The History of Research into the Swedish War Booty of Books from Bohemia and Moravia

The first to point out the expected significance of Swedish libraries for the study of Czech history and book culture was Raphael Ungar in 1780 in comments accompanying the publication of Bohuslav Balbín’s Bohemia docta. Ungar’s comments allegedly became the immediate impetus that led the Royal Bohemian Society of Sciences in Prague to send Josef Dobrovský to perform research in Sweden and Russia. The result of the expedition undertaken in 1792–1793 was a report published under the title Reise nach Schweden und Russland (Journey to Sweden and Russia). Dobrovský and subsequent researchers were primarily focused on the language of the Czech manuscripts. However, it took over half a century before another Czech, Josef Pečírka, returned to the study of Swedish libraries. The goal of his stay in 1850 was to expand upon Dobrovský and to discover other Bohemical manuscripts.

Before Pečírka published his report in the journal of the National Museum of the time, Moravian historian Beda Dudík also undertook a trip to Sweden. During his four-month stay, he painstakingly examined the Bohemical sources in a series of Swedish libraries and the imperial archive. Just like his predecessors, Dudík primarily concentrated on precisely recording the manuscripts in relation to the Czech lands. He paid only marginal interest to printed sources, which was almost exclusively on the basis of entries in the original Czech library catalogues that he was the first to work with in Sweden. However, he generally did not seek out whether the works actually existed in Swedish collections. Dudík’s later expedition to the Vatican Library in Rome (where some “Swedish” works originally from the Czech lands ended up), brought results in the form of a list of Bohemical manuscripts that is still valid today. The friendly relationships that Dudík was able to forge during his stay in northern Europe yielded success in his long-term efforts to acquire some of the manuscripts and archival items from Sweden. After long negotiations, Swedish King Oscar II gave the government in Vienna 21 Czech manuscripts in exchange for several exclusive Austrian printed works in 1878.

Václav Flajšhans embarked for Sweden at the end of the 19th century (at the turn of 1896–1897), with the goal of revising findings about Bohemical artefacts in Swedish libraries. On the basis of his work, which was the first to pay greater attention to the language of printed Czech works, he expressed the excessively-optimistic opinion that the losses of originally-Czech books in Sweden are not as extensive as was expected in Dudík’s times. A series of heretofore unknown works is also included in the published list of about 100 Bohemical items. However, it took another 30 years before the academic public could familiarise themselves with a few of these works. The author of a detailed description of several convolutes chiefly from the Rožmberk library (which include rare surviving printed works from the first half of the 16th century), was Flora Kleinschnitzová; the contemporary head of the manuscript and old printed works department at Prague’s National Library. Her work notably deepened cooperation between Czech and Swedish librarians, especially with Isak Collijn, the Swedish imperial librarian at the time.

The work of Swedish historian Otto Walde is a fundamental milestone. He was the first to thoroughly analyse the overall breadth of the Swedish booty of books from the Thirty Years’ War; going beyond Swedish collections to include some German libraries. The results of his research were published in an extensive two-volume work (Storhetstidens litterära krigsbyten), where individual chapters were dedicated to the Swedish booty from Prague, Mikulov, and Olomouc. Walde’s research was continued by Prague-based German researcher Emil Schieche in the 1950s, who also elaborately mapped the transport of books owned by the Rožmberks through German territory to Sweden.

The most complete record of all surviving manuscripts from the Czech lands chiefly found in libraries in Stockholm, Rome, Leiden, and Brno was published in the 1970 work by Lund-based librarian Christian Callmer about the history of the National Library in Stockholm under the rule of Queen Christina. Czech researchers František Horák and Jan Martínek returned to direct research of Swedish book collections in the mid-1960s, focusing on printed books, especially those written in Czech and those containing Latin humanist poetry. Jan Martínek was also the first to use the catalogue from the Rožmberk collection as a source of information about individual works that he later searched for (finding some) during his short expedition to Swedish libraries.

