Nordic Conference on Textual Criticism

Ulrika Gustafsson

The eleventh conference of The Nordic Network for Textual Critics – Nordiskt Nätverk för Editionsfilologer (NNE) was held in Helsinki from Friday 11 September to Sunday 13 September 2009, with its main theme of Print-published and Electronically-Published Editions. Experiences, Planning and Changing Technology. The conference was hosted by The Society of Swedish Literature in Finland (SLS) and undertaken by its editorial staff for Zacharias Topelius Skrifter, the scholarly edition of Finnish author Topelius’s writings, written in Swedish.

Shared Editing Experiences

The NNE conference 2009 took place at Kalastajatorppa (in Swedish Fiskartorpet), i.e. the Hilton Conference and Events Centre, and at the Gyllenberg Art Museum, both located just outside the city centre of Helsinki. Around 80 delegates participated, most of whom were members of NNE from Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland. Lectures were presented in Swedish, Danish and Norwegian. The first lecture on Friday afternoon at the Gyllenberg Art Museum was held by Johnny Kondrup (University of Copenhagen) – a member of the NNE executive group – surveying 30 years of Nordic scholarly editions, from August Strindbergs Samlade Verk to N.F.S. Grundtvigs verker (the collected works of August Strindberg and of N.F.S. Grundtvig). He elaborated on relations between print and electronic publishing, and emphasised the question of safe filing. Future conditions of electronic textual editing were overall the central theme to the conference.

First and Second Generation Electronic Editions

Johnny Kondrup was followed by Per Stam (Stockholm University) and Christian Janss (Henrik Ibsen’s Writings), who discussed editions of Strindberg and Ibsen as electronic scholarly editions of the first generation, and Kim Björklund (SLS) and Petra Söderlund (The Swedish Society for Belles Lettres), who discussed the Topelius edition and The Selma Lagerlöfarkivet as editions of a second generation.

On Saturday and Sunday, the conference gathered at Fiskartorpet, where lecturers, including Petra Söderlund, Mats Dahlström (University of Borås), Hilde Bøe (Edvard Munch’s written material), Thomas Gartz (SLS) and Leif-Jöran Olsson (University of Gothenburg), elaborated on the possibilities of digital editing: open access editions, electronic critical apparatuses and how they differ from their printed counterparts, the file comparison programme Juxta and XML coding. Per Dahl (Aarhus University) gave a lecture on the relationship between introduction, commentary and textual criticism, and Jyrki Nummi (University of Helsinki) discussed the structure of the commentary and its importance with examples from the scholarly edition of Finnish author Aleksis Kivi’s Nummisuutarit (Sockenskomakarna, translated in English as The Heath Cobblers).

Besides ePublishing, another major theme was the scholarly editing of letters and diaries. Barbro Ståhle Sjönell (The Swedish Society for Belles Lettres) lectured on a number of concerns brought up in the editing of author’s letters – issues such as the selection and disposition of primary material – and introduced various solutions used in existing editions. From a related perspective, Björn Meidal (Uppsala University) shared his experiences of editing Strindberg’s letters. The conference was brought to a close by Patricia Berg (SLS), who presented the editing of orientalist Georg August Wallin’s travel diaries. The edition of Wallin’s writings is, as Zacharias Topelius Skrifter, a project undertaken by The Society of Swedish Literature in Finland.

The conference papers will be collected and published. NNE has published conference volumes since 1999, which now total eight in the series. For more information on the network, its organisation, conferences and publications, see www.nnedit.org.


There was also time for networking and socialising beyond the main schedule. Friday’s programme was rounded off with a soprano performance by Ilona Jokinen accompanied by Asta Lötjönen at the piano. They performed a suitably Nordic repertoire of songs by H.C. Andersen, Henrik Ibsen and Zacharias Topelius to arrangements by, among others, Edvard Grieg and Jean Sibelius.

At midday on Saturday, there was an electronic poster session. Editorial staff from Edvard Munchs tekster, Henrik Ibsens skrifter, Anders Chydenius samlade skrifter and Zacharias Topelius Skrifter introduced their achievements in electronic publishing. There was also time for some cultural tourism. Many chose to visit the home and office of Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, located at a walking distance from the hotel and conference centre. On Saturday evening the participants in the conference enjoyed a festive dinner, during which some changes in the NNE organisation were announced: Barbro Ståhle Sjönell and Tone Modalsli (National Library of Norway) handed over their tasks in the NNE executive group to Paula Henrikson (Uppsala University and The Swedish Academy) and Hilde Bøe.

