Latin or French?

One of the first articles in this blog was entitled “Students of the past”: Here, I want to expand more on this topic with this new article.

P1120642A Latinist is nowadays quite a rare specimen, if not endangered, although the Carolina Rediviva seems to gather a large number of those who are still left in Sweden. Latin is still often associated with the notion of excellence, a recollection of Antiquity and highly related to what is considered to be classical culture. In the 19th century, Gustave Flaubert wrote in its Dictionary of Received Idea that Latin is “only useful for reading inscriptions on public fountains”, but some whispers says that there is a new trend about learning Latin. That is the reason why I’m now going to recommend a wonderful textbook to get you accustomed to this language.

A fantastic introduction to Latin, very distinct from the ordinary boring and somewhat depressing teaching method of many a schoolbook. One might retort that it’s old. Well, depends what you consider old, I mean, it is only from the late 15th century. And since we don’t really speak Latin anymore – although I have to confess that I do have some friends who used to have a answering machine for their phone in Latin, but it’s pretty uncommon I guess – the grammar has not changed since that time.

In the 15th century, to study Latin and to have a perfect command of it was a prerequisite for anyone pretending to be learned. It was a language of communication, many books were written in Latin and, of course, Latin idioms and phraseology were adopted by philosophers and theologians in their writings.

 Thanks to a note written in French at the beginning of the manuscript, we can partly recount its history. It came from the library of a Benedictine monastery in Selingsadt, Germany. Thereafter the manuscript “ was put with the other books in Hanau (another German town), and placed in the attic by the Dutch church to protect the library from the Swedish during the Thirty Year’s War.” A lovely habit of the Swedish army during this war was indeed to take from and pillage the contents of libraries around Europe. In 1774, the manuscript was given as a present in Hanau to a Swedish. It is now kept at the Manuscript department.

 Thanks to this textbook, it became almost a pleasure to learn the ablative and dative plural, the fourth declension… The illustrations of the text, hand drawings, are absolutely exquisite.

Thus, from the Medieval Age to the 18th century, Latin was the international language. It is then supplanted by national languages and especially ousted by French. However, Latin is still used but not exclusively any longer. For instance, here is an extract of a letter kept at the Manuscript department and written in 1781 by the king Gustav III to his ambassador in France, the count of Creutz: “Here is, my dear count, the edict of tolerance. (…) I send to you the Swedish copy; I’m sending one in Latin to Marmontel. If you would find it appropriate to translate it into French and to publish in the Gazette de France, you will please me.” Jean-François Marmontel is a philosophe, that’s probably why Gustav III sends to him the Latin version.

Gustav III is a monarch but, as a child, he also used to be a student. The Gustavian collection kept in our library is a real treasure to see right throughout the life of this king. And a man of such a position must have a good education. We sheltered two lovely notebooks, covered with blue silk that were the writing exercises of the little prince realized between 1754 and 1755. The future Gustav III is 8 years old. His handwriting is at first hesitant but by and by the royal student improves more and more. It is moving to read and sense his improvement. He is training to write properly “Konung” which means “King”.

However, if some pages are in Swedish, most of the writings are in French. At the age of just three Gustav already is preparing to have an audience with the French Ambassador and to open with a few French sentences known by heart. Gustav will soon be a master in French. He is probably at that time, among European monarchs, the one who best handles the language of Molière.

 Even the French philosopher Denis Diderot was impressed by his skills: “Our language must be commonplace in all these Northern regions, because his letters could have been written by the most courteous seigneur of our court that they would not be any better.”


Snuff & snus

One might hear: ”It’s brilliant that there are so few people who smoke in Sweden”. Poppycock! Well, they don’t smoke cigarettes that much is true. But what about this small, humid and repellent bag they hide in their mouth? Very discreet indeed. Swedes are quite good at placing it under their upper lip in half a microsecond. At every bend in the road, you cross charming blond Scandinavian men, sporty, smiley but what is wrong with them and their brown snus? Cleft lips and rotten teeth soon.

