Literary Citizens of the World (LitCit)
Tracing the transnational crossroads of books in Early Modern Norway
The first Norwegian book was printed in Paris in 1519, in Latin. Today, most ‘Norwegian’ books are printed in the Baltics, and the holdings of the National Library are digitized and made publicly accessible from around the world. The intermediate 500 years of Norwegian book history display similar transnational and trans-medial characteristics. How did the book change society? In what way did it influence ideas on children, gender or nationality? Or simply how we consume entertainment? Why has it remained such a powerful and influential medium through the shifting media revolutions?
LitCit covered the book medium’s evolvement in Norway from its religious beginnings in 1519 to the emergence of the modern public sphere in the mid-1800s. Books in Scandinavia were on the one hand steeped in a pan European market and tradition, and on the other, they constitute an important and different case of regional and local adaptation, marked by what has been termed ‘Northern Enlightenment’ and later the phenomenon of Scandinavian world literature (Ibsen and Strindberg). Subprojects included studies of books for children, popular literature and translations, literary periodicals and political pamphlets, bibliography and works of History from the hand press period. The project was organized in four work packages (WP): 1) Education, religion and literature, 2) Popular books and new readerships, 3) Moving books: trade and media transformations and 4) The politics of books: Negotiating identity, print and the public sphere.
The year 2019 marked the 500th anniversary of the printed book in Norway. Popular and scholarly results included exhibitions at The National Library on the history of books and the development of the public sphere and a bibliography of Norwegian books 1519-1850.
LitCit brought together an interdisciplinary and international team of media and book historians. Partner institutions were The National Library and the National Archives of Norway, The Universities of Oslo and Tromsø, The University College of Southeast Norway, The Society for Danish Language and Literature, and Cambridge Project for the Book Trust. The project was led by Aina Nøding, Research Librarian at The National Library. Research Librarian Ruth Hemstad led the project in the period September 2018 to August 2020.
LitCit was financed by The Research Council of Norway. It ran from 2016 to 2021.
The rise of the printed book was intimately related to its application in religious practice and education. The first Norwegian books were Breviarium Nidrosiense and Missale Nidrosiense, printed in 1519 in Paris and Copenhagen respectively. The archbishop of Nidaros, Erik Valkendorf, commissioned them for use in church services. He is the subject of Skovgaard-Petersen’s study, portraying a vital agent on the emerging European book market. Printed books soon entered ordinary people’s lives and learning in the form of vernacular hymnals and catechisms. Haarberg undertakes The history of catechisms in Denmark–Norway (1519–2019), a transnational genre conspicuously adapted to national and local religious, political and pedagogical contexts. Educational books changed with evolving Enlightenment ideas of children and the child reader, introducing new methods, genres – and entertainment. Bjørkøy’s project on Norwegian children’s literature 1790–1900, will investigate how children’s literature developed in this period and identify the literary representation of children. Kaasa will look more specifically at periodicals for children, including their portrayals of ‘the exotic’ and the migration of illustrations.
Participants: Aasta M. Bjorvand Bjørkøy (WP leader), Karen Skovgaard Petersen, Jon Haarberg and Janicke S. Kaasa.
Popular authors, titles and genres circulated Europe in great numbers, including in Denmark–Norway, changing forever how, what and when we read. Reading shifted from a mainly collective activity centred on a few known texts, to individual readers consuming a range of new texts and ephemera. Dahl maps the form and content of Early Modern bestsellers, bought and read in Norway 1600–1800, in many languages and genres (piety, history, economy, etc.). Popular book trade in Scandinavia was predominantly a matter of import, with notable exceptions. One is the subject of Eriksen’s study Translating patriotism: Ove Malling’s Great and Good Deeds in its European contexts. The schoolbook from 1777 presents patriotic history in the form of short, exemplary narratives of virtuous or heroic deeds by kings, ordinary citizens and peasants. Popular reading for female instruction and entertainment is closely linked to emerging lending libraries and reading societies, as well as new publication forms. Rønning’s project Shaping female citizens through literary gifts explores the development of ‘New Year’s gifts’ for ladies and related ‘Ladies’ libraries’ from the late eighteenth century onwards.
Participants: Gina Dahl (WP leader), Anne Eriksen, Anne Birgitte Rønning
Imported books, ordered directly from abroad, bought in bookstores or lent in libraries or reading societies, made up a major part of the reading material of the middle and upper estates. They were read in the original languages to stay à jour with the latest in the European republic of letters and develop language skills. Kukkonen’s project, The Multilingual Literary Citizen, has a particular focus on the imported novel, tracing their impact in book collections. Raven looks at this book trade from the perspective of the tradesman, namely the most important London bookseller of his day, John, Jack or Jean Nourse, active 1730–1780. He was engaged with the widest network and published the highest number of pan European books, his enterprise also extending to Scandinavia.
Translation and publication in vernacular languages increasingly enabled an international mass market for books, both in science, education and entertainment. Still, exactly what translations did occur in Denmark–Norway, who produced them, how and why? Nøding’s project, Translated prose fiction in Denmark–Norway before 1800: A trans-medial approach, aims to map these translations, their mediators and adaptors. The introduction of periodicals in the seventeenth century shaped the course and rhythm of book circulation, in terms of review journals, serialization of (parts of) books, or book publications of translated periodicals. Bjerring-Hansenaddresses the Dano-Norwegian periodical press, in particular the transformations of the ‘learned’ or ‘literary’ journals. He traces when, how, and why their editorial outlook changed from pan European to an increasingly more local one by the latter 1700s. Another case of local appropriation and adaptation is the famous story of the moral weeklies modelled on The Spectator, occurring in both periodical and book form. Ertler will link his work on the literary and cultural patterns of the European spectators to the development of the Dano–Norwegian press, as part of the wider communication system of the printed public sphere in Europe.
Participants: Aina Nøding (WP leader), James Raven, Karin Kukkonen, Klaus-Dieter Ertler, Jens Bjerring-Hansen
Books became a political battleground to control and negotiate under absolutist rule, and remains so today. The dual relationship – repressive, yet productive – between censorship and print in Denmark–Norway is evident from the story of the influential historian, book collector and prolific publicist P.F. Suhm (1728–1798). Kreftingaddresses his Publication strategies under absolutism, as a mediator of imported genres and ideas, including ‘secret histories’ from the court, during a period of significant political, media-historical and intellectual change. From the 1790s, the politics of publishing took a new transnational turn. In Writing Scandinavianism. Print culture and the Scandinavianist movement, Hemstad presents a movement that peaked in the 1850s, agitating Scandinavian unity through a conscious application of books, pamphlets, journals and newspapers.
Fulsås’ project looks at how the shifting political unions in Scandinavia called for new definitions of ‘Norwegian’ Literature in a Scandinavian context. He explores the importance of nineteenth-century bibliographies and biographical encyclopaedias of authors to repatriate ‘Norwegian’ literature published in Denmark. Did they inform the contemporary conception of Norway as a “poetocracy”?
Participants: Ellen Krefting (WP leader), Narve Fulsås, Ruth Hemstad