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GUEST POST: Books from the Jesuit College of Poznań at Uppsala

Regular viewers will recognize the name Peter Sjökvist, who has written for us before regarding the Jesuit books currently at the Uppsala University Library. The work that he and his team are doing is exceptional, and we're excited to share his latest guest post today.

Books from the Jesuit College of Poznań at Uppsala

Guest post by Peter Sjökvist

For historical reasons, at least three early modern Jesuit college libraries are today kept at Uppsala University Library (Sweden), as well as many items from several others. The Swedes, as fervent Lutherans, regarded such Catholic book collections as weapons in the conflicts during the Age of Confessionalization, and as such believed it important to remove them from the enemies if possible. Literary war spoils taken in this way were several times in the seventeenth century donated from the Swedish king to the library of Uppsala University, which was the most important institution for higher education in Sweden at the time. Most of these books have stayed on the shelves of this library since then. It is a historical irony that they were in fact often saved from destruction in modern wars just because they had been looted several centuries earlier. Today, these collections open up wonderful collaborations between the countries of origin and Uppsala University Library.

One such project was finished in 2007, after a work of several decades, when Polish scholars collaborated with Uppsala in the production of a catalogue of the Jesuit college of Braniewo, which had been taken in 1626.[1] Another was completed only a few years ago, when librarians at the National Library of Latvia published a catalogue of the Jesuit college of Riga, confiscated in 1621, after a collaboration that included almost daily virtual contacts between the two institutions, since the last phases were carried out during the pandemic.[2] Presently, collaboration is ongoing between Uppsala University Library and the University Library of Poznań (Poland). For some years, librarians at Uppsala have been locating and cataloguing books from Poznań at Uppsala at a varying pace. At present, almost 1,600 titles have been registered in the Swedish national union catalogue Libris. Probably, that is about half of the entire number at Uppsala. We will know for sure with time, although the current phase is very time consuming. You will soon understand why, but first a few words on the history of the books from Poznań at Uppsala.

In the last of the several wars between Sweden and Poland in the seventeenth century, in the middle of the 1650s, Sweden held the town of Poznań for more than a year. Swedish nobleman Clas Rålamb (1622–1698) was sent there in order to take care of a problematic situation. Rumours said the monks in Poznań were plotting against their Swedish rulers. Rålamb accordingly expelled them all from the town, to avoid an escalation. The moveable goods were then without owners, and Rålamb himself confiscated the libraries of the Jesuits, the Dominicans and the Bernardines, and brought them to his private manor, Länna gård, not far away from Uppsala. Several thousand books were taken, and Rålamb won some prestige for his big library. At the end of the seventeenth century, however, king Charles XI effectuated a new and harder policy against the nobility, which Rålamb soon would suffer from. He was judged to be guilty and fined heavily by the state, because of previous mistakes in his office, and this would partly be paid with the books looted from Poznań at his manor. Having passed to the ownership of the state, they were soon donated to Uppsala University Library.

Book acquired by the Jesuit college of Poznań in 1631. Previously owned by the physician Jakub Grodzicki (-1630).
Book acquired by the Jesuit college of Poznań in 1631. Previously owned by the physician Jakub Grodzicki (-1630). Photo provided by author.
Clas Rålamb (1622–98)
Clas Rålamb (1622–98). Photo provided by author.
The manor of Länna gård outside Uppsala
The manor of Länna gård outside Uppsala as it looks today. Photo provided by author.

Having arrived at Uppsala, where new rooms for the university library were about to be opened in 1693, the books were soon scattered in the collections and arranged according to subject, with no indications of provenances in the catalogues. A little more than 300 years later, this situation is what the current project wants to improve. A limited number of volumes have, sadly, been discarded or sold in duplicate auctions over the years (the books from Poznań have – for better or for worse – been considered an integrated part of a living library), but the main bulk is still extant and waiting to be found. This is where we are now.

A good thing is that we have several ways and aids to locate the books. With the books that were taken in the 1650s were two catalogues of the books in the Jesuit college that are still extant. They have now also been digitized and are accessible for free online.[3] They are not complete, and not always very accurate, but still a valuable tool in the work. Another register of great help is an inventory that was made when Clas Rålamb’s library was about to be donated to Uppsala in 1693, where most of the books had a Poznań origin. This document has been digitized as well.[4] It also contains books that he had owned before the spoils arrived, and in addition books from all three monasteries in Poznań.

We can also benefit from the work performed in the twentieth century by Polish professor Józef Trypućko (1910–1983). In 1958 he published a catalogue on books printed in Poland still extant at Uppsala. Unfortunately, this not complete at all, and also covers books from other Polish towns. This is also available online.[5] Trypućko, who was the main author of the catalogue on the Braniewo-books published in 2007, started to work with the books from Poznań too. The archive donated from him to Uppsala has been very valuable in the initial phases, although we soon found out that it was far from complete.[6]

At present, we have therefore started to look for the items from Poznań by simply going through all the volumes on our shelves book by book. Time consuming as it is, of course, since the collections of early printed books at Uppsala are extensive, it has already proven to be highly rewarding. What we look for in the first place is an inscription on the title page stating that the item in hand has been entered in a catalogue at the monastery or college. The practice to add such an inscription seems to have been the general rule. Admittedly, a few volumes lacking this detail could be missed thereby. We hope to be able to make a complementary investigation of other material evidence that could prove a Poznań-origin at a later stage.

Once found, the books are catalogued in the Swedish national union catalogue Libris.[7] In addition to regular bibliographic data, information on previous owners are entered, as well as simple book binding descriptions and other physical characteristics of the objects. The collaboration with our Polish colleagues at the University Library of Poznań is particularly valuable for the copy specific information details from the Polish time. Thankfully, today’s communication tools facilitate such a work very much. This is really a time when many obstacles to international cooperation on shared cultural heritage have been removed. With time and patience, we hope to be able add a small piece to the great puzzle of the circulation of books in the early modern period hereby. Not least, we benefit greatly from the shared interest and partnership with the EJLPP-project, which gives us the wonderful context for the assessment of the particularities of the Jesuit college libraries now kept at Uppsala.

[1] Links to online catalogues: [2] Read more: For the catalogue: [3], [4] [5] [6] See register at [7] Search the records entered so far:


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