We had the opportunity to visit the University in Barcelona and Rare Book and Manuscript CRAI Library 16th-20th September 2019. We got a warm welcome from Neus Verger, Gemma Caballer and Marina Ruiz, who put together a splendid program for us!
But first, let us introduce ourselves briefly. We are two librarians working at Lund University Library. The library was founded the same year as Lund University, in 1666. Lund is a city in the south of Sweden and Lund University is one of Sweden’s most popular universities. We belong to the section Special Collections and are responsible for manuscripts (ancient and modern), personal archives (private papers of important people in the south of Sweden), books printed before 1800, older maps and extensive collections of images and photographs. Our main tasks include answering and dealing with queries relating to our materials, acquisitions and sorting of personal archives and managing the Special Collections Reading Room. We are also in charge of Special collection’s Instagram account: @lundunilib_treasures
On our first day, Neus guided us around the collections of older prints. We found it especially interesting that most of the collections come from different Catalonian convents, which became obvious when we were looking at all the different spines at the shelves. Many of the book bindings (most of them in parchment) were amazingly beautiful!
We also really enjoyed the collection of 890 manuscript parchments. This important collection is not yet fully catalogued, and it was interesting to see the process from a pile of mixed fragments to fully restored and digitized documents.
There are several catalogues and databases at the Rare Book and Manuscript CRAI Library, we found the Former owners database particularly useful. The collection of older prints, dated 1501-1820, originates from Catalonian convents (due to ecclesiastical confiscation laws in the mid 1830’s). To know the provenance of the many books from different collections is very beneficial for research.
We also had the chance to visit departments outside the Rare Book and Manuscript CRAI Library: the Restoration workshop and the Digitization Centre (CEDI). At the Restoration workshop we were shown the conservation and restoration process of damaged books and manuscripts. We do not use the same cleaning devices, like the “washing machine” in our library. Our conservation staff mostly focus on acute repairs for books and archival material in circulation. This is a major difference.
At CEDI we met the two very friendly Davids! We got the impression that the digitization process is quite similar to ours. We were very impressed by the amount of work they do being only two staff!
We found it a bit inconvenient though that both the conservation and digitization is done off site, a fare distance from where the material is usually kept.
Scandinavia – charts, customs and creatures!
During our stay at the library, we studied two different documents related to Sweden:
- Joan Blaeu’s Nuevo Atlaso o Teatro del Mundo (printed in Amsterdam 1659-1672).
- Olaus Magnus’ Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus … (printed in Rome 1555).
Joan Blaeu (1596-1613) was a Dutch cartographer, and the son of the cartographer Willem Blaeu. His great work in several volumes Atlas Maior was published in Amsterdam in the languages Latin, French, Dutch, German and Spanish.
The Spanish publication consists of ten volumes, and it was very interesting to carefully turn the pages of the first volume, a folio book in a quite fragile condition.
We found especially the map Scania Vulgo Schoonen interesting, for two reasons (except the fact that we live in Scania and it is fun to study old maps of one’s home areas).
The first reason is that our library possesses copies of Atlas Maior in both Latin (printed in 1665) and in French (printed in 1663). Is the map of Scania included in our copies? Secondly, this particular map of Scania is well known to us, because we have a single leaf of this map, separated at some point from a bound copy. We have shown this chart to many visitors on many occasions. It is digitized and available in Alvin.
Alvin is a platform for digital collections and digitized cultural heritage, a collaboration between three university libraries in Sweden: Lund University Library, Uppsala University Library and Gothenburg University Library. It is a resource both for libraries in the digitization process, and for users who can study documents from home. All material digitized in Alvin is free to download and to use.
It so happens that the maps in our Latin copy are not in colour, so the Scania map is not as beautiful as the one in the Spanish publication copy of the University of Barcelona. Furthermore, in the French publication a few pages are cut out from the first volume. Unfortunately it is the Scania map and some of the text pages next to the map. So, the only copy our library possesses of this map is actually the single leaf!
The book Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus or A description of the Northerns Peoples was an important work on the Nordic countries, for long considered the authority of Swedish matters. It was written by writer and Catholic ecclesiastic Olaus Magnus (or Olof Månsson as he would have been called in Swedish), born in Skänninge, Sweden in 1490 and died in Rome 1557.
The work consists of descriptions and shorter stories about the life in Northern Europe, it is a mix of facts and fiction, the result of Olaus Magnus’ investigations, personal impressions and imagination. An example is a chapter on squirrels (book 18 De Animalibus sylvestibus; chapter 17 De Sciuris) to be followed by a chapter on how squirrels can predict the future: Adhuc de eodem animali praescio futurorum.
CRAI Reserva Library holds a copy of the first edition printed in Rome in 1555. It is in very good condition and a joy to consult. There are no handwritten notes about previous owners but there is a stamp on the title page proving it used to belong to the Convent de Santa Caterina.
There are two copies printed in 1555 in our library, but the one catalogued in LIBRIS belongs to a collection owned by The Einar Hansen Library Foundation.
The other copy, our library’s own, is catalogued in the card catalogue for older printed books, Catalogue – 1957. This catalogue is scanned and searchable online but unfortunately it cannot be linked to LIBRIS. We hold severals editions of Historia de gentibus which are all catalogued in Catalogue – 1957. The book has been translated into several languages, but it was not translated into Swedish until 1909-1925.
Uppsala has digitized their copy from 1555 and it is available for everyone to enjoy in Alvin. Make sure to check out the 472 wood cuts (and additional initials!) – they are fabulous!
Jenny Bonnevier & Åsa Sjöblom
Erasmus+ 16th – 20th September, 2019