Royal tombs, wall paper and neo-nazism

In the 1970s and 1980s books in the Scandinavian languages were strongly represented in the collections of the University Library, but since the University discontinued the teaching of these languages there has been less justification for acquiring material on the previous scale, with the notable exception of works to support teaching and research in the Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic. The volume of material acquired by the Library in the 21st century has been relatively small.  Nevertheless our users do show a marked interest in Scandinavian titles, and in recent years there has been a noticeable increase in the number of recommendations covering archaeology, the fine arts, history and politics.

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Tapeter i Sverige (9009.c.1219)

In part, I suspect, because our readers feel they need to “make a strong case” when recommending a title in Danish or Swedish, the reasons given tend to be especially detailed and helpful.  The suggestion that we should buy Tapeter i Sverige (9009.c.1219) was justified on the grounds that it is “a standard history of Swedish wallpapers, with a helpful English summary. It is invaluable for the study of early modern print culture, since it demonstrates that prints produced across Europe were used on 16th-century Swedish walls. The only copy ostensibly in a UK academic library cannot be located following a departmental move.”

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Danske kongegarve

Danske kongegarve (S950.c.201.721-723) is a three volume set which surveys the royal graves of Denmark.  The recommender was particularly interested in the first volume, which “provides an up to date archaeological survey of medieval Danish royal monuments, and includes digests of the very early historical materials bearing on Danish royal history from the 10th to the 13th century. This is an extremely useful Danish academic reference text … to anyone concerned with central medieval Danish history.”

Shorter but still effective justifications were given for Språk i endring (C204.d.7070), “ an important recent work on Norwegian language history”; Nazismen i Sverige, 1980-1999 (C204.d.7028), “on neo-nazism in Sweden in the post-war period, and the only scholarly work on the subject, required for research work on European neo-nazism”; and Reform eller revolt (C211.c.6257), “a work on the literary propaganda of socialist, communist, and fascist movements in Sweden during the interwar years. A relatively recent work in an otherwise slow-moving field, this book promises to provide recent historical insights into the very under researched area of political extremism in Swedish political culture.”

Sometimes, of course, the justification for purchase is for slightly more pedestrian reasons. The interdisciplinary anthology on women in the Viking age, Kvinner i vikingtid (C211.c.5851), addressing women’s activities in a social context, was recommended primarily because it has six useful contributions in English!  And sometimes, of course, we have to say no to purchase, as in the case of a request to buy a number of mid twentieth century Swedish newspapers on microfilm, since our budget for Scandinavian language purchasing is very limited.

In library year 2015-2016 we catalogued 99 Swedish, 85 Danish, 31 Norwegian, 9 Icelandic, 8 Finnish and 2 Faroese titles. Most of these were bought, but the total also includes a small number of donations.  Because we do not research new publications from Scandinavian countries nearly as thoroughly as titles published in more major languages, users are less likely to find the books they want unless they draw them to our attention.  By the time they do so a lot of titles are out of print, and we meet many such reader recommendations through second-hand purchasing, usually via Abebooks.  We do, however, try to buy a small selection of the most obvious recent publications in the subject areas mentioned in the first paragraph. No attempt is made to cover contemporary literature, for which there seems to be no demand in Cambridge.

  • Recent new acquisitions

David Lowe

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