The NNE conference 2009 was made possible with funds from The Society of Swedish Literature in Finland, Signe and Ane Gyllenberg Foundation and Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland. The organisers also want to thank all the participants who made the conference a success. We are grateful for the positive feedback received and look forward to participate in the next NNE conference which will be held in Denmark in 2011.

Ulrika Gustafsson
Zacharias Topelius Skrifter
Svenska litteratursällskapet Finland – The Society of Swedish Literature in Finland


Fragments of Medieval Books in Bergen

Jaakko Tahkokallio

In early November this year, 2009, The Center for Medieval Studies at the University of Bergen held a workshop entitled The Manuscript Triangle: France-England-Scandinavia 1100-1300, co-funded by NOS-HS (Joint Committee for Nordic Research Councils for the Humanities and the Social Sciences).

Over thirty European medievalists attended to examine French and English influences in medieval Nordic book production. Most of the presentations were concerned with fragments of liturgical books, leaves of which were used as wrappings and bindings for account books in the 16th and 17th centuries. This manner of secondary use has preserved fragments of thousands of medieval books once formerly put to use in monasteries, cathedrals and parish churches throughout Scandinavian. The fragments thus illustrate all levels, high and low, of a once flourishing Scandinavian medieval manuscript culture.

During the workshop, a wide range of topics were discussed, concerning both a triangle comprising France, England and Scandinavia and the period 1100 to 1300. Topics covered included Parisian book production in the twelfth and thirteenth century; glossed books of the Bible and other glossed books; large twelfth-century Bibles; large high-quality English missals; law books; Cistercian manuscripts and much more. The workshop programme, material used during the presentations, a list of participants and other information can be found at the website of the workshop.


Birth of Literature in Finnish

Last Saturday, 10th of October, was Finnish Literature Day, set aside to commemorate Aleksis Kivi (born Alexis Stenvall) and the advent of literature in Finnish. Kivi (1834-1872) was the first modern author to write in Finnish. His best known novel, Seitsemän veljestä (Seven Brothers, published originally by the Finnish Literature Society in 1870) has become a classic of Finnish culture, and has been translated into several languages. Previously in the 19th century, local literary and scientific endeavor had communicated in Swedish: Finnish language and vocabulary did not yet support such activities. Educated members of the society would use Swedish (usually it was their first language), while the common Finnish-speaking population people would have been able to read but less frequently have been able to write. Kivi himself came from a poor rural ramily, but he had learnt Swedish and was able to study at university.

The development of a Finnish language was the key element for Finnish national culture and identity. Although there had been earlier efforts to write novels in Finnish, Kivi was the first Finn successfully to link the form of the novel to vivid descriptions of common Finnish life and language.

Although Kivi had won several prizes in the 1860s as a playwright, the early reception of his prose was notoriously harsh: August Ahlqvist, Professor of Finnish and a leading figure in the development of written Finnish at the time, condemned the novel, its language and its plot: for him, Kivi’s language was too rough and his description on Finnish peasants immoral.

Kivi had important supporters both at the university and at the Finnish Literature Society (SKS), but that support could not immediately dispel the accusations Ahlqvist had put forward. Furthermore, the unstable political situation of the early 1870s, along with SKS’s faltering publishing activities, which suffered from poor finance and nonexistent entrepreneurial drive, combined to withhold Kivi's work from its potential audience. The original edition was issued 500 copies: 134 sold immediately as a part of SKS’s novel series, while the rest languished for three years in storage before brought to any additional book market. In 1877-1878 SKS published Kivi’s Collected Works, but the book series was impossibly expensive for most Finns. A truncated version for young readers was published in 1891, but up to the very end of the century Seven Brothers was a rare sight in book stores.

In a climate of heavy criticism and with no public signs of support Kivi died, his already-weakened mental condition having been brought to a state of collapse. Initial condemnation of Seven Brothers and the low key of its early publishing history have lead scholars to believe that Kivi’s significance and his accomplishments were not understood until the late 19th or early 20th century: thereby creating the figure of a misunderstood genius rescued by future generations.