Trips by Czech historians to Sweden in the 1990s mostly led to detailed study of already-known books owned by the Rožmberks (Jaroslav Pánek), but also the discovery of other artefacts (Petr Maťa). The famous Codex gigas was thoroughly researched during its loan to the Czech National Library in 2006. Interest in the Swedish booty of books was roused abroad at the same time, but in a wider context (the international symposium “War-Booty: A Common European Cultural Heritage” organised in Stockholm in 2008, and the later work by Eva Nilsson Nylander and Emmy Hagström Molin).

Research into the Swedish booty of books has been undertaken at the Library of the Academy of Sciences since 2002. Its results have thus far mapped the development and historical fates of two libraries transported to Sweden as part of the spoils of war, including the identification of surviving works (Lenka Veselá). Currently, this research is continuing with the gradual registration of the surviving Czech works at institutions and in book collections across Europe. An analytic monograph is planned for the future where this significant phenomenon in the history of Czech book culture will be systematically evaluated.


Callmer, Christian: Königin Christina, ihre Bibliothekare und ihre Handschriften, Stockholm 1977.

Boldan, Kamil et al: Codex gigas – Ďáblova bible: tajemství největší knihy světa, Praha 2007.

Dobrovský, Josef: Litterarische Nachrichten von einer … im J. 1792 unternommenen Reise nach Schweden und Russland, Praha 1796.

Dudík, Beda: Forschungen in Schweden für Mährens Geschichte, Brünn 1852.

Dudík, Beda: Iter Romanum, I, Wien 1855.

Flajšhans, Václav: Knihy české v knihovnách švédských a ruských, Praha 1897.

Hagström Molin, Emma: Krigsbytets biografi: byten i Riksarkivet, Uppsala universitetsbibliotek och Skokloster slott under 1600-talet, Göteborg 2015.

Horák, František: Zpráva o průzkumu starých českých a bohemikálních tisků v rakouských a švédských knihovnách, In: Humanistická konference, Praha 1966, s. 279-283.

Kleinschnitzová, Flora: Seltene Bohemica des XVI. Jahrhunderts in schwedischen Bibliotheken, Uppsala 1931.

Mahel, Richard: Beda Dudík (1815–1890): život a dílo rajhradského benediktina a moravského zemského historiografa ve světle jeho osobní pozůstalosti, Praha 2015.

Martínek, Jan: Humanistická bohemika ve Švédsku, Listy filologické 92, 1969, s. 118-162.

Maťa, Petr: Nové prameny k českým dějinám ve švédských knihovnách a archivech (Zpráva o výzkumném pobytu ve Švédsku), Sborník archivních prací 51/1, 2001, s. 275-296.

Nestor, Sofia: War-Booty: a common European cultural heritage: an international symposium at the Royal armoury, 29-31 May, 2008, Stockholm  2009.

Nilsson Nylander, Eva: The mild boredom of order: a study in the history of the manuscript collection of Queen Christina of Sweden, Lund 2011.

Pachta, Jan: Bohemika v uppsalské knihovně „Carolina rediviva“, Slovanská knihověda 3, 1934, s. 46-56.

Pánek, Jaroslav: Pamětní záznamy utrakvistického faráře z let 1591–1592: svědectví o každodennosti předbělohorského maloměsta, Folia Historica Bohemica 15, 1991, s. 91-100.

Pečírka, Josef: Zpráva o rukopisech českých v králowské bibliotéce v Stockholmě se nacházejících, Časopis Musea Království českého 25, 1851, I, s. 76-108, II, s. 59-84, III, s. 30-42.

Schieche, Emil: Die Rosenbergsche Bibliothek vor und nach Juli 1648, Stifter-Jahrbuch 5, 1957, s. 102-140.

Veselá, Lenka: Knihy na dvoře Rožmberků, Praha 2005.

Veselá, Lenka: Rytíř a intelektuál: Hieronym Beck z Leopoldsdorfu (1525–1596) a jeho knihovna, Praha 2016 (německy Ritter und Intellektueller – Hieronymus Beck von Leopoldsdorf (1525–1596) und seine Bibliothek, Frankfurt am Main 2017).

Walde, Otto: Storhetstidens litterära krigsbyten, I-II, Uppsala 1916–1920.