The National Library of Finland Bulletin 2008

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Inkeri Pitkäranta

Books as a Passion; book collectors from the 1600s to the present day



Exhibition in the National Library of Finland´s Cupola Hall and Gallery 15 May - 15 November 2008. Address Unioninkatu 36. Open Mon-Fri 9-20 (June-August 9-18), Sat 9-16 (July Sat closed) Free admission.

The National Library of Finland´s extensive double exhibition Books as a Passion presents book collectors from the 1600s to the present day. Displayed in the Cupola Hall are the National Library of Finland´s historical bibliophile collections; in the Gallery modern-day collectors are presented. Also in the Gallery, visitors can marvel at what bibliophiles can collect besides books: anything from candy wrappers to stickers and games. Counsellor of State and former Speaker of Parliament Riitta Uosukainen opened the Books as a Passion exhibition that will be on view in the National Library of Finland's Cupola Hall and Gallery until 15 November 2008.

Counsellor of State and former Speaker of Parliament Riitta Uosukainen opened the Books as a Passion exhibition that will be on view in the National Library of Finland's Cupola Hall and Gallery until 15 November 2008.

Photo: Kari Timonen


The exhibition in the Cupola Hall explains how important collectors have been to the National Library of Finland´s collections before and after the Great Fire of Turku. After the fire destroyed almost all of the Academy library´s collections in 1827, they were however soon replaced thanks to domestic and foreign book donations. The largest and most important donations came from Russia: scientific institutions, universities and Imperial Palaces at St. Petersburg. The Library´s collections include large quantities of books from, for example, the libraries of the Polish-Lithuanian Radziwill noble family and the Dukes of Courland. Also well represented are the libraries of the Emperor Paul I, Christian Gottlieb Jöcher, V. N. Lomonosov, Jan Pieter van Suchtelen and General Jacob Bruce. A few large Finnish private libraries have been included in the general collections; a considerable number of books are adorned with the bookplates of R. H. Rehbinder and Matthias Calonius. Also frequently encountered are the Swedish Reuterholm family´s books with "Bibliotheca Reuterholmiana" bookplates.

Without the great Finnish book collector Matti Pohto, the collection of Finnish literature printed during the Era of Swedish Rule would have been significantly lacking. The more important private libraries subsequently obtained, donated or purchased have been preserved separately as special collections. From the research and historical standpoints, the Library´s more valuable special collections include the Monrepos, Nordenskiöld, Reenpää and Brummeriana collections. Also in the exhibition are selections from the private libraries of the major Finnish collectors Library Counsellor E. J. Ellilä and Professor Eino Mikkola, as well as the modern collector CEO Ilkka Paatero´s thematic compilations treating Finland on the Pages of Books and Sami-Language Literature.

The works of Mika Waltari have attracted the attention of many bibliophiles. Impressive book art for the cover of the crime novel Komisaario Palmun erehdys.

The works of Mika Waltari have attracted the attention of many bibliophiles. Impressive book art for the cover of the crime novel Komisaario Palmun erehdys.
The collectors featured in the Gallery also explain how they originally became interested in their often exotic fields of interest. There are many reasons; if music has played an important part in one´s life, collecting old sheet music is a natural choice. The compilation of old Finnish literature may have begun with the collection of old glassware and countryside antiques, Lapland-themed literature or - as in the case of a Swiss collector - simply an interest in Finland. For a comic book specialist, the interest began with Aku Ankka (Donald Duck) and Helmi ja Heikki albums; for a Nordenskiöld collector it was his own expeditions to Svalbard in Norway.

The exhibition in the Gallery also shows how diversified the interests of modern collectors can be - from old printed Finnish sheet music to Fennica, comic books, a famous person, a family, company, book cover design, detective stories, sex education and etiquette guides, dissenters, Mika Waltari and the Finnish War of 1808-1809. The materials displayed have been assembled from 12 different collectors.


One after the other, even more surprising collection themes are discovered, such as the Stockmann department store, the enthusiasm for which was sparked by a childhood spent in a village store and an admiration for Stockmann´s advertisements. For its part, the collection of printed products related to the Finnish War of 1808-1809 began in the basement of an antiquarian bookshop with the discovery of shelves full of military literature. Information about Finnish bibliophiles´ collecting preferences indicates that first printings of belles-lettres and dedications are favoured. The works of Mika Waltari are particularly popular among collectors; Waltari rarities can be seen in the modern bibliophiles´ collections in the Gallery and E. J. Ellilä´s collection in the Cupola Hall.

The exhibition was designed by Professor Markus Brummer-Korvenkontio, bookseller Andrew Eriksson, CEO Ilkka Paatero, Professor Heikki A. Reenpää, Professor Jukka Sarjala, the National Library of Finland´s collection experts Sirkka Havu and Harri Ahonen, as well as Cultural Coordinator Inkeri Pitkäranta. In conjunction with the exhibition, a publication will appear during the summer and a lecture series will be arranged in the autumn at the National Library.

Further information:
Exhibition Coordinator Inkeri Pitkäranta,
Tel. +358 (0)9 191 22738, GSM +358 (0)50 3027 238
inkeri.pitkaranta(at)helsinki.fi

Tel. +358(0)9 191 22722
esko.rahikainen(at)helsinki.fi

Exhibition group tours and guide reservations:
Sisko Vuorikari, Tel. +358 (0)50 3006 620
sisko.vuorikari(at)helsinki.fi


EXHIBITIONS


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Le livre d'images parlantes. An early sound book published circa 1880. Pulling the string produces animal and baby sounds. From the Books as a Passion exhibition.



"For some, books have always been a source of joy, well being and information, while for others they have represented something unpleasant, obligatory or even frightening. Books open new worlds and increase our understanding; they can strengthen our convictions or make us change our minds. For that reason they have always threatened despotic rulers and frightened small-minded people who fear that reading and learning something new might force them to relinquish a belief in everything they have considered truthful until that time."

Heta Alexandra Gylling



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