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Overviews of the Collections

Finnish Collections at the Library of Congress

Taru Spiegel
Reference Specialist

Image of the poster Visit Finland, by Jorma Suhonen
Jorma Suhonen. Visit Finland. Travel poster for Suomen Matkat and the Finnish State Railways. Finland had expected to host the 1940 Olympic Games, cancelled because of World War II.
[Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. ]

The European Reading Room provides direct access to a number of reference works on Finland, 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 Finland.

The General Collections

The Library's general collections of monographs, bound periodicals, and annuals include approximately 50,000 titles from or about Finland. These materials cover all disciplines of the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences, with particular strengths in history, language, and literature. Because the two official languages of Finland are Finnish and Swedish, many materials are found in both these languages. Approximately 55 percent of the Library's Finnish-related materials are in Finnish, 20 percent in English, 10 percent in Swedish, 3 percent in German, and 2 percent in Russian. The remaining materials are in more than a dozen other languages. The collections also include runs of approximately 3,500 serial titles from or about Finland, such as periodicals, bulletins, annuals, and newspapers. Because serials are multi-volume, as are some monographs, the monographic and serial collections from or about Finland exceed 100,000 volumes. Most of the Finnish publications are from Helsinki/Helsingfors, but publications from Turku/Åbo, Porvoo/Borgå, Tampere/Tammerfors, Jyväskylä, and Espoo/Esbo are also numerous. Since 2000, the Library has averaged annual receipts of approximately 250 monographic titles from Finland, and approximately 100 Finland-related titles published outside Finland.

Items of Note in the Library's General Collections

The Library's collections include facsimile copies of several important early Finnish works. Mikael Agricola is considered the founder of the written Finnish language. His first book, printed in 1543, Abckiria, was a primer for reading and a catechism. Agricola's most prominent book is Se Wsi Testamenti, the first Finnish-language translation of the New Testament, printed in 1548.

The first Finnish-language dictionary, Suomalaisen Sana-Lugun Coetus, was published in 1745 by professor Daniel Juslenius. Jöns Budde, a fifteenth century monk from the Brigittine monastery of Naantali/Nådendal, and the first Finnish author known by name, is also represented.

Image of Carl Gustaf Emil von Mannerheim
Carl Gustaf Emil von Mannerheim, baron, 1867-1951. Mannerheim was Commander-in-Chief of Finland's Defence Forces, Marshal of Finland, a politician, Regent of Finland (1918-1919), and the sixth President of Finland (1944-1946).
[Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress]

The Library holds about 400 titles concerning the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala, and a representative collection of related materials in the Kanteletar, as well as works about the compiler of this Finnish oral poetry, Elias Lönnrot (1802-84). Translations of the Kalevala into a number of languages can be found, as well as research materials and musical works. Of note is the Canine Kalevala by the well-known children's author and illustrator, Mauri Kunnas.

Another well-known children's author and creator of the Moomin stories, Tove Jansson, is well represented by nearly 100 titles. Other Finnish children's authors in the Library include Sinikka Nopola, Riitta Jalonen, Maikki Harjanne, Kari Levola, and Marja-Leena Tiainen.

Titles by and about the Regent, Marshal, and President of Finland, C. G. Mannerheim (1867-1951), number over 100. These works include his memoirs and descriptions of his travels while an officer in the Russian Imperial Army. Other distinguished members of the Mannerheim family are represented, as well.

In addition to Mannerheim, other Finnish explorers of Asia are represented; e.g., Matias Aleksanteri Castrén, Georg August Wallin, Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld, Johannes Gabriel Granö, Gustaf John Ramstedt, and Sakari Pälsi. Works about Arvid Adolf Etholén and Johan Hampus Furuhjelm, Helsinki-born governors of Russian Alaska, are also found.

Highlighting Finnish design and architecture are well over 100 works relating to the Finnish architects Alvar Aalto and Eero Saarinen, and dozens of works on Finnish design and designers such as Armi Ratia of Marimekko textile fame, Timo Sarpaneva, Tapio Wirkkala, Oiva Toikka, and more recent names. Other Finnish visual arts are well represented.

In keeping with the Library's attempts to collect widely from every country's religious, political, or minority points of view, both Finnish state religions, Evangelical Lutheran and Orthodox, are represented in the collections, as are Laestadians, Pentecostalists, and others. Also available are materials on political parties.


The American Folklife Center (AFC) collections contain Finnish materials as listed in the Finland Collections in the Archive of Folk Culture. These include, e.g. a Kalevala symposium in 1985, a 1981 interview with Finnish folklorist Lauri Honko, personal histories such as that of An 80-year-old woman from Cedar Valley Township, Minnesota, and an appearance in Not the Same Old (Folk) Song and Dance: Field Recordings in the European Communities of the United States (Finnish section at 31:39). The folklorists did their best in identifying the materials in languages not familiar to them.


The Law Library Reading Room holds approximately 3,000 titles pertaining to Finnish law. Among its resources is a set of the laws of Finland (Suomen laki / Finlands lag), which provides up-to-date texts of legislation. Also available are many titles pertaining to various aspects of the law. The history of Finland is particularly well reflected in the Law Library collection that houses laws from the times when Finland was part of the Swedish realm (to 1809), part of the Russian empire (1809-1917), and an independent nation. Examples of the Library's holdings are:

The status of the Åland/Ahvenanmaa Islands, autonomous since 1921, is reflected in Lagstiftningen angående självstyrelse för Åland jämte tillhörande författningar [Legislation and related statutes pertaining to Åland's autonomy] (Helsingfors, 1930). An interest in minority conditions is reflected in Roma Minorities in the Nordic and Baltic Countries: Are their Rights Realised? (Rovaniemi, 2000), and The Language Rights of the Indigenous Saami in Finland: Under Domestic and International Law (Rovaniemi, 2001).

Local History and Genealogy

The U.S. Census of 2000 reports more than 600,000 Americans of Finnish ancestry. The Library's Local History and Genealogy (LH&G) Reading Room has some materials relating to Finnish-Americans. Again, since Finland was part of the Russian Empire during the height of the European migration to the United States, information should also be sought in Russian emigration records, e.g., Migration from the Russian Empire: Lists of Passengers Arriving at the Port of New York (Baltimore, 1995). Finns also left for North America from Sweden and Norway.

The history of the earliest Finns in North America may be found in works such as The Swedes and Finns in New Jersey . . . written and illustrated by the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration, State of New Jersey; with an introd. by Amandus Johnson . . . sponsored by the New Jersey commission to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the settlement by the Swedes and Finns on the Delaware, D. Stewart Craven, chairman (Bayonne, N.J., 1938). The subject heading "Finnish Americans" is followed by various regional qualifiers useful in researching local history.

The reference collection and catalogs in the LH&G Reading Room are intended primarily to facilitate research in the United States. Foreign genealogy or local history research should begin with the Library's online catalog, and with resources in the European and the Main Reading Rooms. The Library's holdings include titles from the Genealogical Society of Finland known as Suomen sukututkimusseura in Finnish, and Genealogiska samfundet i Finland in Swedish. Researchers may wish to begin with subject headings such as "Finnish Americans," "Finland-Swedes," "Swedish Finns," "Finland--History," or "Names, Personal--Finland."

Books on Finns in various U. S. states and cities are treasure troves of genealogical information, as are county histories for areas heavily populated by Finns, e.g., Michigan's Upper Peninsula and parts of Minnesota. The serial, Finnish American Reporter, published in Wisconsin, has a genealogical section in most issues. Baiki: An American Journal of Sami Living (Duluth, Minnesota) deals with Sami (also known as Saami, or Lapp) genealogy and covers Finland, Sweden, and Norway.

For searching family names at specific locations, the Library has residential and organizational telephone directories from Finland, especially for the period from the 1950s through the mid-1990s. An index to the Library's holdings of Finnish directories may be found at


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, such as the Soviet specialist Ambassador Loy Henderson (1892-1986), whose interests also included Finland. Records of the Communist Party of the United States (1914-44) include the names of a number of Finnish-Americans.


The Geography and Map Reading Room provides access to millions of maps, atlases, and other cartographic materials, including hundreds of maps pertaining to Finland. These comprise general, specialized, city, and other maps, some going back hundreds of years. Finland (as a province of Russia), Estland, Courland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark are depicted in the Carte des Courones du Nord, dedicated to Charles XII, King of Sweden, the Goths, and the Vends, Grand Duke of Finland, etc. (Guillaume Del'Isle, Amsterdam, 1708). A more current title is Aino: Suuri Suomen kartasto (Vantaa, 2005), an atlas with geographical, political, and cultural information about Finland. To view maps that have been digitized by the Library of Congress, see the Online Map Collections.


The Microform and Electronic Resources Center has well over 100 titles of a wide variety relating to Finland and Finnish-Americans, such as: The Pre- and Proto-Historic Finns, Both Eastern and Western, with Magic Songs of the West Finns, by the archaeologist and folklorist Baron John Abercromby (London, 1898); Records of the U.S. Department of State Relating to the Internal Affairs of Finland, 1945-1954 (Wilmington, DE, 1987); Naisten viiri: Amerikan suomalaisten naisten ainoa äänenkannattaja [Women's banner: the only Finnish women's journal in America] (Yonkers, N.Y.); and American Immigrant Autobiographies (Frederick, MD, 1989), a collection of manuscript autobiographies held by the Immigration History Research Center at the University of Minnesota. The final 29 autobiographies are drawn from the "Finnish American Family History" Collection.

Music and Recorded Sound

Image of Jean Sibelius
Jean Sibelius (1865-1957), composer, an important figure in the Finnish quest for a national identity.
[Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress]

The Performing Arts Reading Room of the Music Division has good resources on Finnish music, including over 300 monographs relating to Finnish music 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 Finnish composers. The Library's general, music, and recorded sound collections include more than 1,000 titles relating to the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius.

Not all Music Division materials are listed in the online catalog, so interested researchers should check the various card catalogs in the division for access to the full collections.

The Recorded Sound Reference Center of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division holds more than 600 titles related to Finland, ranging from Sami songs, or yoiks, folk music, works featuring a traditional folk instrument called the kantele, to materials by and about the major names in Finnish music, including modern composers such as Kaija Saariaho.

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). Items accessible through SONIC feature the 1938 "Tercentenary of the Founding of New Sweden by Swedish and Finnish Colonists, Celebrated in Wilmington, Delaware," a radio broadcast by Paavo Nurmi, the 1924 Olympic star; an address by the prime minister of Finland, broadcast on December 3, 1939, in connection with the Winter War; former president Kekkonen's talk about Finland's foreign policy on August 3, 1976, at the National Press Club, as well as other addresses, news items, and a number of musical performances.

Manager of the Finnish cooperative bakery in Brooklyn
Manager of the Finnish cooperative bakery
in Brooklyn, New York, in a section largely
inhabited by Finnish-Americans, near Thirty-
ninth Street and Eighth Avenue, known as
Finn Town. 1942. Marjory Collins, photographer.
[Farm Security Administration - Office of War
Information Photograph Collection
, Prints and
Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Prints and Photographs

The Prints and Photographs Reading Room collections number more than 13 million images. These include photographs, fine and popular prints and drawings, posters, and architectural and engineering drawings. While international in scope, the collections are particularly rich in U.S.-related materials. For photographs and other images relating to Finland, see the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog.

Rare Books

The Library's Rare Book and Special Collections Reading Room has custody of a number of volumes relating to Finland. 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). Because Finland was under Swedish rule through 1808, and was part of the Russian Empire from 1809 to 1917, rare books with information pertaining to Finland also will be found in collections featuring these countries. Among the Library's rare book holdings are:

  • The Rare Book Reading Room's map from 1493, Liber chronicarum, cu[m] figuris et ymagi[ni]bus ab inicio mu[n]di (by German cartographer Hartmann Schedel, Germany), which names Finland for the first time on a printed map.
  • Broadsides including 1636 and 1649 manifestoes from Christina, Queen of Sweden and Grand Duchess of Finland from the time of the founding of the colony of New Sweden in 1638, at the site of present-day Wilmington, Delaware. A number of Finns were included in the Swedish enterprise that founded the colony. Even though the Dutch took over the fortified site in 1655, Swedes and Finns remained in the area.
A document from Queen Christina granting a monopoly on tobacco production to the Soder Company, 1649.
Queen Christina
of Sweden and Grand Duchess of Finland
(1626 - 1689) had ambitions regarding the
New World. The founding of the colony of
New Sweden took place while she was Queen
regnant from 1632 to 1654. She was also
interested in the commercial prospects of the
tobacco industry. [Rare Book/
Special Collections Reading Room Printed
Ephemera Collection, Library of Congress]

Larger image / transcription/translation /
catalog record

A number of early writings by Finnish scholars, many affiliated with the Royal Academy of Turku/Åbo and the nationalistic Aurora Society. Authors include Elias Tillandz, botanist, physician, professor of medicine, and author of Finland's first botanical work about flora in the Turku/Åbo area, Catalogus plantarum qvæ prope Aboam tam in excultis . . . (1683); Johannes Gezelius, bishop of Turku/Åbo, who wrote on conscience and the conduct of life in Casuum conscientiae et praecipuarum quaestionum practicarum decisiones . . . (1689); professor and rector of the Royal Academy, Algot Scarin known for his careful study of Nordic history, Dissertatio historica de originibus priscæ gentis Varegorum . . . (1734); rector of the Royal Academy, Henrik Gabriel Porthan, "Father of Finnish History," author of De poësi fennica . . . (1766-78); as well as Academy professor of economics, Pehr (Pietari) Kalm, 1716-79, a Finnish botanist and traveler.

Kalm, student of noted Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus (Carl von Linné), was encouraged by his mentor to travel to North America. Kalm's descriptions of this continent were translated into a number of languages. The Library has a facsimile copy of an early Swedish title about North American flora: En kårt berättelse, om naturliga stället, nyttan, samt skötseln af några wäxter, utaf hwilka frön nyligen blifwit hembragte från Norra America (Stockholm,1751), and a rare book set of Kalm's travelogue En resa til Norra America: på Kongl. swenska wetenskaps academiens befallning, och publici kostnad, förrättad af Pehr Kalm (Stockholm, 1753-61). In English, the latter work was translated as Travels into North America: Containing its Natural History, and a Circumstantial Account of its Plantations and Agriculture in General, with the Civil, Ecclesiastical and Commercial State of the Country, the Manners of the Inhabitants, and Several Curious and Important Remarks on Various Subjects (London, 1770-71). German and Dutch translations are, respectively, Des Herren Peter Kalms, Professors der Haushaltungskunst in Aobo, und Mitgliedes der königlichen schwedischen Akademie der Wissenschaften: Beschreibung der Reise die er nach dem nördlichen Amerika: auf den Befehl gedachter Akademie und öffentliche Kosten unternommen hat, (Göttingen, 1754-64) and Reis door Noord Amerika, gedaan door den heer Pieter Kalm. Vercierd met koperen platen (Te Utrecht, 1772). Other works by Kalm may be found both in the Rare Book Reading Room and in the general collections, e.g., Specimen academicum de Esquimaux, gente americana, quod in regio Fennorum lycæo ... sub umbone . . . (Aboæ, 1756) about the Inuit, and Histoire naturelle et politique de la Pensylvanie, et de l'établissement des Quakers dans cette contrée. Tr. de l'allemand. P.M.d.S., censeur royal. Précédée d'une carte géographique (Paris, 1768), about Pennsylvania.

Other items of interest in the Rare Book Reading Room range from Matthew Consett's Nordic travelogue Reise durch Schweden, Schwedisch-Lapland, Finland und Dänemark, (Leipzig, 1790) to works by Tom of Finland. Facsimile copies of the earliest Finnish works are also available, i.e., Missale Aboense secundum Ordinem Fratrum Praedicatorum (1488) and Mikael Agricola's 1548 New Testament translation, Se Wsi Testamenti.


Image of newspaper clipping entitled Woman Elected to National Assembly
"Woman Elected to National Assembly,"
April 8, 1910. In 1906 Finland became
the first country in Europe to grant
women the right to vote and the first
country in the world where women
could run for political office.
[Miller National American Woman
Suffrage Association (NAWSA)
Suffrage Scrapbooks 1897-1911
Rare Book and Special Collections
Division, Library of Congress]

The Library's collections include runs of nearly 3,500 retrospective or current newspapers, magazines, journals, bulletins, annuals, and other serials from or about Finland. Finnish periodicals such as Suomen kuvalehti and Me naiset are available in the Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room, which also provides holdings of current and retrospective Finnish newspapers. Among the newspapers with long runs are:

Finnish-American newspapers on microfilm that may be accessed at the Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room are:

Most of these Finnish-American serials are primarily of historical interest.

Digitized Materials

The Library of Congress continues to digitize its collections, providing online resources at Digital Collections. Materials about Finnish Americans may be found, e.g., at California Gold: Northern California Folk Music from the Thirties Collected by Sidney Robertson Cowell, with John Soininen and Celia Koljonen. The Alan Lomax Collection of Michigan and Wisconsin Recordings yields items such as a Kalevala audio recording, and Koivun oksat ne hoikat roksat [On the Side of an Oat Field There Grew a Beautiful Flower]. The Library has also digitized its 1993 publication Finland and the Finns: A Selective Bibliography, and the 1985 publication on the Finnish national epic, Elias Lönnrot and His Kalevala. Both were compiled by Elemer Bako, the former Finno-Ugrian area specialist in the Library’s European Division. Also digitized is Finland: A Country Study (Washington, D.C., 1990) produced by the Library's Federal Research Division.


Because not all items in special collections are listed separately in the Library's catalog, researchers should contact the appropriate reading rooms for advice from specialists, and for access to additional finding aids.

American Memory

Many Library of Congress collections have been digitized and are available online. To search simultaneously for digitized materials that relate to Finland and Finnish- Americans, whether maps, music, photographs, early motion pictures, etc., American Memory provides selected digitized items from the Library's collections. A collection of books and serials from the upper Midwest (// contains Finnish material. Oral histories of American life are found in //

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Written questions may be submitted to the Library by using the online Ask a Librarian interface.

Additional Finnish resources at the Library of Congress

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  January 13, 2020
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