However, in his Impivaaran kaski. Aleksis Kivi kirjallisuutemme korvenraivaajana (The Burnt Clearing at Impivaara. Aleksis Kivi as Trailblazer of Finnish Literature. SKS, 2009), Esko Rahikainen turns away from the well-studied academic condemnation of Ahlqvist and instead conducts an inquiry into Kivi's popularity among the larger reading audience. Rahikainen begins by showing that Kivi was Finnish theatre's most successful playwright of the late 19th century - and that the audience of theater-goers most likely exceeded that of novel readers. Furthermore, Rahikainen details many of the dispersed examples that show peasants and other rural examples reading or listening Seven Brothers and other texts of Kivi.

Such sources could be used to dispute the earlier assumption of Kivi's neglect. Alternatively, they could be used to open a broader discussion into how popularity and success could be measured in the late 19th century Finland, in a context where the expensive novel in Finnish would be difficult to apprehend by a Swedish speaking bourgeoisie, and at the same time prove remote to Finnish-speaking peasants unused to fiction or even books. To do so, the rivalries and hesitations evident in the academy stand in contrast to the interest and often even enthusiasm of peasants.

It had seemed that after a century of studying early criticism and (dis)approval of Kivi, we already knew the opinions stated and actions taken. However, recent decades have opened up new contexts and viewpoints: what does popularity mean, and where should it be sought; should our concern be for Ahlqvist's revulsion or for the peasants’ admiration? The questions are not only relevant to studies on Kivi. They are also part of new approach in studying both late 19th-century Finnish cultural life and how the common people – the largest part of the society – began to take part in secular cultural activities and create its own visions, opinions and even works of art. Whose opinions and acts count – or indeed interest us?

Jyrki Hakapää


IFLA in Helsinki 2012

Jyrki Hakapää

I was already excited on the forthcoming SHARP conference in Helsinki, but now comes news that the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) has given the World Library and Information Congress: 78th IFLA General Conference and Assembly to Helsinki in 2012. Exact dates or theme are not yet given, but check IFLA's conference news for further information once the event approaches.

SHARP might be much smaller and probably more academic organization compared to IFLA. Nevertheless it feels great to remark - or even boast -, that the next decade will begin with Helsinki as an important centre of international book culture and history activities.


New Editor and Call for Papers on Popularism

Simon R. Frost & Jyrki Hakapää

The blog has now an editorial team! Many of our readers may remember Simon R. Frost (University of Southern Denmark) as the organiser of the first thematic SHARP conference in Nordic countries. Published Words, Public Pages, held last year at the Danish Royal School of Library and Information Science (Copenhagen), brought many Nordic book historian together and demonstrated their interest in further collaboration.

And there's more coming from Denmark. Slagmark, journal of the Department of the History of ideas, Aarhus University, has just announced a call for papers for their special issue on popularism, "Det Populaer", which, according to their description, will take an interest in material culture, mass media and the public. That Slagmark tends towards papers having a fair degree of theorisation to them
will in no way disqualify readers of this blog. Their deadline for
submissions is 20 October 2009. For further information, see Slagmark's announcement.


Book Culture from Below: Submit Your Proposal

Jyrki Hakapää

Many of you have probably gotten the message already, but here it is one more time: You can submit now a proposal to Book Culture from Below - The 18th Annual SHARP Conference, to be held in Helsinki 17-21 August 2010. Click the conference logo on the right for the conference website: there you find closer details and the official proposal form. The deadline for submissions is 30 November 2009.


Books from Finland

Jyrki Hakapää

The academic year is about to begin here in Finland. The university buildings are filling with new students running through their introductory lectures and campus tours. Our blog acknowledges the beginning of the academic year with an entry on the Finnish contemporary literature.

A good number of Finnish writers have been translated to foreign languages and some have even risen to international fame: for example all Frenchmen probably know Arto Paasilinna, Matti Rönkä’s criminal novels became recently German critics’ favorites, and Americans might remember how Mika Waltari’s Sinuhe the Egyptian became a Hollywood movie. And who could forget Tove Jansson and the Moomin family? However, Finnish publishers have not traditionally invested much effort in promoting their authors in the international market, and literary agents are only a recent phenomenon in the Finnish book business. For a long time the distribution of information about Finnish literature was largely based on one publication, the journal Books from Finland which is published jointly by the Finnish Literature Society and FILI – Finnish Literature Exchange. Founded in 1967 and published in print form until 2008, the journal is now available online for free.

