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The Reconstructed Library of the Jesuit College of Riga Inaugurated: A guest post by our new partner

Happy July, everyone! Today I invite you to read a post by Peter Sjökvist, from Uppsala University in Sweden. Last month, the EJLPP entered into an agreement with those working reconstructing the library of the former Jesuit College in Riga (yes, that's in Latvia, not Sweden--it will all be explained below). Partners agree to write at least one blog post per year, and I wanted to use this opportunity to introduce everyone to this important and detailed work. We are excited to be working together.


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The Reconstructed Library of the Jesuit College of Riga Inaugurated

Peter Sjökvist, Uppsala University, Sweden

21 June, 2021, was a beatiful day at Uppsala University Library (Sweden). The president of Latvia, Egils Levits (see photo below), when visiting Sweden and Uppsala, inaugurated the recently reconstructed book collection from the Jesuit College of Riga. In September 1621, almost exactly 400 years ago, Swedish King Gustavus II Adolphus had entered Riga with his troops and soon confiscated all property there belonging to the Polish King and the Jesuit Order, the main confessional enemies of the time, its college library included. The Jesuits had opened a college there in 1583, but now they were expelled from the city. A bit later the same autumn, the books were all transported across the Baltic Sea to Stockholm Castle, where the king the following year, in 1622, donated the collection to the Vice Chancellor of Uppsala University. The University Library had been formally founded in 1621, and a large number of books were needed. Already in the 1630s the books were scattered in the remaining collections, which were arranged according to subject.

Some years ago, librarians Laura Kreigere-Liepiņa and Renāte Berga from the National Library of Latvia in Riga started a project to make a modern catalogue of this historical collection, in collabration with colleagues at Uppsala University Library, primarily myself (Peter Sjökvist) and librarian Helena Backman. This catalogue was finished and launched earlier this year, and the records have also been added to the Swedish National Union Catalogue. At the same time, a new physical collection was created, where all extant books from the Riga Jesuit College at Uppsala were gathered together for the first time since the 1630s, and located in the beautiful Book Hall at Carolina Rediviva, Uppsala University Library’s main building. Collaborating across national borders on a common cultural heritage has been the obvious method in order to do justice to the shared history of this collection.

For the same reason, Uppsala University Library has now entered into partnership with the European Jesuit Libraries Provenance Project (EJLPP). In addition to the books from Riga, we find two other Early Modern Jesuit College Libraries in this library. In 1626 the collections of Braniewo Jesuit College (Poland) were donated to Uppsala by the Swedish King, who had taken them as war spoils the same year. A catalogue on the material was published in 2007; you can find further information at Uppsala University Library’s page dedicated to that collection. In 1693 the books from the Jesuit College of Poznań (Poland), which had been taken as war spoils in the 1650s, came to Uppsala with the private collections of a Swedish nobleman who had been in charge of the forces when Poznań was occupied. A joint project between Uppsala University Library and Poznań University Library has recently started, which aims at registering all books from Poznań in modern databases, including provenance and book binding information.

Together with the EJLPP, our amibition is to give researchers from all over the world access to our Jesuit Books Collections. By sharing data, experiences, and knowledge, we can be part of a network where we see these libraries in their proper broader context. The journeys of books are the journeys of ideas and material objects at the same time, and just as Jesuits travelled so did their books and ideas. From that perspective, and many more, EJLPP is the perfect partner.


Latvian president Egils Levits, at the 21 June 2021 event offically inaugurating the Riga collection in the Book Hall of Uppsala University Library