And so I started to wonder when this curious habit, this one that still occasionally plunges the European Union into turmoil since snus is only allowed in Sweden and prohibited everywhere else in the Union. In 1995, Sweden joined the Union on condition that the country will be allowed to keep it’s powder tobacco. Snus is no joking matter.


Needless to say that I won’t be praising tobacco here. Let’s just see what the past can tell us. The pioneer explorers in the New World, the first of them being Colombus, discovered the Natives smoking and snuffing tobacco. But it was several decades before the success of tobacco was realised in the Old Continent.

In the 1560’s, the French Royal Family started to snuff: a powdered tobacco is inhaled through the nose. It was first a remedy against migraines prescribed by the then French Ambassador in Portugal, the so called Jean Nicot (1530 around-1600). Thus, Catherine de Medicis (1519-1589) became the first royal snuffer. The fashion was ready to spread all around Europe. In 1753, the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus, who lived in Uppsala, named two species of tobacco after the French man. The word “nicotine” was born.


Snuffing quickly became an aristocratic habit. Some of them loved it madly such as Queen Charlotte of England (1738-1820), wife of George III, who was nicknamed “Snuffy Charlotte”. A whole room of Windsor castle was dedicated to store her snuff stock. All the fancy and wealthy men and women of Europe were also carrying their own little box filled with tobacco. The favorite pastime of Adolf Frederick (1710-1771), king of Sweden, was to make snuffboxes. In the 18th century, it became the trendy accessory that you needed to possess to be in vogue. Snuffboxes were made of precious materials, such as enamel and gold. The count of Tessin, French Ambassador in Paris, who is already known to the regular readership of this blog, was quite often mentioning snuffboxes among his countless Parisian purchases. The man was a passionate art collector. In 1740, he wrote to a friend: « To tell you my extravagance would be endless : a snuffbox painted by Massé with the portait of the little Charlotte (his niece), another portrait by Oudry of the big Pärh (his dog), a painting by Boucher, another by Chardin… ».

7531Some artists were renowned for their refined snuffboxes. The Swedish artist Carl Gustav Klingstedt (1657-1734), who was working in Paris, was one of them. He was known by his contemporaries as the « Raphael of the snuffboxes». Which is something ! Here is another charming story from 1741 recalled by Tessin in a letter to his wife who was then residing in Sweden. His words illustrate perfectly that snuffboxes, sometimes more numerous to people than outfits, were proudly shown during receptions :

« Ah! my Dear Ulla! I must tell you about my adventure with Fru Blomfeldt. I was dining at her place the other day, and clever as a crook, I had a beautiful empty snuffbox with a miniature by Klingstedt. I presented it to Madame, and said to her that when we arrived at her place, there was no need to take tobacco, since we come to the source. Or deaf, or crazy, she took my words wrong (…). I was petrified when she pocketed my box with a string of never ending compliments; fortunately the Nuncio asked to see it and after he had examined the box, I took it and pocketed it myself in turn this time leaving her petrified at her loss. All this happened without elucidations, and the best part is that I have my snuffbox which was not intended for the use by her cute little nose”.

2786After his return to Sweden, Tessin and the Swedish Royal Family could count on the devotion of the new official representative of Sweden in France: Carl Fredrik Scheffer. Apart from his diplomatic mission, the envoy was made responsible for sending to Stockholm every single novelty, Paris being at that time considered as the world capital for fashion and taste. Scheffer was searching punctiliously, like a real investigator, accessories of all kinds. In 1748, he wrote from Paris to Tessin: “If I do say so myself we will not have seen in Sweden such a pleasant piece and so perfectly crafted as the snuffox that Your Excellence will receive by today’s post. There have only been a few like them produced so far but it so much win the vote of the court and the town… ».

