An atypical librarian

1789. Dux castle, Bohemia. A librarian of sixty-four years old, unlike any other, is taking care of a collection exceeding some 40,000 titles. He started to work there in 1785 at the request of the owner of the library’s castle, the count of Waldstein. Let me introduce you to the Chevalier de Seingalt. You think you don’t know him? But I’m convinced you do! Well, probably not as a librarian. Here is a description of the man written by the Prince Charles de Ligne who met our special librarian in 1794:

“There is always something weighty, new, piquant, and profound. He is knowledgeable, but he quotes Homer and Horace ad nauseam. His wit and his sallies are like Attic salt. He is sensitive and generous (…). In the aftermath of substantial disorder and a stormy youth, and career adventures, sometimes a little equivocal; he showed honour, delicacy and courage. He is proud, because he is nothing (…). Never tell him you have heard the story he is going to tell you (…). Never omit to greet him in passing, for the merest trifle will make him your enemy. His prodigious imagination, vivacity of his country, his travels, all the professions he carried, his firmness in the absence of all moral and physical goods, make a rare man, valuable to meet.”

Still does not ring a bell? You might know him as a diplomat, a scallywag, a clergyman, a musician or perhaps as a spy, a magician, a lawyer, a military officer or a trickster… and that’s not the half of it. Still no idea? Another clue: His name is now synonymous with womaniser. Yes, he is the great, the unique, Giacomo Casanova (1725-1798).


He was an atypical librarian, for sure. And yet, he spent the last thirteen years of his life in retreat, among books, far away from the world he strode across for more than three decades. The Capitals of Europe were indeed the stage of his affairs and adventures of all kinds. He visited Rome, Paris, Constantinople, Corfou, Dresden, Venise, Madrid, Amsterdam, Vienna, London, Moscow and Prague among so many others. It is said that Casanova travelled something like 60,000 kilometers over his lifetime. A constant meandering adventurer but the scenario was always the same: To seduce and be accepted by everybody, and especially nobility and powerful people, and then to amuse himself and make money, as much as possible – it is a way more exciting – with charlatan methods. And if he should find himself jailed after one of his schemes? The intrepid darer is capable of making an escape with ease!

To be involved in suspicious business and shine wherever he goes, was the everyday life of the Venetian citizen. Self-evidently, some of his meetings went wrong and Casanova was involved a couple of time in duels, the only way to properly clear ones name at that time. One might wonder how he is linked to the Cultural Heritage Group, putting aside the fact that Casanova was a librarian. I’m coming to that: our grand manuscript collection holds a letter written by him.

We don’t know from the missive where Casanova was when he wrote this letter and or which year it was. What can we learn? Casanova wrote it a Tuesday morning, the 18th of September, to a certain Michele Cavana. Obviously, the two pen-friends are not precisely friends but they rather seem engaged in a conflict. To summarize, this Michele Cavana eventually paid off a debt owed to him; which was appreciated by Casanova even if he reminded his correspondent that he was supposed to repay him the day before. Moreover, Casanova probably insulted Cavana in some way because this latter seems to propose a duel. Casanova, true to himself, is not dispose at all to apologize. On the contrary he maintains what he said with a pinch of arrogance. However, he flatly refuses the fighting request arguing that this Cavana is not a man of good reputation, nor a gentleman. The man used to spend some time in prison in Dresden because he stole some money and Casanova can certainly not be dishonoured by facing him. It’s the pot calling the kettle black…in regards of Casanova personal habit of spending some time in various jails.

