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Latvian Collections

This page provides an overview of the Latvian Collections, illustrated by specific examples. We acquire material across the spectrum of the humanities and social sciences.


In the following text, codes which appear in brackets after references ([X.900/4488]) indicate British Library shelfmarks.

The exact size of the Latvian holdings is not known, since, like other country/language holdings, they have no separate catalogue and are dispersed within the rest of the collections.

The Latvian collection came into being in the course of the 19th century as a by-product of the Library's German and Russian collections. The Library's early collections are representative of early Latvian publishing, being relatively rich in works about and collections of folk literature, including the six-volume edition by Krisjanis Barons Latwja dainas (Jelgava, St Petersburg, 1894-1915) [X.900/4488], and in religious publications, including the first Latvian Bible, published in Riga in two parts, the Old Testament in 1685 and the New Testament in 1689.

The most valuable 18th-century works held are the Lettische Grammatik (Mitau, 1783) [628.d.29] and Lettisches Lexikon (Mitau, 1789-91) [1332.d.7], by the first Latvian grammarian and lexicographer G.F. Stender (1714-96). The 19th-century collections lack early editions of important classics but literature on Latvian subjects is available in Russian, German and Polish.

Acquisition of Latvian material increased in the 20th century, but periodicals of the first half of the century are poorly represented. Systematic acquisition began after 1945 and the post-war period is well covered, though the range of émigré publications, often difficult to identify and obtain, is not complete. Currently, we acquire some 200 monographs a year in Latvian and an increasing number of journals and newspapers from our two exchange partners in Riga.

Catalogues and other resources

Latvian material elsewhere in the British Library


Ela Kucharska-Beard, Curator, Baltic Studies
European Studies
The British Library
96 Euston Road
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7940