The French Revolution almost put an end to this trend, snuffing being too much associated with aristocratic customs. Europeans began to smoke the cigar. But in Sweden, another way of snuffing was on is way to conquer the kingdom where the culture of tobacco was an important industry. The dry snuff was ousted by a humid snus no longer intended for the nose but for the mouth. This new style spread promptly and, in the 1820’s, was already well established in the country.


Around 200 hundred years later, the snus is still the best or more likely worst friend of many a swede’s gum.


All the pictures used in this article are to be found on the database. You can find a great amount of letters written by Tessin and Scheffer at the Manuscript Department.

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. »



Leufsta Library

« I would go so far as to say that my dear mother has seen nothing in Sweden if she has not seen Leufstad”. Letter written by the future King Gustav III to his mother Queen Lovisa Ulrika in 1768.

5060In northern Uppland, somewhere in the forests, lies a treasure preserved by the Cultural Heritage Group. Une bibliothèque sur l’eau.

P1110235In 1738, in a little building close to his manor in Lövstabruk, estate that was at that time one of the world´s leading ironworks, Charles de Geer (1720-1778), then renowned as one of the foremost scientists in Sweden, created his library. There is nothing pompous or grandiose in this book haven, just a cozy and intimate, almost bewitching atmosphere where the time seems to have stood still.

P1110219Approximately 8500 books were acquired in 1986 by Uppsala University Library. Although the more valuable volumes are now kept in Uppsala, the layout of the book room has been preserved as it was in the XVIII century, when its industrialist / entomologist founder was relaxing and studying there.

charles de GeerCharles, who was elected a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1739, at the age of nineteen, and a corresponding member of the French Academy of Sciences in 1748, owned an impressive collection of manuscripts and books on natural history. To cite only one example, he acquired the tremendous hand-drawn and hand-coloured illustrated work The Book of Flowers which consists of eleven massive volumes made by the scientist Olof Rudbeck the Elder (1630-1702) who had intended to depict (a wonderful but unrealized ambition) all the herbs of the entire world.

But Charles was also, judging from his library, quite the connoisseur of the Enlightenment. He subscribed to Diderot’s and d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie and was reading influential works by Montesquieu,Voltaire and Rousseau among others. Moreover he was himself, like is wife Catharina Charlotta, a participant in the movement. The couple were among the first to inoculate in 1756 their children against the menacing smallpox virus. A pioneering initiative at a time when the technique was still highly controversial and faced a great deal of resistance in the kingdom.


The untouched character of the library invites you to daydream but soon the splendid Indes Galantes by Jean-Philippe Rameau awakens you:


Indeed, this lovely building also hosted the musical collections of the family. Charles de Geer was very passionate about music. Despite being born in the Swedish kingdom into a Huguenot family who had moved there in the 1620’s, he spent his childhood and early youth in the Netherlands. When he returned to Sweden to manage the industrial community of Lövstabruk, he brought with him a large amount of sheet music, for the most part printed in Amsterdam. Once established in his new mansion, he continued to collect music together with his son.

The collection, which is preserved by the Cultural Heritage Group, contains 84 prints and 99 handwritten pieces including some from the most famous composers of the period, such as Handel, Vivaldi or Telemann and others from less well known, more of less forgotten composers such as Jean-Baptiste Senaillé, a virtuoso violinist. Some are also anonymous.

Vivaldi RV 362, another musical treasure of Leufsta:

The Leusta’s musical treasure contains some rarities and several unique printed scores. It is also reflects the taste of the day and mirors the musical life of the manor where elegance and charm were embodied by keyboard and chamber music pieces in the galant style. If you decide to visit Lövstabruk, you will also discover a well-preserved organ constructed in 1726.

You can buy recordings of music from the Leufsta collection at the shop of Carolina Rediviva.


Louis Renard’s book of fantastic fish from the Leufsta collection:

If you want to learn more about caterpillars, butterflies and insects of all descriptions you could browse Charles de Geer’s work. Proficiency in French is required:

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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: