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Overviews of the Collections

The Swedish 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 approximately 110,000 titles from or about Sweden. The total number of volumes is estimated at between 160,000 and 170,000, 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. More than 75 percent of these materials are in Swedish. Fifteen percent are in English, 2 percent in German, 1 percent in other Nordic languages, and nearly 1 percent in French. In addition, works in Dutch, Latin, Italian, Russian, and Polish account for at least 100 titles each, with smaller numbers in more than twenty other languages. During the late 1990s, the Library averaged annual receipts of approximately 1,250 monographic titles: 1,000 titles from Sweden, 50 Sweden-related titles published in the United States, and 200 Sweden-related titles published outside Sweden or the United States.

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

Serials  The Library's collections include runs of nearly 3,000 retrospective or current newspapers, magazines, journals, bulletins, annuals, and other serials from or about Sweden. Most of these are in the general collections. Current Swedish periodicals are available in the Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room. In addition, that reading room provides holdings of current and retrospective Swedish newspapers. Among the many newspapers with long runs are:

  • Arbetarbladet (Gavle), December 18, 1947-April 1979, on microfilm
  • Goteborgs-Posten (Göteborg), 1967-present, on microfilm
  • Sydsvenska Dagbladet (Malmö), 1942-94, on microfilm
  • Aftonbladet (Stockholm), December 6, 1830-1994, on microfilm
  • Dagens Nyheter (Stockholm), 1900-present, on microfilm (holdings for 1900-78 are incomplete). Current paper copies are also received for this title.
  • Svenska Dagbladet (Stockholm), 1913-present, on microfilm

Rare Books  The Library's Rare Book and Special Collections Reading Room has custody of approximately 1,000 volumes from or about Sweden. 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.)

The Library's collections include several Latin incunabula printed in Rome, Venice, and German publishing centers that are ascribed to the fourteenth-century nun, Saint Bridget (Birgitta) of Sweden, whose accounts of her visions were widely read during the Middle Ages. The Library's earliest monograph about Sweden is a history in Latin by Swedish Archbishop Joannes Magnus, entitled Historia ... de omnibvs Gothorvm Sveonvmqve regibvs ... [The history of the Gothic and Swedish kings] that was printed in Rome in 1554. One of the Library's earliest books printed in Sweden is a Latin history of the country by Swedish scholar Johannes Messenius, printed in Holm in 1612, entitled Specula, ex qua inclytam Svecorvm et Gothorvm conditionem manifesto [Watchtower from which the circumstances of the acclaimed Swedes and Goths is manifest]. Works in Latin from or about Sweden number more than 700 titles, printed primarily in the Swedish cities of Uppsala, Stockholm, and Holm during the years 1645-1830.

The Swedes founded a colony called New Sweden in 1638 at the site of present-day Wilmington, Delaware. Even though the Dutch took over the fortified area in 1655, Swedes remained in the area. One of the treasures in the Library's collections relating to the early Swedish presence in North America is a book aimed at proselytizing the area's Algonquian Indians, entitled Lutheri Catechismus öfwersatt på American-Virginiske språket [Martin Luther's little catechism translated into the American-Virginian language] (Stockholm, 1696). The text is bilingual, with the Swedish text in Gothic lettering, and the Algonquian text in a roman font with stress marks. The catechism is followed by an Algonquian-Swedish glossary and a similar glossary for the language of the Minqua (Susquehanna) Indians. The book is based on manuscripts written and heavily used by Swedish clergyman Johannes Campanius when he performed religious duties in New Sweden from 1642 to 1648. Campanius completed his texts several years later, after he had returned to Sweden, and the book was published posthumously.

Thomas Jefferson sold his personal library to the Library of Congress in 1814. Jefferson's collection probably did not contain works published in Sweden, but it certainly included English and French translations and original Latin texts of numerous works by Swedish scientists and scholars: thirteen books by botanist Carl von Linné; two works by scientist and religious teacher Emanuel Swedenborg [Du commerce de l'ame et du corps (London, 1785) and A Treatise on the Nature of Influx... (London, 1788)]; chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele's two-volume Mémoires de chymie... (Dijon, 1785); and a Latin work by historian/geographer Olaus Magnus, Gentium septentrionaliv historiae breviarum [Abridged history of the northern peoples] (Amsterdam, 1669). Some of these volumes perished in a fire in 1851, but replacement copies have been acquired for many of them. The Library's holdings of works by all these authors have grown considerably since Jefferson's time.

Among the broadsides in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division relating to Sweden are manifestoes from Queen Christina (two from 1636 and one from 1649) and a Swedish newspaper announcing the World War I armistice. The Rare Book Reading Room also has several books by and about the famous Swedish-American, Charles Lindbergh.

Local History and Genealogy  The U.S. Census of 2000 reports nearly 4 million Americans of Swedish ancestry. The Library has more than 600 monographs that focus on the subjects of Swedes in the United States and Swedish-Americans. Among these materials are more than 100 monographs devoted to New Sweden, the seventeenth-century colony in present-day Delaware mentioned above. Other noteworthy works include the several biographical directories of Swedish-Americans compiled by Ernst Skarstedt (1857-1929), such as his monograph in Swedish, Våra pennfäktare (San Francisco, 1897), describing Swedish-American authors and journalists.

Many materials relating to Swedish-Americans are found in the Library's Local History and Genealogy Reading Room (LH&G), the website of which features separate guides on Danish and Norwegian immigration to the United States, both of which include several general Scandinavian sources that cover Sweden as well. See also a similar, annotated guide on Swedish immigration to the United States, entitled Swedish American Genealogy and Local History: Selected Titles at the Library of Congress. Researchers in the LH&G Reading Room also should ask for the vertical file folder labeled "Sweden--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. rather than foreign local history and genealogy. Research in foreign genealogy or local history should begin with the Library's catalog and with resources in the European Reading Room and the Main Reading Room.

The Library has more than 300 works pertaining to genealogy, heraldry, and nobility in Sweden, and approximately 1,000 titles pertain to Swedish local history.

The Library also has hundreds of books on minorities and ethnic groups in Sweden, especially for the two largest ethnic minorities, the Sami and the Finns.

Address/Telephone Directories  The Library has residential and organizational telephone directories from Sweden, especially for the period from 1937 through the mid-1990s. These resources are not listed in the Library's catalog, but are individually described in Address/Telephone Directories from Sweden at the Library of Congress.

Manuscripts  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 Sweden, such as George Washington Lay's papers from when he was chargé d'affaires to Sweden, 1842-45. Another noteworthy collection comprises selected records of the Swedish Utrikesdepartementet, 1783-1878, including communications between Swedish diplomats in the U.S. and the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The papers of several prominent Swedish-Americans, for example the nineteenth-century inventor John Ericsson, also are found in the Manuscript Division.

Maps  The Geography and Map Reading Room provides access to millions of maps, atlases, and other cartographic materials, including thousands of maps pertaining to Sweden. These comprise general, specialized, city, and other maps of the past six centuries. To view maps that have been digitized by the Library of Congress, see Map Collections.

Music and Recorded Sound  The Music Division has excellent resources on Swedish music, including over 400 general monographs on the subject and hundreds more monographs relating to particular Swedish 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 Swedish composers.

Nineteenth-century Swedish composer Franz Berwald is represented, for example, by approximately 50 books and 50 sound recordings. The Library also has printed scores of all of Berwald's compositions, as well as the recording of his Piano Quintet in A major, op. 6, which was performed and recorded in the Library of Congress' Coolidge Auditorium on May 20, 1983. The Coolidge Auditorium has been the venue for other performances and recordings of Swedish works, such as Wilhelm Stenhammar's 1910 composition, String Quartet no. 5, op. 29, on November 5, 1982.

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.

The Library also has recorded notable authors and poets reading from their works in an ongoing series called the Archive of World Literature on Tape. Five Swedish poets and writers have recorded for the Archive: Ingmar Björkstén, Lars Gustafsson, Sven Lindqvist, Göran Tunström, and Jan Myrdal. The World Literature on Tape recordings are listed in the Library of Congress Online Catalog.

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 include World War II broadcasts concerning Sweden, addresses by King Gustav V in 1938, speeches from that same year by Franklin Roosevelt and Swedish princes Bertil and Gustav Adolf to celebrate the Tercentenary of the founding of New Sweden, and National Press Club addresses in Washington, D.C., by Swedish officials and royalty.

During World War II, the U.S. Office of War Information (OWI) produced propaganda broadcasts in Swedish. After the war, thousands of OWI recordings were transferred to the Library. The Recorded Sound Reference Center maintains extensive subject files of these broadcasts. Swedish-language broadcasts include President Roosevelt's presidential addresses, news, and man-in-the-street interviews with farmers, workers, and sailors.

Other Special Collections  Other special collections pertaining to Sweden include prints and photographs, motion pictures, microfilm, and digitized materials. 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 to obtain access to additional finding aids. Many Library of Congress collections have been digitized and are available online. For photographs and other images, see the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog. To search simultaneously for all digitized materials that relate to Sweden, whether maps, music, photographs, early motion pictures, etc., use the American Memory search engine.

Law  The Law Library Reading Room holds approximately 6,000 titles pertaining to law in Sweden. Among its resources is a virtually complete set of the Swedish official gazette, Svensk Författningssamling (1825-), which provides texts of new laws. Also available are many editions of Sveriges Rikes Lag [Code of laws of the realm of Sweden] from its beginnings in 1734 to the present, providing a codified collection of all laws in Sweden, dating back to the sixteenth century and the earlier oral tradition.

A final example from the Library's wide-ranging collections are items relating to Queen Christina, ruler of Sweden from 1632 to 1654, that serve to illustrate the variety and richness of the Library's collections. The Library has approximately 150 works in nine languages relating to her life, including monographs, plays, children's books, historical novels, and special material items. Among these works are:

Additional Swedish resources at the Library of Congress

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  February 23, 2017
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