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Hannås Collection of Scandinavian books

The Hannås Collection was built up by Torgrim Hannås, a Norwegian-born antiquarian bookseller. 710 items were generously presented to the Library by Mr Hannås in 1984. It is probably the most significant single addition to the British Library's already extensive holdings of Scandinavian linguistic literature.

 Scope and highlights of the Collection

Ninety per cent of the collection comprises works published within Scandinavia, and the rest are works relating to the Scandinavian languages published elsewhere. The dates of publication range from 1587 to 1975, with a predominance of material (about 70%) dating from the period 1700-1850.

The two largest categories are dictionaries, both general and special, and grammars, which together constitute about 25% of the collection. Another 20% is made up of textbooks on particular languages, readers, phrase books, and related material (including four ABC books from the period 1780-1802), and a similar proportion of monographs on the Scandinavian languages and linguistics in general.

The oldest item is a copy of Strigilis Grammatica (Copenhagen, 1587) by Nicodemus Frischlin (1547-1590), bound in a vellum sheet from a 15th-century manuscript missal. The next two in chronological order are a collection of European proverbs (Copenhagen, 1633) by Daniel Matras (1598-1689), and the Dictionarium Latin-Sveco-Germanicum (1640) by Jonas Petri (d. 1644), the first substantial work of its kind produced in Sweden. Among other items from the 17th century are a Danish grammar of 1685 by Peder Syv (1631-1702), the first to be written in the vernacular, the Orthographia Danica (1679) by Henrik Gerner (1629-1700), which contains the earliest guide to the pronunciation of English for Danes, and an introduction to Finnish by Matthias Martinius (1655-1728), entitled Hodegus Finnicus ... Eller Finsk Wägwijsare (1689).

Most major bilingual dictionaries of the 18th and early 19th centuries are represented, including the English-Swedish ones by Serenius (1734) and Brisman (1783), English-Danish by Berthelson (1754), French-Danish by Wolff (1796), and German-Swedish by Heinrich (1818). There are several dialect dictionaries, including Pontoppidan's for Norway (1749) and Ihre's for Sweden (1766), and copies of both the Sámi grammar (1748) and dictionary (1756) of Knud Leem. Among the early English grammars for Scandinavians are those of Lagerström (Stockholm, 1731), Bertram (Copenhagen, 1750 and 1753), and Kraak (Västerås, 1789). There are various editions of Abraham Sahlstedt's Swedish grammar, including a Russian one printed at St Petersburg in 1773.

The collection includes some thirty phrase books, which throw interesting light on the social conditions of their time. One of the most intriguing examples is the appendix to Thomas Campanius Holm's account of the former colony of New Sweden (1702), with dialogues in the Delaware (Unami Jargon) Indian language. There are phrase books for Scandinavian emigrants to America between 1852 and 1899, as well as for Swedish troops in Poland (1705) and German soldiers in Denmark and Norway (1940).


The Hannås Collection has been catalogued by Peter Hogg. His published catalogue, The Hannås Collection: Catalogue of a Collection of Scandinavian Dictionaries, Grammars and Linguistic Literature, Presented to the British Library by Torgrim Hannås (London: British Library, 1994), is available at British Library shelfmark 2725.g.2412. It includes British Library shelfmarks for each entry, as well as indexes of:

  • printers, publishers, and booksellers;
  • places of publication; and
  • dates of publication.

All the items in the Hannås Collection can also be found in Explore the British Library.