P1110008This letter might have been written from Dresden since Casanova explains further that he will leave the place the day after to reach Prague. Or, in his own words, he was generally in Dresden before setting out for Prague. Anyhow, I’m not sure about the exact year. Casanova was in Prague many times but in his memoirs there is no date that clearly matches with the letter. However, after an investigation, I’ve found out that he was in Dresden in September 1753, and, according to the calendar, 18th of September was a Tuesday that year. During his last stay in Prague in 1788, it is said that Casanova met Mozart and help him to write Don Giovanni’s libretto. Whatever it was, this is a precious testimony and through this letter, the attentive reader can guess the nature of the figure. You can have a glimpse of the witty conversationalist he was but also foresee his casualness when he wrote that he will wait for Cavana in Prague where he will welcome him and kiss him with a discourse… and even give him back twice the amount of money Cavana just repaid him. Casanova underlines, to finish, that he appreciates the talents of the man and will not tell anyone all his weaknesses. Such delightful insolence!

Although this letter is written in Italian, the most famous of Casanova’s writings, his memoirs, Histoire de ma vie, were written in French. 3700 pages in an idiosyncratic Italianate in a splendid lively style. Casanova is undoubtedly a brilliant writer. In his preface he explains why he has chosen to write in French: “I have written in French, and not in Italian, because the French language is more universal than mine, and the purists, who may criticize in my style some Italian turns will be quite right, but only in case it should prevent them from understanding me clearly.” Somewhere else in the book we can read this (any similarities with the present situation is a mere coincidence): “The French have the tongue, palate, lips, chest and nose so well adapted to the sound, to the accent, to the prosody, to the consonance of their words […] that even when they really try, they never succeed to properly form sentences in the foreign language they are trying to speak and even less to pronounce.”

Casanova wrote this massive book at the end of his life while he was in Bohemia. Regardless, it’s hard to evaluate his work as a librarian. But we know that he did very little to collate and catalogue the collections. He was reading a lot but was more than anything writing letters and especially his memoirs: « I’m writing my life in order to laugh at myself and I am managing very well. I write 13 hours a day and they fly past like 13 minutes. I am enjoying myself because I invent nothing. What distresses me is the obligation I have at this point to conceal names, since I cannot divulge the affairs of others. » It was a good way for him to escape the routine of his solitude in this German-speaking place, a language that he hated very much.

In 2010, the original version of his memoirs was purchased by the National Library of France, thanks to an anonymous benefactor, for the insignificant amount of $9.6 million: a new record for a manuscript sale. Since then, it is said that the library is the 123rd Casanova´s conquest. But there is no need to linger over his hundred feminine conquests, Casanova´s finest delight. It is actually very unfortunate that the figure is again and again reduced only to a lover with no morality. He is first and foremost an eclectic traveler who was full of joie de vivre that wanted to go everywhere and experience everything. And also a brilliant man of letters. But, if you insist, here is a description of women by Casanova …An original comparison with books:

« Woman is like a book, which, good or bad, must at first please us by the frontispiece. If this is not interesting, we do not feel any wish to read the book, and our wish is in direct proportion to the interest we feel. The frontispiece of woman runs from top to bottom like that of a book, and her feet, which are most important to every man who shares my taste, offer the same interest as the edition of the work. If it is true that most amateurs bestow little or no attention upon the feet of a woman, it is likewise a fact that most readers care little or nothing whether a book is of the first edition or the tenth. At all events, women are quite right to take the greatest care of their face, of their dress, of their general appearance; for it is only by that part of the frontispiece that they can call forth a wish to read them in those men who have not been endowed by nature with the privilege of blindness. And just in the same manner that men, who have read a great many books, are certain to feel at last a desire for perusing new works even if they are bad, a man who has known many women, and all handsome women, feels at last a curiosity for ugly specimens when he meets with entirely new ones. It is all very well for his eye to discover the paint which conceals the reality, but his passion has become a vice, and suggests some argument in favour of the lying frontispiece. It is possible, at least he thinks so, that the work may prove better than the title-page, and the reality more acceptable than the paint which hides it. »

Casanova has been all his life interested by books and libraries. He always travelled with books:

« The next day I started on my journey, and got to Rome in thirty-six hours. It was midnight when I passed under the Porta del Popolo, for one may enter the Eternal City at any time. I was then taken to the custom-house, which is always open, and my mails were examined. The only thing they are strict about at Rome is books, as if they feared the light. I had about thirty volumes, all more or less against the Papacy, religion, or the virtues inculcated thereby. I had resolved to surrender them without any dispute, as I felt tired and wanted to go to bed, but the clerk told me politely to count them and leave them in his charge for the night, and he would bring them to my hotel in the morning. I did so, and he kept his word. He was well enough pleased when he touched the two sequins with which I rewarded him. » 

He was with any doubt a regular reader. One day, while he was visited a monastery with an abbot; he has the extravagant and unexpected idea to become a monk:

« As for the library, if I had been alone it would have made me weep. It contained nothing under the size of folio, the newest books were a hundred years old, and the subject-matter of all these huge books was solely theology and controversy. There were Bibles, commentators, the Fathers, works on canon law in German, volumes of annals, and Hoffman’s dictionary. « I suppose your monks have private libraries of their own, » I said, « which contain accounts of travels, with historical and scientific works. » « Not at all, » he replied; « my monks are honest folk, who are content to do their duty, and to live in peace and sweet ignorance. » I do not know what happened to me at that moment, but a strange whim came into my head—I would be a monk, too. I said nothing about it at the moment, but I begged the abbot to take me to his private chamber (…). I sat down before him and for three consecutive hours I narrated scandalous histories innumerable, which, however, I told simply and not spicily (…). All that was needed to secure my happiness seemed a library of my own choosing, and I did not doubt but that the abbot would let me have what books I pleased if I promised to leave them to the monastery after my death.

According to his memoirs, Casanova is a regular libraries visitor, public or private one:

“He ended by asking me to dine with him the following day, adding that if I cared to examine his library he could give me an excellent cup of chocolate. I went, and saw an enormous collection of comments on the Latin poets from Ennius to the poets of the twelfth century of our era. He had had them all printed at his own expense and at his private press, in four tall folios, very accurately printed but without elegance. I told him my opinion, and he agreed that I was right.”

Thus, libraries is a way to pass his spare time, satisfy his curiosity or refine one of his new swindle, like to write a fake document with the assistance of a dictionary. But the adventurer also wants to content his thirst for learning which is not always easy. But in the end, the man always gets what he wants. An example in Roma:

“Two or three weeks after my arrival he heard me complaining of the obstacles to research in the Roman libraries, and he offered to give me an introduction to the Superior of the Jesuits. I accepted the offer, and was made free of the library; I could not only go and read when I liked, but I could, on writing my name down, take books away with me. The keepers of the library always brought me candles when it grew dark, and their politeness was so great that they gave me the key of a side door, so that I could slip in and out as I pleased.”

It seems that free access to these collections would be a privilege, unfortunately, we are not so lucky today. I will have to just accept this and confess that you won’t be allowed to borrow our medieval manuscripts at the Cultural Heritage Group and bring them home to examine yourself. However, Casanova certainly enjoyed these opportunities:

« I went to Wolfenbuttel with the idea of spending week there. I was sure of finding amusement, for Wolfenbuttel contains the third largest library in Europe, and I had long been anxious to see it. The learned librarian, whose politeness was all the better for being completely devoid of affection, told me that not only could I have whatever books I wished to see, but that I could take them to my lodging, not even excepting the manuscripts, which are the chief feature in that fine library. I spent a week in the library, only leaving it to take my meals and go to bed, and I count this week as one of the happiest I have ever spent, for then I forgot myself completely; and in the delight of study, the past, the present, and the future were entirely blotted out. »

In those days, to be considering tasteful, you needed to be witty, a good table, a wine cellar and, naturally a well-furnished library. What else?


You can find the Casanova letter in the Waller Collection. Feel free to contact the Manuscripts and Music section if you have any questions or request:

You should really read Histoire de ma vie. The original manuscript is online on Gallica, the digital library of the National Library of France.


The Hammarby book Collection

« Seul avec la nature et vous, je passe dans mes promenades champêtres des heures délicieuses (…). Continuez d’ouvrir et d’interpréter aux hommes le livre de la nature (…). Je vous lis, je vous étudie, je vous médite, je vous honore et vous aime de tout mon coeur ». Lettre de Jean-Jacques Rousseau à Carl von Linné datée du 21 septembre 1771.

Have you ever heard of Hammarby? This lovely estate, which is located around 10km outside the town, used to be the Linnaeus country house. Considering that we are in Uppsala, it would have been tough to ignore the Princeps botanicorum much longer. Personally, I’m not a very big fan of the figure, as I rather perceive him as an unlikeable man. That aside, his ghost, as one of the most famous student and professor of all time at Uppsala University, is ubiquitous.

Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) bought the farm in 1758 to run away from the noisy Uppsala and breathe the fresh and bracing countryside air during summer time. It was initially a small one-floor house but he completed it with a new larger main building in 1762 and also – naturally – created a garden. You can see it in the below drawing from 1794 by a Swedish artist named Gustaf Johan Härstedt. I’ve found this illustration in our treasure box: the database.

Hammarby 1809As you might have already guessed, this guideline is more to talk about Hammarby than to draw an umpteenth history of the scientist’s life. Besides, this was not aimlessly chosen. It will take us to the Early printed books section where Ariane, a French librarian, is currently working on a very special collection…the Hammarby one!

Linnaeus was the owner of what was considered as one of the finest collection of natural history objects in Sweden. In April 1766 an important part of Uppsala was destroyed by a great fire and Linnaeus no longer dared to keep his private library and collection of plants in town, so he decided to move them to a single-room stone building on a hill in Hammarby. There, his trove would be far away from the threat of such a danger. This is the beginning of the twist and turns story of the collection named after the estate.

The author of the Systema Naturæ died in 1778 in Hammarby where he wished to be interred. However, he was buried few days after his death in the prestigious Uppsala Cathedral.

photoHis son inherited the collection and retained it until his own death five years later. Even if the library was sheltered from a blaze, the conservation conditions were nothing but bad in this small building called by Linnaeus “my palace in heaven”. But his paradise was damp and insects and mice inhabited the place. Sara Lisa, Linnaeus widow, remained at the property for many years with her two unmarried daughters. A year after her son passed away; she sold the collection to an English medical student named James Edward Smith who soon founded the Linnean Society of London.

The collection was enormous: 14 000 plants, more than 3000 insects and 1500 shells together with 3000 letters and 1600 books.

The here-above photo, from our database, was taken in Hammarby in 1864 by the Swedish artist Emma Schenson. She was also a painter and made a whole photographic series in memory of Linnaeus. This still life with souvenirs from the botanist is a lively and splendid composition. In the background, a chair with a walking stick, the master of the house might return at any time. Portraits of two of his daughters are visible on the wall but the main one is depicting Linnaeus and was painted by Johan Henrik Scheffel in 1755 – and it is still in Hammarby nowadays – It is placed around objects of the botanist’s daily life, such as his hat, teacup, teapot and tea caddy.

Besides, here I digress, but no one will be surprised, Linnaeus was interested in beverages that had become popular at that time in Sweden and more generally in Europe, and wrote several articles about it. Chocolate and tea were particularly fashionable but were highly controversial. He even managed to cultivate tea plants in his orangery in Uppsala for a while. However, he had more success with the coffee bush that he also considered to be wholesome. As a matter of fact, he was convinced that it helped to relieve struggle headache. Although coffee was very popular, many people did not agree with him that it was healthy. One meaningful example will be enough.

The king Gustav III viewed coffee consumption as a threat to the public health and was determined to prove its negative effects. It is said that he decided to carry out an experiment on two prisoners. Two twins had been tried for the crimes they had committed and condemned to death. Their sentences were commuted to life imprisonment on the condition that one of the twins drank three pots of coffee every day while the other drank the same amount of tea, and this for the rest of their lives, in order to see if the coffee affected their life expectancy. Unfortunately the king died before the final result of his experiment: the first twin died at the age of 83 and he was the one who drank tea! An exquisite tale, isn’t it?

But let’s start again where we stopped, with the collection adventure. After a stay of one hundred year in England, some books were returned to Sweden at the end of the XIX century because they did not align with the society’s goals.

It is the beginning of a new succession of travelling for this homeland return-part of the collection. It was first held at the library of the Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm, institution created amongst others by Linnaeus. Then, it moved back to Hammarby before to be transferred in the late 1970s at Uppsala University Library. In 2007, the books were restored at the Preservation section thanks to financial grants.

If the whole was now restored and well-stored at the Cultural Heritage Group, it was time to make the books reachable for the public. This is when Ariane, an intern from Lyon, appears on the scene. With a special interest for XVI century botanic book, she was definitely the suitable person. And I’m not even mentioning (or do I?) her botanist partner. However, she explained to me that there are roughly 400 hundred volumes that deal mainly with medicine, most of the botanic ones still remaining in London. Besides, a number of these books had originally belonged to doctor Johan Moraeus, Linnaeus father-in-law. This actually makes the collection even more interesting because several of these books were probably already old-fashioned for Linnaeus and his contemporaries but they provide us lots of information about medicine a generation before.

There are also some theologies and poetry volumes and Ariane also came across two books belonging to Linnaeus daughter concerning home economics! Her current work consists of cataloguing in the database every single volume. The work is, at the time I’m writing this article, almost done. Thus, a little notice is accessible for each item informing about, for instance, the author, printer and owner(s) of the books as well as the binding type. The job is not always simple especially because a vast part of the collection is written in Latin. Fortunately, Ariane is sharing a room with Peter, I mean Petrus, a brilliant Latinist. You should always have a lost language speaking person at your side!

Nonetheless, her effort are worthwhile and every day there is a surprising discovery from funny drawings in passing by dry flowers probably keep by Linnaeus himself for his herbarium up to hand writings with his proper annotations that, for that matter, evolved significantly throughout decades and so symbolized perfectly the evolution of Linnaeus’ career.

P1100932It’s always stirring to have such a book in your hands as you can turn back the clock without the need of a time machine. A book published in 1602 is mentioning nose reconstructive surgery. At the end of the chapter, there is a delightful handwritten comment in Latin that we can translate to “who is the one want to buy a new nose for such a price?” I can assure you that such an unexpected witticism makes your day.

The spring is eventually coming, the snow is melting and the flowers are blooming. It is the perfect time to take a stroll in the countryside. You should assuredly have a stop-off at Hammarby mansion, which is still managed by Uppsala University and will reopen in May.
It is one of the best-preserved XVIII century manor-house in the kingdom. Moreover, lot of details in the arrangement of the interior, made by Linnaeus himself, have a close relationship with his work which makes the place fascinating. In his bedroom and study room, the walls are papered with plates from two works on flowers…


If you want to visit Hammarby:

Students of the past

What was it like to be a student in past centuries at Uppsala University? A little exploration in the Maps and Pictures collection might give us some keys on the subject. Just as a reminder, Uppsala University was found in 1477 which makes the establishment the oldest in Scandinavia.

Thanks to a small watercolour from the early XVII century, we can have an idea of the life of a new student at Uppsala University at that time, and believe me, the few first months weren’t a bed of roses, to put it mildly. This gouache of unknown origin describes an event that we would nowadays refer to as hazing. It was a compulsory initiation that every recent student has to pass through.

Sans titre1

Multi-coloured clothes, donkey´s ears and horns form a humiliating outfit. The young man (you still have to wait ages before you really encounter women), was then pushed in front of a scoffing and mocking audience. Then the highlight of the ceremony could happen; it consisted of removing the horns and the ears, symbols of the bestiality of the prospective student. Different kinds of lovely tools were used like saws and tongs. At the end, the master of the ritual put salt on the tongue of the man, poured wine on his head and officially declared him a free student. But that is not all, it was just the beginning of a bullying year during which the whipping-boy had to serve an older student. One can easily figure all the roughness of these acts and of course the foreseeable degenerations. The whole thing was finally forbidden in 1691. Better late than never.

Another ordinary unpleasant moment for a student is the examination. Nothing to compare, of course, with the above-mentioned tradition. In the first decade of the XVIII century, Carl Fredrik Piper was a student at Uppsala University. In his notebook, there is, among academic writings of different kind, a superb watercolour depicting a dissertation at the Gustavianum. Built in the 1620s, it was then the main building of the University. This is actually one of the few original pictures showing the life and work at Uppsala University at this time. It is an invaluable testimony! It must be known that the library, unlike the other pictures, is not the owner of this painting since the manuscript is still the property of the Piper family. However, you can find the watercolour in the database because the library purchased a digital copy of it a few months ago.

Sans titre2

Obviously, the scene takes place just before the beginning of the presentation. Have a look at the very casual way of sitting of some of the attending men while others are already gently waiting on their bench. And also we could speak hours, at least I could, about this wig fashion. Such an enthralling picture! Would you like to have a closer glimpse of the student style in the beginning of the XVIII century?

Sans titre3Let me introduce you, via an engraving, to this very elegant Uppsala student with his hat and walking stick. This perfect gentleman is probably ready to start, after some studies at the University, his Grand Tour, a long journey – usually a couple of years – around Europe. At the time, it was nearly a mandatory travel for young noblemen and member of the high society as it was seen as the ultimate way of refining their education.

Holland, England and France attracted lot of travellers. However, France was the first destination to reach. It was considered good manners, but it was also to improve their military skills and enhance their knowledge of the French language, which was the diplomatic and aristocratic language of Europe. I’ve discovered that a French diplomat named Antoine de Courtin, who went to Sweden and was at the service of the Swedish crown, is the author of one of the most popular manuals of politeness called Nouveau Traité de la Civilité (1671).

Don´t go assuming that these voyagers spend all their time in society. It was common to be accompanied by a private tutor and some of them also studied in many universities of the “old continent”. Indeed, even if the University of Lund was created in 1660s, Sweden was still dependent on foreign countries in terms of intellectual formations. For instance, Germany was definitely the destination for those who wanted to study theology.
The Swedish authorities were aware that it was an excellent thing in many ways for Swedes to travel abroad but they were also scared that the young men could be contaminated by the catholic “virus”. That’s why they really tried to control the students before their departure, especially the ones who wanted to go in catholic stronghold like the Sorbonne University in Paris. Thus, In the XVII century, in Uppsala University, the students were supposed to pass a little theology exam before leaving the Kingdom.

The reader as probably already noticed my love for digression. I can’t help it. My initial idea was to write about examination so here is another example. We are now, for your information, in the beginning of the XIX century. The Uppsala Professor Lars Georg Rabenius (1771-1846) is ready.

Sans titre5

He is a quite impressive character, sitting in his chair, waiting to examine a student that I don’t really envy, visible on the background.
The only thing we can do is wish for this student to be well prepared! And for that matter, here is a last drawing by the Swedish artist Johan Bernhard Theodor Beskow (1835-1912). Three sophisticated students from the 1850s are revising for their exams with the help of an old man in his slippers and dressing gown. It is a charming team!

Sans titre6

Students, researchers and curious readers, you should really have a look at our database; there are some real treasures to discover even if only a small part of the collection is available online yet. Nevertheless, there is a huge on-going digitalization work. And if you don’t find what you are looking for, please contact the Maps and Pictures section, they will be pleased to help you in your thirst for knowledge.


Antoine Courtin’s book, for those who wish to improve their good manners in an XVII century way. It can always be useful… French reading skills required:

The link to find the pictures and many others:

Den svenske Mozart

« Kraus promet de devenir un des plus grands de notre monde musical. Je le préfère à Mozart à bien des égards ». Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach

KrausIt’s amazing how many celebrities you can actually meet in a Cultural Heritage Group, – but I must confess, it takes a little imagination – and I’m not even speaking of Copernicus’ hair anymore. This morning I encountered Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart looking for one of his notebooks containing a few ideas for The Magic Flute and La Clemenza di Tito. It is the one that we preciously keep at the library and that you can discover in the exhibitions room. But I’m already sidetracking from my original idea, which wasn’t to write about Amadeus himself but rather to introduce you to another great composer commonly referred to as the “Swedish Mozart”. You may not have heard of him before if you are not an XVIII century enthusiast with an addiction to music from this period. Nobody is perfect. In reality, there are so many composers across the European nations who have been somewhat neglected and eclipsed by Salzburg’s prodigy. Joseph Martin Kraus (1756-1792), Mozart’s closest contemporary, is definitely one these composers. Although a German, he spent most of his career in Sweden. My purpose is certainly not to put the reader to sleep with an in-depth biography, but let’s just have a quick overview of his life.

Kraus began to compose around the age of eight (doesn’t everyone?) and later he became, at the request of his parents, a student of law. However, soon thereafter he focused his attention fully on music and literature. Kraus was a gripping, multifaceted character who also had many interests beyond music. In 1778, at the age of twenty-one, he moved to Stockholm. His first years in the Swedish Kingdom were nothing but a life of poverty before he eventually succeeded in gaining the interest from King Gustav III : “Yesterday I was engaged by him. Of course I was not granted any great title, but quite simple that of Kapellmeister. What is worth much more to me than 600 guilders is the favor I have been granted, which is that I am to undertake a journey to Germany, France and Italy at the King’s expense ».

Kraus’s Grand Tour, which lasted four years, between 1782 and 1786, is interesting in many respects. First and foremost, a large amount of his compositions were written during these travels. His official assignment was to learn as many things as possible about the latest trends in theatre and music. It should be known that he was a prolific correspondent with his friends and family, and his letters are a vivid and remarkable testimony of the cultural life in Europe in the late XVIII century. The Grand Tour also gave him the prized opportunity to meet renowned composers such as Christoph Willibald Gluck and Joseph Haydn. And these two musicians seemed to be very impressed by Kraus’s talent. Thus, Gluck said once to the Italian composer Antonio Salieri that Kraus “has a great style”. As for Haydn, he was also very enthusiastic : « I have one of his symphonies, which I keep in remembrance of one of the greatest geniuses that I have met ». And later to add : “The symphony he wrote here in Vienna especially for me will be regarded as a masterpiece for centuries to come; believe me, there are few people who can compose something like that ». As far as I’m concerned, I’ll take the Austrian composer’s word for it.

After Kraus’s return to Sweden, he was a part of the intellectual and artistic circles in Stockholm. He died only a few months after Gustav III, for whom he wrote Cantate Funèbre and the Symphonie Funèbre, which were both played at the king’s burial ceremony.


Thanks to the Swedish diplomat and music lover Samuel Silverstolpe (1769-1851), who was also the Kraus’s earliest biographer, the Manuscript and Music section housed a very important part of the composer’s works, most of which are sheet music. Silverstolpe was also the donor of Mozart’s manuscripts. Indeed he held a post in Vienna in the 1790’s. During his stay, Mozart’s widow, Constance, gave him some real treasures that included manuscripts from her genius husband.

If Kraus is already internationally esteemed, there is still a lot to do to bring him out of the shadows. So let’s start by listening to some of his creations. I have a selection of a few of his pieces here, and remember you can also buy recordings of music from the Kraus collection at the shop of Carolina Rediviva. I wish you a tuneful musical journey!


Note: The two pictures are from the Kraus collection that you can consult in the special reading room.

His Requiem, one of his first work written in 1775:

The superb symphony “VB 142” :

A cheerful and light piece :

One of his Opera, Aeneas in Carthago :

In January 1792, Kraus wrote an overture, a march and interludes for the staging of Voltaire’s Olympie

Kraus last work, the Symphonie Funèbre, the overwhelming drama of the murder of Gustav III :