Books from Finland offers a broad view on Finnish literary culture. It publishes articles and interviews of contemporary writers as well as translations of their works. Besides fiction, the site also offers essays on contemporary literary culture and reviews of academic works in the fields of literature studies and book history.

When it comes to book history and book historians’ interest towards recent developments of literary and print culture as well as publishing business, Books from Finland has interesting articles to offer. In a recent volume, the literary scholar Teemu Manninen writes about ways of re-inventing the book. Though many have eulogised the new media – internet, e-book and digital publishing – Manninen points out dissident voices that foretell the return of the paper. You can also find a mini review of the history and bibliography of Finnish-language literature published in Soviet Union during 1918–1944, Suomi rajan takana, by Pauli Kruhse and Antero Uitto.

PS. We have added some new features to the blog. On the right side you will find a list of blogs and websites who have kindly mentioned our blog or the forthcoming Book Culture from Below – The 18th Annual SHARP Conference. Moreover, there are links to bloggers who have become our followers. Neither list is supposed to be comprehensive sources for book history or book historians; rather they are meant to function as social tools. We are thrilled to have company while blogging about book history!


History of Writing in the Middle Ages - Book Review

Tuomas Heikkilä. Piirtoja ja kirjaimia. Kirjoittamisen kulttuurihistoriaa keskiajalla. Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, Helsinki, 2009 [Tuomas Heikkilä. Strokes and Letters. Cultural History of Writing in the Middle Ages. Finnish Literature Society, Helsinki, 2009].

Jyrki Hakapää

Piirtoja ja kirjaimia is the latest proof of Finnish researchers’ lively interest in medieval book culture. It sums up many recent findings and research results for a wider readership and succeeds admirably in creating an overview of a European history of writing through the Middle Ages. While writing in the European context, Tuomas Heikkilä (acting professor of general history at the University of Helsinki) seeks also to reveal “an open secret” of Finnish history, as he points out in the first pages of the book: although for a long time Finnish scholars have known the presence of writing and books in local societies at least from the 12th century onwards, that is, from the time when Catholic church arrived to south-western shores of the current Finland, this knowledge has not reached wider acknowledgement. Drawing from a number of examples, Heikkilä shows that medieval Finland and its writers and readers were full-blooded participants of European cultural activity and heritage during the late Middle Ages.

Heikkilä begins by explaining various equipments and raw materials that were needed for writing and creating the final product the manuscript. He continues with presenting the environment for writing: how the church, administration, educational institutions and business created the need and possibilities for putting texts on parchment or paper. He introduces the history of various styles of writing and discusses the uses and influences of writing and written texts in the medieval times. At the end Heikkilä shortly presents the emergence of the printing press and the gradual decline of the medieval scribal tasks.

The challenge for Heikkilä's task of combining a European tradition to Finnish culture is the scarcity or anonymity of original material in Finnish archives. Only a dozen or so locally produced or used medieval codices have survived to modern times. Other sources have revealed only few bishops' and monasteries' acquisitions and library collections. Collections of fragments have been left unexplored.

Especially the last-mentioned fragments are a difficult source material: as the promotion of Lutheranism progressed in the late 16th and early 17th century Swedish realm, the administration broke old and in the new settings infidel catholic manuscript books in sheets. These sheets disappeared for example to the sky as firework wrappers or artillery’s pouches for gunpowder, or to the garbage cans as candy and spice wrappers. However, in the end we might have to thank the civil servants of the early modern era, because many sheets were used to cover official document collections and have survived until today. These archives have been now explored, and Heikkilä and other Finnish medievalists have recently taken the task to find, save, identify and study over 10 000 fragmentary sheets as well as finally to digitize them – a project, which will surely be presented in this blog later on. The project greatly increases our chances of understanding medieval societies both in Finnish and European contexts.

In Piirtoja ja kirjaimia, the Middle Ages are not one continuous entity, but have multiple periods. Heikkilä mentions three renaissances – the Carolingian renaissance, renaissance of the 12th century, and the proper Renaissance – as periods which witness the emergence of written culture’s modern elements. The book concentrates on the late medieval centuries from 13th century onwards and follows the research tradition to separate the monastic and secular eras of medieval writings. Heikkilä concentrates on the increase and distribution of scribal culture and its products as well as the secularization and professionalization of the book culture during the last medieval centuries. He takes part in the discussion on the influences of the printing press by arguing how many of the elements of the print culture – various bibliographic terms, font styles, range of punctuation marks, sizes and forms of codices, isolation of various tasks and professions of the book business, use of vernaculars etc. – had been created already during the age of manuscripts. His vision continues the discussion on the continuous and evolving history of the book culture which took place from the 13th to the 16th century, over the emergence of the printing press. His book works much in the spirit of Marcel Thomas’s introduction on late medieval book culture into Lucien Frebvre's and Henri-Jean Martin's L’Apparition du livre as they both seek to connect the late medieval book history to the history of the printed books.

Heikkilä's book proves that researchers of the medieval manuscript culture adhere to many of the ideas developed within the modern book history. The need to understand the chain of production, distribution and reception is apparent. Especially the need of various skills for producing a copy as well as the living and working conditions of the artists and artisans responsible for this are described well. Heikkilä succeeds also in showing the importance of the writing activities and texts in the medieval societies.

While one can criticize Heikkilä’s insistence on the significance of the medieval scribal culture for the later developments in book culture, he convincingly argues for the necessity of combining the study of the book cultures of the late medieval centuries and early modern period together. Too often, at least in the Finnish context, researchers tend to study either the medieval manuscripts or the later printed books, but rarely are they put together in one research project. While Piirtoja ja kirjaimia is an admirable work on medieval history of writing, it also makes intriguing suggestions for studying the oral, manuscript and written culture together.


A Medieval Medical Textbook Transmitting Greek, Byzantine and Arabic Traditions

Outi Kaltio, Matti Haltia and Heikki Solin

Constantine the African's Liber Pantegni: Transmission of Greek Medical Tradition to the Latin West via Byzantium and the Arabic World. An interdisciplinary symposium sponsored by the Academia Europaea, the Signe and Ane Gyllenberg Foundation, the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters, and the Finnish Society of Sciences and Letters. Helsinki, Finland, 4–6 June 2009

The tradition of classical Greek medicine reached medieval Europe largely through Latin translations of Greek and Arabic medical literature. The Arabs had been exposed to Greek medical culture preserved in the lands conquered from the Byzantine Empire. The first wave of such translations was connected with the Salerno School of medicine and its central figure Constantine the African. He moved from North Africa to Southern Italy at around 1070 and worked at the Benedictine monastery of Montecassino until his death (before 1098/9). The most influential of his many translations was Liber Pantegni, based on the famous book al-Malakî of the Persian physician Haly Abbas. Liber Pantegni was the first comprehensive treatise of medical science in the Latin language and rapidly became the leading textbook of medicine at the first European universities and medical schools. Despite its pivotal role in the early development of European medicine, no modern editions or translations of Liber Pantegni into any modern language exist.

Our symposium was prompted by a manuscript on parchment in the collections of the National Library of Finland, which turned out to be one of the earliest preserved manuscripts of Theorica Pantegni (the important theoretical part of Liber Pantegni), written during the late twelfth century, probably in Germany, France or Belgium. The manuscript eventually ended up in St. Petersburg, in the collection of old medical books of Joseph von Rehmann, actual state counsellor and personal physician of Tsar Nicholas I. After von Rehmann's death, the Tsar acquired the collection and in 1832 donated it to the Helsinki University Library (currently the National Library of Finland).

Research on the manuscript is now in progress with the final aim of producing a Latin edition and English translation of Theorica Pantegni. Distinguished scholars from various disciplines and different countries were invited to the symposium to discuss subjects related to the transmission of Greek and Arabic medical tradition to the medieval Latin West, with particular emphasis on the role of Constantine the African and his Liber Pantegni in this process. The symposium was accompanied by a workshop concentrating on practical problems and open questions related to the editorial work of Theorica Pantegni.

