Scandinavian printed collections

From Beskrivelse over Finmarkens Lapper by Knud Leem
From Beskrivelse over Finmarkens Lapper by Knud Leem (Kiøbenhavn, 1767)

The Scandinavian collections cover the whole range of Nordic languages and represent one of the largest collections of books published in the Scandinavian countries.

About the collection

Our early collections have particular strengths in Old Icelandic literature, texts of the Bible, historiography, topography and law, as well as in the natural sciences, including most of the work of Linnaeus and his pupils. The early collections have been enhanced by the extensive holdings of modern academic and other secondary literature which make it not simply a closed library of older literature but a living research collection. The Short Title Catalogue of pre-1801 items includes around 11,250 titles

Linguistics, literature, folklore and history are especially well covered within the field of Scandinavian Studies.  Our collecting policy is to acquire research-level monographs and serials within the humanities and social sciences including bibliographies, reference works, statistics and reports and a representative collection of significant modern literary works.

Material is acquired in the whole range of Nordic languages (Danish, Faeroese, Finnish, Greenlandic, Icelandic, Norwegian, Saami and Swedish) as well as a significant number of Scandinavian books published in English, and to a lesser extent in other West-European languages. As well as acquiring recently published material, we also collect earlier material in order to fill gaps.

What is available online?

All our Scandinavian printed holdings can be found in the British Library’s online catalogue, Explore the British Library.

Increasing numbers of pre-1875 books in our catalogue can also be accessed online via the Google Books project.

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

Most post-1850 Scandinavian printed books and periodicals can be ordered to any of our Reading Rooms, usually within 70 minutes, although an increasing amount of material is held at our Boston Spa site in Yorkshire and may take up to two days to arrive.

Pre-1850 material can be consulted in the Rare Books and Music Reading Room, while newspapers, maps and manuscripts are available in their own respective Reading Rooms. All the reading rooms have some reference works on open shelves, including bibliographies, catalogues, dictionaries and general reference works.

A large number of electronic resources are available through the Reading Room PCs.

How to guides

Guide to researching provenance of books now in the British Library

Where do the British Library’s old printed books ‘come from'? Who owned or read them in centuries past? Why does it matter?

Terms of use for Google Books

This page states the terms and conditions surrounding the British Library’s out of copyright books which have been digitised by Google.

What collection items can I view online?

You can see books, manuscripts, maps, playbills, scores and much more. Researchers can use our collection of electronic resources and databases to help them find material relevant to their research.

Can I take photographs of British Library material myself?

You can take photos of our collection items yourself in British Library Reading Rooms

Can I copy material in the Reading Rooms?

What you need to know about copying British Library collections in our Reading Rooms

Guide to the British National Bibliography

A guide to help you use the British National Bibliography catalogue, covering: login, search, and how to manage your results

How to handle books

See the techniques you should use to keep our books in good shape.

Using gloves with books and manuscripts

Should you wear gloves? Here's some advice to help you decide.

How to handle rolled items

We show how you should unroll items like scrolls, rolls and maps.

Breaches of British Library Reading Room Conditions of Use

These guidelines outline the British Library’s policies and procedures with regard to breaches of its Reading Room Conditions of Use. They are to ensure consistency in the actions taken in response to such breaches and to define the appropriate roles and responsibilities in the process.

Electronic resources

We collect thousands of electronic journals, books and websites and hundreds of databases. You need to come to the Library to access the majority of these resources.

How to request items not in the catalogue

You can use 'Request Other Items' to order items which have no record in Explore the British Library. Also to order most items found in Expore Archives and Manuscripts.

Guide to Explore the British Library

A guide to help you use the catalogue, covering: login, search, how to manage your results, how to order/view items

Free Discovery and 1-2-1 sessions: 2019

We offer a range of free Discovery and 1-2-1 sessions to help you make the most of your time researching here.

Get a Reader Pass

Access over 170 million collection items for free with a Reader Pass.

Search for resources in microforms

How to search for resources in microforms

How to handle folded items

Find out how you should hand items like large maps and book inserts.

Using the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC)

How to use the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC)