Weather considerations

Sweden was notorious for its weather even in centuries gone by. Many foreign travellers notably wrote about the rigour of the winter. However, the Swedes seem to find some charm in this severe climate. In November 1741, the count of Tessin, then ambassador in Paris, wrote from the French capital to his wife in Sweden: “It is warm as May: an unfazed sky, a high sun, dry weather (…). I guess that it is not the same in Sweden, but fortunately you are in a place where we can live without a good weather”. Fifteen days later, the coldness finally arrived in Paris: “It is currently very cold with a dreadful fog that makes me miss our Swedish white winter”.

Umbrella style, two illustrations from our database by Axel Gustaf von Arbin (1784-1856) and Carl Jacob Mörk (1780-1828):

This same year 1741, an astronomical observatory is built in Uppsala under the supervision of one of the nowadays most renowned inhabitant of the town, in order to realise his best research. Indeed, if there is at least one native from Uppsala that everybody is familiar with, he is it. That is except for Americans; that isn’t to say they aren’t knowledgeable, but as a matter of fact they are less familiar with this figure for a reason to be revealed later on.

The man in question was born in Uppsala in 1701 from a learned family of astronomers and mathematicians. His father and grandfathers were well known scientists. In 1730, at the age of 29, he was appointed to the professorial chair of astronomy at Uppsala University and thereafter embarks on a tour to Germany, France and Italy where he met and worked with the most famous astronomers around Europe.

In 1736, he takes part in an expedition with the French Pierre Louis Moreau de Maupertuis (1698-1759) to Lapland financed by the French Science Academy. The goal was to test Isaac Newton´s theory that the earth was not entirely round, and that it was flat at the poles. Meanwhile, another team was investigating this theory in Peru. It turned out that Newton was right. Some of our Uppsala’s savant letters as well as Maupertuis’ are sheltered here at the Cultural Heritage Group.

450px-Anders-Celsius-HeadHowever, our man is most of all celebrated for his contribution to meteorology. Have you guessed who he is yet?

In those days’ geographical measurements and meteorological observations were included in the work of an astronomy professor. To be more specific, he is renowned for his temperature scale which is used throughout the world.
 Who is the one who did not imprecate or thank warmly, at least once, if not thousands of time, Celsius and his degrees? “It is just 2° Celsius today, distressingly cold” or “forecast for tomorrow: 25° Celsius. Lovely!” In fact, his name is used all the time without even realising it.

Anders Celsius did not invent the thermometer which was already widely used by the 18th century with various temperature scales, including one still used to this day in the US – which explains why he is lesser known in the United States – the scale developed by the German Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit (1686-1736).

At the manuscript department, you can find two fascinating meteorological diaries written by Celsius and his professor Eric Burman (1692-1729), whose was himself a student of Nils Celsius, Ander’s father, written between 1722 and 1731. The date, hour, barometer temperatures, wind and sky conditions are all meticulously reported in these diaries. This is really worth seeing!

Celsius died of tuberculosis in Uppsala in 1744. His world famous thermometer was adopted all around the world. However, the centigrade scale was different from the one we used nowadays with 0 for the boiling point of water and 100 for the freezing point. The scale originally was actually reversed with 0 degrees as the freezing point of water just right after his death. It has been claimed that it was Linnaeus who lay behind this reform.

To conclude these weather considerations, here is an extract of a letter that you can find at the manuscript department, written in May 1784 by the count of Creutz and addressed to the king Gustav III who was travelling in Italy at that time. Carl Gustav Creutz, who used to live more than fifteen years in France as an ambassador, was now back in Sweden:

“Right now we have the most beautiful weather and the mildest temperatures; nature seems to want to indemnify us from her harshness. However, I do not hate our winters; the body feels more strength, the soul more energy, the spirit is freer, the ideas are more clear and cheerful. And well, of all the climates I know, it is the one from Sweden which I prefer most of all. If the society was as sophisticated, the arts and letters as cultivate, the taste as uncluttered as in France, I think we would be happier in Sweden than anywhere else”.


Foreign travellers at the library

Travel accounts were very popular in the 18th century and emerged as a fully-fledged, popular literary genre. This enthusiasm and fascination with travellers’ tales was sometimes even spoofed by witty observers. In 1794, Xavier de Maistre wrote his Journey round my room:

« I have undertaken and performed a forty-two day’s journey round my room. The interesting information I have made, and the constant pleasure I have experienced all along the road, made me wish to publish my travels; the certainty of being useful decided the matter (…). Among the immense family of men throng the earth, there is not one, no, not one (I means of those who inhabits rooms), who, after reading this book can refuse his approbation of the new mode of travelling I introduce into the world (…). My room is situated in latitude 48 east, according to the measurement of Father Beccaria. It lies east and west, and, if you keep very close to the wall, forms a parallelogram of thirty-six steps round. My journey will, however, be longer than this; for I shall traverse my room up and down and across, without rule or plan. I shall even zig-zag about, following, if needs be, every possible geometrical line (…). Hence, when I travel in my room, I seldom keep to a straight line. From my table I go towards a picture which is placed in a corner, thence I set out in an oblique direction for the door; and then, although on starting I had intended to return to my table, yet, if I chance to fall in with my arm-chair on the way, I at once, and most unceremoniously, take up my quarters therein. »

His book is a delightful parody of the genre. However, let’s have a look at some travellers who decided to venture, despite the fact that Scandinavia was not a part of the classic Grand Tour, to Northern Kingdoms and especially to Sweden. This was clearly considered something exotic as can be seen from the travel book’s preface of Giuseppe Acerbi (1773-1846):

“It may possibly excite curiosity to know why a native of Italy, a country abounding in all the beauties of nature, and the finest productions of art, would voluntary undergo the danger and fatigue of visiting the regions of the Arctic Circle (…). Journeys in the North will be undertaken by those only who have a just and masculine taste for nature, under every aspect.”

Thus, I’ve selected for you, dear readers, some insights into the impressions foreign visitors had about Uppsala and particularly our library. The academic town had already been considered a centre of erudition. When Edward Daniel Clarke arrived in Uppsala in 1799, he could not help but think of numerous of its renowned scholars:

« A long avenue of stately firs at length opened upon Upsala, once the metropolis of all Sweden. Its appearance, in the approach to it, is really noble: we descended a hill towards it, calling to mind the names of Celsius, Linnaeus, Wallerius, Cronstedt, Bergmann, Hasselquist, Fabricius, Zoega and a long list of their disciples and successors, which has contributed to render this University illustrious; the many enterprising travellers it has sent forth to almost every region of the earth; the discoveries they have made, and the works of which they were the authors. » Illustration by Gustaf Johan Härstedt (1756-1820):

2851One year previously, it was the knowledgeable Saxon named Carl Gottlob Küttner who stopped in Uppsala:

« We left Stockholm at seven this morning, and reached this place before three. Upsal is the handsomest and neatest of all the Swedish towns of the middling class, and, to compare small things with large, reminds me of Oxford. Its most magnificent building, though only of brick, is the cathedral church; but the beauty of the inside far exceeds that of the exterior. In my opinion it is the finest church I have seen during the last four years (…). The library of the university is said to contain 52, 000 volumes. » Illustration by Gustaf Johan Härstedt:

2276The library was self-evidently much smaller than it stands nowadays. However, it already played a key role for the town’s reputation and could not be overlooked by those passing by. In 1774, the Englishman Nathaniel William Wraxall is in town and lucky enough to meet Linnaeus. But while here he also takes some time to explore the city:

« The principal objects of consideration are the library, the cathedral, and the botanical garden. I hardly know of any thing else. The first of these is a neat, good building, though the books that it contained appeared to me to be neither numerous, nor very choice in the selection. There were, however, some curiosities which, as connected with the Swedish history, attracted my attention. Among these, was the astrological diary, belonging to Eric the fourteenth, king of Sweden; a prince who had the weakness to believe in judicial astrology. In his diary he had marked the days, on which he was menaced with misfortunes; and among them is that particular day, upon which he was subsequently deposed (…). Like most other seats of learning, Uppsala is lonely, silent, and dull; but clean, and contains numerous gardens within its walls. » Atrologial diary by Eric XIV:


Around the same time, his compatriot William Coxe also discovers the town and the library, learning a lot about its history:

« This town is particularly celebrated for its university, the most ancient in Sweden. The library contains many valuable books and manuscripts. Olaus Celsius, in a publication upon this subject, inform us, that it owes its origin to Gustavus Adolphus, who presented the university as well with his own private collection, which was very considerable, as with several libraries obtained in the different countries which he had over-run with his arms, it being his custom to reserve for himself, in all towns taken by storms, the book especially, as his share of the plunder. Thus, the Jesuits’ library at Riga, that at Wurstenburgh, and those of many other conquered towns in Poland, Germany and Prussia, were transmitted to Upsala. His example was followed by his successors, and thus the victorious arms of Sweden enriched the kingdom with these literary acquisitions. Olaus mentioned Christina as a considerable benefactress to this library, and enumerates many private donors (…). Among the most valuable pieces of literary curiosity is a manuscript of the Four Gospels, called, from its silver letters, Codex Argenteus, and supposed to be a copy of the Gothic translation made by Ulphilas, the apostle of the Goths, in the fourth century. I examined this curious volume with great attention (…). In this library two original manuscripts of the unfortunate Eric XIV caught my attention. They are in Latin, and were composed in 1566 and 1567, the two years that immediately preceded his deposition. They contain his astronomical, or rather astrological, observations and predictions (…). There are in this library of Upsala few manuscripts of the classics of much importance; but the printed editions are numerous and good. Having desired the librarian to show me the first book printed in Sweden; he pointed out to me the Dialogus Creaturarum moralizatus, published at Stockholm in 1483 (…). I hold myself greatly indebted to the polite attention of Mr. Eric Michael Fant, sub-librarian, who kindly accompanied me to the library, and favoured me in the readiest manner with every possible information. »

By crossing the various accounts, we quickly realise that the writers always mentioned the same manuscripts, and before anything else the silver bible which was obviously already a touristic attraction. By the end of the 17th century the Frenchman Jean-François Regnard, who had travelled in Lapland previously, mentioned this manuscript as a must-see. The librarians were showing the visitors a selection of what were considered the treasures of the collections. Furthermore each traveler acknowledges each other’s publications and refers to them, sometimes in agreement but also quite often to correct some mistakes or express a different way of thinking. In the beginning of the 1790’s, the Frenchman Pierre-Marie-Louis Boisgelin de Kerdu spent some days in Uppsala with his fellow traveler Alphonse Fortia de Piles. The following description is interesting, it is indeed important to remember that at that time the library was still hosted in the Gustavianum and only composed of three rooms. Illustration by Gustaf Johan Härstedt:

1808« The city is very small, containing scarcely four thousand inhabitants, exclusive of the students, the number of whom vary, as in every other University, though they seldom are fewer than five hundred (…). Three days at least are requisite to see Upsala properly; for this city contains many objects of curiosity (…). The cathedral is the largest and handsomest church in the kingdom (…). The first of the three rooms which compose the library contains a marble bust of Charles XI (…). The first room is dedicated to the belles lettres, history and natural history. The contents of the second were a present of Gustavus III when prince-royal; which donation is inscribed on the door: and the third contains jurisprudence, divinity, and physic. Nothing is more curious in the whole of this collection than a Gothic manuscript in quarto, intitled Codex Argenteus; it contains the four evangelists in gold and silver letters, with writing between every line. The beginning and end are incomplete, and the whole consists of a hundred and eighty-seven leaves, with some of the passages translated into Latin in the margin (…). This library likewise contains (…) Edda et Scalda, a very valuable Iceland manuscript, on vellum; with some figures, coarsely drawn (…). The manuscripts in this collection are placed on the first floor, and the whole of the library consists in about fifty thousand volumes (…). Though the collection of manuscripts is very considerable, there is still room for more; and none of them are of great value, excepting a Diarium Wadstenense, an original manuscript, on vellum. It is a small quarto, written in different hands, between the years 1344 and 1544. » Vadstena Diary:

P1120213The accounts written after the death of the king Gustav III in 1792 mentioned something new of high importance regarding the library. Let’s read what John Carr, a native of Devonshire, evokes in 1804:

« Some of the private dwellings and the colleges are handsome, and are generally stuccoed and stained on a yellow colour; but the majority of houses are composed of wood, painted red, and have behind them little gardens filled with apple and other fruit trees (…). In the small room in the library we saw a large chest, about the size of a bureau bedstead, double locked and sealed, containing the manuscripts of the late King, which he directed should not be opened till fifty years after his decease. Conjecture and expectation frequently hover over this case, which will, no doubt, one day unfold to Sweden much interesting memoir, and literary treasure. Here we were shewn some Icelandic manuscripts, said to be upwards of eight hundred years old, and several Lapland tracts. How wonderful, that literature should have lived, and even smiled, in region which the sun rarely warms! »

The Gustavian collection is now unsealed and is indeed a goldmine of information. One might notice the last observation about sun and literature. An interesting concept. To conclude this anthology, here is one last extract from 1808 written by Robert Ker Porter:

« It being dark when we entered this ancient town, you must pardon I gave you no account of its approach. It is built on the banks of the river Fyris, and altogether exhibits a very venerable appearance (…). We first visited the university of Gustavus Adolphus, and were ushered into the grand public library. The repository of learning is richly stored with volumes of all ages, languages, and authors; besides above a thousand manuscripts of great value and antiquity. One, esteemed the most precious in their possession, bound splendidly in solid silver, was laid before us. The celebrated Codex Argenteus (…). We next have the gratification of taking into our hands one of the first impressions of the bible (…). Having carefully examined the sacred volume, which was quite perfect, a heathen work was unfolded to us. The manuscript of the Edda. It was found in Iceland (…). There is something very provoking in turning over the leaves of famous books, when we are ignorant of their language. Our feeling, in such a case, are not dissimilar to what would have been a completely deaf man’s, standing in the forum where Cicero was speaking (…). It would be tedious, as well as tantalizing to you, whose favourite banquet is a good library, to name all the rare books we turned over. In fact, this bibliotheque contains every early and curious edition of the most scarce and renowned works, to the number, I am told, of eighty thousand volumes. »



Mysterious ciphers

The Cultural Heritage Group regularly receives persons who want to discover some parts of the collections. Last week, two researchers, from the University of Southern California and Uppsala University, visited the manuscript department. In 2011, this international team cracked the « Copiale cipher » a famous encrypted manuscript that deals with a secret society in the XVIII century.

Who hasn’t dreamt of secret method of communication and mysterious encoded documents ? Cryptography is a science based on linguistic and mathematics. The reader who knows me a little might be floored that I’ve decided to write about this topic since I usually faint at the simple evocation of the word mathematics. But my fondness for enigmatic subjects get the better of me against my fear of numbers.

P1110061An investigation into our collections became clearly unavoidable and it quickly appeared that the Manuscript department shelters some cryptic documents. Would you like to start with a fleeting medieval excursion ?

Welcome in Vadstena, Östergötland County, a monastery founded by Saint Brigitta – one of the six patron saints of Europe – and soon to be famous as the mother-house of the order she founded in 1346. Sweden is still a Catholic country, we are more than one hundred years before the Reformation. All around Europe, lots of men and women decided to leave in retreat, into a life of prayers, far from the everyday life.

A Musical journey with the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos:

Let’s walk wordlessly around the cloister and the scriptorium, the room devoted to the copying of manuscripts by monastic scribes, and open up one manuscript after another, rummage through the papers to find some curiosities. But here is a monk approaching. His name is Störkarus Thurgillus. Wait, he is handing a manuscript, the one that we now keep in the shelves of the Cultural Heritage Group.

P1110092He explains that he copied this volume in 1379 that contains religious treatises and sermons. But it’s impossible to talk further with this monk, we should inquire about it somewhere else. This manuscript is one of the very few that is currently known to contain cipher notations. There are indeed only about two dozen in Europe, a minuscule fraction of the medieval manuscripts.

It seems important to notice that nowhere in the medieval sources is any word equivalent to the English « cipher ». They are simply referred to as figures or numbers.

This small encoded note on our manuscript is a valuable proof that ciphers were known in Sweden in the late XIV century. According to the professor David A. King, the cipher might deal with magic and could be used as an invocation or more likely a curse involving devils. The mystery still partly surrounds.

P1110075I highly advise you to read the Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco and to watch the excellent adaptation movie by Jean-Jacques Annaud if you wish to extend the travel into the captivating world of medieval libraries and scriptoriums.

It is now time to jump through ages. A time warp to the XVIII century. At that time, cryptographic methods were abundantly used especially by diplomats for whom it was a necessary tool of communication. The different diplomatic representations were trying to hide their political secrets and never-ending plots of all types. Monarchs, ministers, ambassadors, they were all accustomed to refined ciphers.

Postal spying was ever-present and the letters were often unsealed. Thus, the French Countess of Egmont, correspondent of the Swedish king Gustav III, warned him that he should not, on any accounts, trust the postal service : « An even more important precaution is to only write by mail what you want to be publicly known (…) because it is certain that all the letters are unsealed, and even often not properly returned ».

Count Gustaf Philip Creutz, Swedish ambassador at the French court for 17 years, between 1766 and 1783, was exasperated by the bad habit of the Cabinet Noir, the office where the letters of suspected persons (but almost everyone was potentially a suspect !) were opened and read by public officials before being forwarded to their destination. This is why, as much as possible, Creutz sent his letters and dispatches by private route, taking for instance the opportunity of a friend or a close relation’s departure to the homeland. Here is the beginning of a letter he wrote to Gustav III :

« As this is by a sure hand that this letter will be delivered to Your Majesty, I take this opportunity to make him aware of some features that I would not even wish entrust to the postal service despite the cipher (…). I beg Your Majesty to burn this letter. There are spies everywhere and if ever the King here knew the contents of this letter, we should never ever think of France anymore ».

But the travelers were also controlled so cunning was compulsory : « Mr. Kling Sporr on which I can absolutely count will sew this package in his coat lining and so shirk it of all accidents ».

The use of a foreign tongue was also a good way to hide some information. The Count of Creutz often switched between French (most of his letters are written in the language of Molière) and Swedish for political news that he wanted to hide from curious people. It is also possible to mix in one sentence different languages and then encode it. It will be almost impossible to discover the meaning of it without the good interpretation key.
 Of course, There are thousands of different ciphers, each using different techniques .

P1110049The Manuscript department still has a sumptuous portfolio that contained various documents about French ciphers from the second part of the XVIII century. The perfect ambassador’s kit.

P1110046A technique, among many others, was to state the opposite of the reality. Pointed by brackets or other signs ascertained in advance, the meaning of the contained was actually diametrically reverse. An example : « The Queen is still ill but will recover soon » was to be understood as « she will pass away soon ». However, the common technique to protect writings from undesired eyes was to represent every letter and some words and proper noun by a number. See the picture, the queen of France was, in this case, encoded by the number 16.

If you don’t know what to do of your spare time, feel free to contact us, you can have a great fun trying to decode some political letters that might contains invaluable undisclosed data. And who knows, your training attempts might help you to be the first to unveil the secret of the Voynich manuscript, the world’s most famous mysterious manuscript.


Note: All the pictures are from our collections. A huge amount of Creutz letters are in the Gustavian Collection in the Manuscript department.

USC Scientist Cracks Mysterious « Copiale Cipher »:

Library in the Name of the Rose:

The Book That Can’t Be Read, a documentary about the Voynich manuscript:

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:

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 :