After the fancy welcome reception at the Villa Gyllenberg, hosted by the Signe and Ane Gyllenberg Foundation, the scientific programme of the symposium started next morning with addresses by Thomas Wilhelmsson, Rector of the University of Helsinki, and Jürgen Mittelstrass, Past President of the Academia Europaea. Two sessions with seven presentations were held on the Greek medical tradition and its transmission to the Latin West. The topics concerned were Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Arabic medicine, Latin translations of Arabic medical texts, the Jewish contribution to the transmission process, and reflexions of Hellenistic medicine in the Nordic Renaissance. (The complete programme of the symposium is available here)

The symposium also included a joint meeting and reception with the Friends of the National Library. The event took place at the Cupola Hall of the National Library of Finland where the 12th century manuscript of Constantine the African's Theorica Pantegni was on display. Two lectures were given: Professor Heinrich von Staden (Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton) spoke on migrations of Greek medicine from antiquity to the early modern period, and MA Outi Kaltio (University of Helsinki) presented Constantine the African's Theorica Pantegni and the manuscript in the collections of the National Library.

The next day of the symposium concentrated on the Salerno School of medicine and Constantine the African's Liber Pantegni with five presentations. In the first lecture the evidence for and against the existence of a medical school at Salerno already in Roman times was critically evaluated. Two presentations dealt with codicological aspects of certain manuscripts of Liber Pantegni, one in the National Library of Finland, and another two in English libraries. The subsequent speaker discussed the relation of Practica Pantegni (the second part of Liber Pantegni) to the Arabic original by Haly Abbas and to other source texts. Finally, a comparison was made between different textual versions of Theorica Pantegni, and the relation of the manuscript in the National Library of Finland to other preserved manuscripts was examined.

The programme ended with a workshop and round table discussion with the speakers. Outi Kaltio presented her work in progress, the editing of the fifth book of Theorica Pantegni. Practical problems, such as choice of manuscripts, correcting of the base text, orthography, punctuation etc., were covered in a lively discussion. The future editing of the whole body of Theorica Pantegni was also brought out, and many of the speakers expressed their willingness to participate in the project.

The symposium gathered together outstanding scholars to discuss the roots of modern European medicine and Constantine the African's Liber Pantegni, Europe's first comprehensive textbook of medicine. Their contributions and continuous support and advice will be of great value for the editing and publishing process of Theorica Pantegni.

The papers presented at the symposium will be published in European Review (the official journal of the Academia Europaea) in 2010.

Outi Kaltio is a doctoral student at the Department of Classical Philology (University of Helsinki)
Matti Haltia is a professor emeritus of Neuropathology (University of Helsinki)
Heikki Solin is a professor emeritus of Latin Philology (University of Helsinki)


Hibolire Doctoral Summer School - Tampere June 4-5 2009

Ilkka Mäkinen

It was a cold (+5 degrees Celsius), wet and rainy early June 2009 in Tampere, Finland (hard to imagine now, a couple of weeks later, when it is +25 degrees). I had advised the participants of the HIBOLIRE Doctoral Summer School that this time of year was usually nice and warm: but now “rough winds” did “shake the darling buds of June”. Happily, leaving the cold winds outside, the 25-person group gathered at the new faculty building of the University of Tampere to create their own warmth. The participants, all members of HIBOLIRE, came from different Scandinavian and Baltic countries.

The mood was enthusiastic since, among the senior members and the doctoral students, were new faces some of whom were to speak before an international audience for the very first time: true “darling buds”. An item of news that also inspired was that our HIBOLIRE member Henrik Horstbøll had been installed as the new professor of Book and Library History at the University of Lund, on that very day. Unfortunately, because of that event, he could not participate in our summer school.

HIBOLIRE, the Nordic-Baltic Research Network on the History of Books, Libraries and Reading, is a multinational and multidisciplinary network of scholars from Scandinavian and Baltic countries. We also wish to improve our cooperation with scholars in northwestern Russia. The activities of HIBOLIRE are supported by Nordforsk, an independent institution operating under the Nordic Council of Ministers for Education and Research. Our intitial three-year funding covered the period from 2006 to 2009, while an extension will enable further activities from 2009 to 2010. The network organises annually at least one doctoral seminar, in addition to other events. Next year, our main goal will be to co-organize the annual SHARP conference in Helsinki. Minna Ahokas, a member of the organizing committee, informed us of the present status of planning.

The first keynote speaker, Dr. Lotte Hellinga from UK, former Deputy Keeper at the British Library, opened the summer school with her speech titled Histories of the book, old and new, and what they have in common, where she touched upon many important themes. What especially struck me was the importance she laid on the popularization of book history. Why doesn’t someone write a “Gutenberg Code” or a “Schoeffer Code”? Book history is full of good stories. The popularization theme is closely connected with another matter she raised, namely, the importance of lifting one’s eyes from details and over the national boundaries in order to see and talk about the larger context.

Dr. Hellinga’s coments about popularization reminded us that our network had listed popularization as one of the initial aims of HIBOLIRE. Popularization in a manner that is both exacting and appealing is difficult to do, but in our own way we shall try, by publishing in July a popular book on the library histories in the region that our network covers; indeed covering a large part of the globe from Greenland to Finland. The book will be titled Library Spirit in the Nordic and Baltic Countries. Historical Perspectives. Not a “Library Code” (perhaps a “Dewey Code”?) but hopefully more accessible than ordinary treatises on library history.

The theme of the summer school, Books as material objects, books in space, books in movement, was deliberately unrestrictive, since all doctoral students of the network irrespective of the subject of their dissertation should have a chance to receive feedback. The theme was intended also to involve jointly both book and library historians. Nevertheless, one theme, books in space, was so successful in gathering speakers that the theme earned its appearance in the title of the summer school. One of the keynote speakers, Prof. Alistair Black of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, spoke about Books, Buildings and Social Engineering. Early Public Libraries in Britain from Past to Present based on the newly-published book co-authored by himself, Simon Pepper and Kaye Bagshaw. His presentation was as richly documented with images as the book itself. I believe it was fortunate that the somewhat trite term “social concept” was replaced by “social engineering”.

A senior member of the network, Nan Dahlkild from the Royal School of Library and Information Science, Copenhagen, entered the history of library buildings from the Scandinavian angle, and a doctoral student, Pentti Mehtonen, from the University of Tampere presented his dissertation project on the discourse on library buildings in the Finnish professional press. The trio was completed by the presence of Ms. Hanna Aaltonen, who has written an extensive article on Finnish public library buildings in the recent Suomen yleisten kirjastojen historia (History of Finnish public libraries) published just after the summer school. Such a congregation of themes is very welcome, even if it is not possible always to achive, since research themes in the fields covered by the network are so varied.

There were additional senior researcher papers by Wolfgang Undorf (Royal Library, Stockholm) challenging a number of concepts that we take as self-evident in book history, and Alma Braziniune (Vilnius University, Lithuania) about the private library as an object of research in book science and librarianship. Both subjects also have a contemporary importance given the current digitisation of books and even whole libraries. These papers should surely be published as articles or books.

It is impossible to provide summaries of every doctoral students’ paper at the summer school. And, fortunately, there is no reason to do so. Students will be presenting the results of their work in due course themselves: the entire workshop program becoming available at here.

We were successful in gathering people from different levels of scholarship, from different countries and with different disciplinary backgrounds. The mix created a fruitful opportunity for getting to know people and exchanging information and opinions. A problem was the different rhythm of universities in the Nordic countries that prevented people from certain countries from participating. This fact must be taken into account when future events are planned.

Doc. Ilkka Mäkinen is a lecturer at the Department of Information Studies, University of Tampere, and the treasurer of HIBOLIRE.


Ordinary Writings in the North

Davíð Ólafsson

The Nordic network The Common People and the Processes of Literacy in the Nordic Countries: Excursions to the Scribal and Print Cultures in the 18th and 19th Centuries, workshop Between Categories – Evaluation of Concepts and Data. Kiljava, Finland, 4–5 June 2009

The Nordic countries have, like many other regions, seen a steep rise in certain sectors of cultural history over the last decade or two. This wave can be attributed with various labels, and among them are components from history of writing, history of the book, vernacular linguistics, post-medieval manuscript culture, history from below and microhistory. Its participants, either individually or linked in small groups, have come from various disciplines - history, literary history, linguistics, folkloristic etc - and have increasingly sought out cross-disciplinary as well cross-national dialogues. Characteristically, discussions are set mostly within the modern period – the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries – rather than the early-modern era as is common in many other countries. Over the last decade Nordic scholars have progressively participated in multi-national collaboration: within the Nordic region, in Europe, and internationally (including SHARP). The network The Common People and the Processes of Literacy in the Nordic Countries: Excursions to the Scribal and Print Cultures in the 18th and 19th Centuries is the latest embodiment of this.

This pan-Scandinavian network is one result of a current Finnish research project called 'The Common People': Writing, and the Process of Literary Attainment in the Nineteenth-Century Finland, led by Professor Lea Laitinen at the University of Helsinki, and funded by the Academy of Finland from 2008 to 2011. Collaboration is also underway with two other research networks in the making: one Swedish, on everyday literary practices, and one Icelandic, on post-medieval manuscript culture that will apply for a local grant of excellence next fall. In 2008, the Nordic network attained a grant from The Joint Committee for Nordic Research Councils for the Humanities and the Social Sciences (NOS-HS) to hold two exploratory workshops in 2009 and to prepare further applications for Nordic and international financing.

The first explorative workshop scheduled for 2009 was held 4-5 June at the Kiljavanranta Conference Centre near Helsinki. The leading proponent for this endeavour, Dr. Anna Kuismin, chaired the meeting. Nineteen participants gathered from all five Nordic countries. Three sessions were held on the first day with eight presentations by Anna Kuismin and Kaisa Kauranen, Kati Mikkola, Kati Launis, and Jyrki Hakapää from Finland, by Britt Liljewall and Ann-Catrine Edlund from Sweden, by Arne Apelseth from Norway and by Guðný Hallgrímsdóttir and Davíð Ólafsson from Iceland. Among the themes discussed were self-taught writers and their manuscripts and printed works in Finland, manuscripts of Icelandic women, research on the history of reading and writing in Norway and Sweden and the issue of class and society.

The second day opened with a plenary lecture Analysing class, writing proficiency and pauper documents from 19th century Europe: A minefield between linguistics, history and cultural studies given by Wim Vandenbussche (Professor of Dutch Linguistics at the Vrije Universitet in Brussels). In an illuminating and far-reaching talk, Vandenbussche touched upon a number of subjects that brought the group together, such as extant writings from people of the lower strata, their use of language and the written medium and interaction between different literary practices based on ethnicity, geography, class and other socio-cultural variables.

Prof. Vandenbussche’s lecture was followed by four more presentations, by Finnish scholars Lea Laitinen, Taru Nordlund, and Kirsti Salmi-Niklander, by Elena Rosnes from Norway, and by Matthew Driscoll from Denmark. In their joint presentation, Lea Laitinen and Taru Nordlund discussed Finnish sources on linguistics from below, while Elena Rosnes presented her study on the language of the Kven people of Finnish descendancy in Norway. Matthew Driscoll from Denmark gave an account of the function of scribal culture and its most popular genres in eighteenth and nineteenth-century Iceland. Finally folklorist Kirsti Salmi-Niklander discussed oral-literary tradition and hybrid genres in early twentieth-century Finnland.

The last hour of the workshop was assigned to general conclusions and planning of the Copenhagen workshop that will take place in the coming December. There, the aim is to prepare a Nordic research project on the subject of the attainment and employment of writing among the general public at the advent of modernity.

Davíð Ólafsson is a researcher at the Reykjavik Academy, Iceland



Welcome to the blog Book History Up North, a blog that aims to inform our readers about book history events and publications in Nordic and Baltic Countries.

Book history has long traditions in the Northern Europe: for many countries the rise of nationalism and national culture during the 19th century meant an effort to create and study the local print culture and its achievements. For the last twenty years modern book history's methodologies and results have renewed these local traditions and led to further co-operation both in regional and international settings.

The arrival of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing to the Baltic Sea Region - first at the thematic conference Published Words, Public Pages in Copenhagen in September 2008 and soon at the 18th annual SHARP conference Book Culture from Below in Helsinki, 17-21 August 2010 - is a major sign of Northern Europe's book historians' efforts to operate on the international level. However, the local researchers and their studies are still rarely presented in global settings, as the language barriers have been set high.

Therefore, to provide information about Nordic and Baltic book history and prepare all book historians for the forthcoming SHARP conference in Helsinki, we have decided to open this blog. During next 15 months, we aim to give you news and reviews on recent book history activities. Once you arrive to Book Culture from Below -conference, you have already familiarized yourself with Nordic and Baltic book historians, their projects and results. If you are not able to participate, we hope that this blog as such will give you a good starting point for further exploration and collaboration.

Jyrki Hakapää
Chair of the organising committee
Book Culture from Below - The 18th Annual SHARP Conference
Helsinki, 17-21 August 2010