Special and Named Printed Collections in the National Library of Scotland

THORKELIN COLLECTION

The foundation of the Library’s Scandinavian collections, this collection was purchased by the Faculty of Advocates in 1819 from David Laing (1793-1878), then a young Edinburgh bookseller and later Librarian to the Society of Writers to the Signet. Laing had visited Copenhagen that year, where he bought a number of books from the collection of the Icelandic scholar and antiquary Grímur Jónsson Thorkelin (1752-1829). From these books the Advocates chose only works of Scandinavian origin or interest, amounting to c. 1500 printed items (another part of the Thorkelin collection is in the British Library). Works on the history, law, religion, mythology, topography and natural history, language and literature of the Scandinavian countries are well represented in the collection. Particular strengths are early printed editions of the Icelandic sagas, and a number of examples of early Danish printing. Two important imprints from Hólar, the first Icelandic printing centre, are Lögbok Islandinga (1578), the first printed edition of Jónsbok, the Icelandic code of laws, and Biblia (1584), the first printed edition of the complete Bible in Icelandic. The Advocates also bought Icelandic manuscripts from Thorkelin over a number of years. Additions have been made to the Scandinavian collection from time to time by donation and purchase.

The manuscripts are briefly described in the Library’s Summary Catalogue of the Advocates’ Manuscripts, Edinburgh, 1971, and in detail in a typescript catalogue by Ólafur Halldórsson (in Icelandic). Norway in Books and Manuscripts, an Exhibition, Edinburgh, 1963. Scandinavia, an Exhibition, Edinburgh, 1970. A.A. Calderwood, ‘Danish Libraries in Britain’, Denmark: a Monthly Review of Anglo-Danish Relations (June-July 1948), 8-9, 13-14. D. Wyn Evans, ‘A Note on the Content of the Thorkelin Collection in the National Library of Scotland’, The Bibliotheck, 4 (1963-1966), 79-80. ----, ‘Inscriptions and Bookplates from the Thorkelin Collection in the National Library of Scotland’, The Bibliotheck, 4 (1963-1966), 247-8.

Shelfmark: H.7-H.20 (the bulk of the collection is concentrated in H.7-H.16).

Introduction  |  Search  |  List of Collections