnic groups in Denmark, especially concerning the largest minority, the Germans in southern Jutland, bordering Germany, but also about Jews, Greenlanders, Icelanders, Swedes, and others.


The Law Library Reading Room makes available more than 4,000 titles pertaining to law in Denmark. Most of these are monographs, but numerous serials are also available, notably a virtually complete run of Denmark's official gazette, Lovtidende, beginning in 1871.


The Manuscript Division collects Americana, including materials pertaining to U.S. relations of any nature with other countries. The division thus has custody of the papers of many American diplomats and others from the United States who worked in or had correspondence with individuals from Denmark, such as John Murray Forbes' papers from when he was the American consul residing at Copenhagen and Hamburg during the years 1801-19, and Norman Hapgood's papers from when he served as U.S. minister to Denmark in 1919. The papers of several prominent Danish-Americans, for example scientist Harald T. Friis and author/photographer Jacob A. Riis, also are found in the Manuscript Division. Many materials relating to the Danish West Indies can be found there as well.


The Geography and Map Reading Room provides access to millions of maps, atlases, and other cartographic materials, including thousands of maps pertaining to Denmark. These comprise general, specialized, city, and other maps. The Library has atlases with reproductions of the earliest map of Scandinavia, drawn by Danish mapmaker Claudius Clavus in 1427.

Although the world atlas described below was produced in Amsterdam, its section on Denmark is of special interest:

  • Blaeu, J. Atlas Mayor, sino Cosmographia Blaviana, en la qual exact, se descrive la tierre, el mar y el cielo. [The major atlas, or Blaeu's cosmography, in which the earth, the sea and the sky are exactly described] 10 volumes folio. Amsterdam: J. Blaeu, 1659-72. Many scholars consider this work to be the most exquisitely illuminated atlas ever produced. The volume on Denmark and Scandinavia includes many pages devoted to the work of Tycho Brahe, such as illustrations of his astronomical instruments and his observatory on the island of Ven. The Library's copy is of the rare Spanish edition; almost the entire Spanish edition was destroyed by fire in 1672 when the publishing house of Blaeu was burned. The publisher, J. (i.e., Joan) Blaeu, was the son of Willem Blaeu, who had been Brahe's student between 1594 and 1596.

To view maps that have been digitized by the Library of Congress, see the Geography & Map Division's Collections with Maps site.

Music and Recorded Sound

The Music Division has excellent resources on Danish music, including over 400 general monographs on the subject and hundreds more monographs relating to particular Danish composers and musicians. The division also has a large collection of printed music, such as scores and sheet music, as well as a large collection of sound recordings of Danish compositions. Not all Music Division materials are listed in the online catalog, and interested researchers should check the various card catalogs in the division for access to the full collections.

Since 1935, when the Coolidge Auditorium was established in the Jefferson Building thanks to benefactor Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, chamber music has been performed there several times a year by accomplished ensembles. Works by at least four Danish composers have been performed in the Coolidge Auditorium: the nineteenth-century composers Niels W. Gade and Friedrich Kuhlau, and the twentieth-century composers Vagn Holmboe and Carl Nielsen. The Music Division (Recorded Sound Reference Center) maintains the master recordings of these performances.

The Library has also recorded Danish literary figures reading from their works, such as poets Charlotte Strandgaard and Klaus Rifbjerg. Danish-American actor Jean Hersholt has been recorded reading his English translations of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales and discussing Andersen's life and works.

In addition to the Library's Online Catalog, the Recorded Sound Reference Center maintains a database of many more sound recordings, both musical and non-musical, called the Sound Online Inventory and Catalog (SONIC). Searching SONIC for keywords Danish or Denmark retrieves many dozens of entries, such as:

  • NBC radio broadcasts, including remarks by King Christian X in 1936 and 1937; comments by former U.S. ambassador to Denmark Ruth Bryan Owens in 1938; salutes to Danish participation at the 1939 New York World's Fair by Crown Prince Frederick and other Danes; news about Denmark during World War II; two of President Roosevelt's fireside chats of 1942 translated into Danish; and interviews of Danish Ambassador Henrik Kaufman in 1946 and 1949.
  • U.S. Office of War Information (OWI) propaganda broadcasts during World War II. After the war, thousands of OWI recordings in many languages were transferred to the Library. The Recorded Sound Reference Center maintains extensive subject files of these broadcasts. Broadcasts to Denmark include statements by John Steinbeck and Danish American pianist Victor Borge in 1942; a report of May 4, 1945, that German forces had surrendered in Denmark and several other parts of northwestern Europe; and a Danish V-J Day announcement of August 13, 1945.
  • National Press Club addresses in Washington, D.C., by King Frederick IX in 1960; Margrethe II, Queen of Denmark, in 1976; Foreign Affairs Minister Jens Otto Krag in 1960 and 1967; Prime Minister Anker Jorgensen in 1978; and Danish-American pianist and entertainer Victor Borge in 1977.

Motion Pictures

The Library has many Danish films, beginning with several silent films made by Nordisk Films Kompagni in Denmark in the early 1910s and later preserved by the Library of Congress.

Danish-American actor Karl Dane performed in at least 49 films between 1918 and 1933. Most of these were silent films. One of the most successful was The Big Parade (1925), which the Library of Congress named to the National Film Registry in 1992. The Library of Congress established the National Film Preservation Board in 1988 in order to preserve film deemed "culturally, historically, or esthetically important." Each year, the board selects 25 films to add to the National Film Registry.

Additional Danish resources at the Library of Congress

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  November 25, 2019
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