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Gina Dahl, Libraries and Enlightenment. Eighteenth-century Norway and the Outer World (Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 2014). 228 pp.

Gina Dahl, Libraries and Enlightenment. Eight-
eenth-century Norway and the Outer World (Aarhus:
Aarhus University Press, 2014). 228 pp.
Libraries and Enlightenment is a wide-ranging
title, which is however narrowed in the sub-
title: Eighteenth-Century Norway and the Outer
World. The aim of Gina Dahl’s book is to
inquire what knowledge of the outer world
– the world beyond Europe – existed in the
learned communities in eighteenth century
Norway, as documented by the catalogues
of private libraries. The book is divided into
two parts. The first part of the book deals
with the way in which the various parts of
the world were present in libraries and the
second part studies the content of the most
frequently encountered works on Africa, Asia,
Russia and America. Books dealing with the
outer world were part of the broader category
of historia, which leads the author to a discus-
sion of the concept of history (chapter 1)
and of the principles of classification (chap-
ter 2). In chapter 3, Gina Dahl turns to an
analysis of 63 book auction catalogues in re-
lation to the category of historia.
Among the approx. 9000 volumes which
(in the case of catalogues with clear subject
divisions) are included or (in the case of cata-
logues without subject headings) could be said
to be included in the category of historia, 4826
books which “display the world in a more di-
rect manner” (p. 69) are chosen for further
statistical analysis in chapter 4. The vast ma-
jority of these books deal with Scandinavia,
whereupon follows the European countries
and unspecified works and lexicons (cf. Table
9, p. 65). 116 books deal with Russia, 371
with Asia, 177 with America and 80 with Af-
rica. Among these Gina Dahl choses the books
with the highest number of occurrences in the
library catalogues, and these books are dealt
with in the second part of the book which
turns from the quantitative analysis to a quali-
tative analysis: Johannes Rask and Georg Høst
on Africa (chapter 5), Carsten Niebuhr and
Paul Lucas on Asia (chapter 6), Adam Olear-
ius and Peter von Haven on Russia (chapter
7) and Jens Kraft and Antonio de Solís on
America (chapter 8).
Gina Dahl is an experienced author of
English language monographs. With Brill
she has published the Book Collections of Cler-
ics in Norway, 1650–1750 (Leiden Boston,
2010) and Books in Early Modern Norway (Lei-
den – Boston, 2011). According to the pref-
ace, it was when she was writing her book on
Books in Early Modern Norway, that Gina Dahl
became aware of the “high number of books
portraying non-European peoples and cul-
tures included in Norwegian eighteenth-cen-
tury book collections” (p. 7), and the book
was written thanks to a post-doctoral schol-
arship from the Research Council of Norway,
Sjuttonhundratal | 2016
during which Gina Dahl was attached to the
University of Bergen.
Gina Dahl’s book is part of a recent resurge
of interest in auction catalogues as a source to
Scandinavian book history. The Danish book
historian Harald Ilsøe has published an over-
view of book auction catalogues, Biblioteker til
salg, om danske bogauktioner og kataloger 1661-1811
(Copenhagen 2007) and Lis Byberg has pub-
lished her doctoral dissertation on book auc-
tions in the Norwegian literary public sphere
Brukte Bøker Til Bymann Og Bonde, Bokauksjonen
i Den Norske Litterære Offentlighet 1750–1815
(Oslo, 2007).
In his unpublished manuscript on Danish
private libraries (The Royal Library, Copen-
hagen, NKS 3680 quarto), which Lis Byberg
used as an epigraph to her book, Christian
Bruun stated that much profit can be gath-
ered from reading book auction catalogues
but that such a reading requires both certain
preconditions and a purpose. Gina Dahl has
these preconditions and the clearly stated
purpose. Her book is a welcome examination
of what learned people in Norway might have
known about the outer world in the 18th cen-
tury, and the fact that the book is written in
English makes it a welcome contribution to
the discussion of the difficult penetration of
enlightenment culture in Scandinavia. Since
it is a book that also invites discussion, I
would now like to question in turn the cor-
pus, the concepts, the periodization and the
methodology of the book.
The amount of source material used for
the book is impressive. Gina Dahl has chosen
63 book auction catalogues published in the
period 1751-1809 (all listed in appendix 3,
pp. 214-219) – “about half of the catalogues
that survive from that period” (p. 24). For the
same period (1751–1809), Bibliotheca Nor-
vegica lists 87 catalogues of private book col-
lections – plus catalogues of common libraries
and reading societies and catalogues of various
books (with no owner’s name).
Among those private libraries which have
been excluded from Gina Dahl’s study we
find all the surnames starting with C, such
as Chezaulx (1801), Clitau (1754), Cold
(1761), Collin (1802), Collin (1756),
Cramer (1804).
We are told by Dahl that the 63 catalogues
were selected because they were “available for
consultation in the National Library (Oslo)
and the Gunnerus Library (Trondheim)” (p.
24, n. 63). But this does not explain why cata-
logues from the period which are also available
for consultation in those libraries, have not
been used.
Why have the important libraries held by
Johan Ernst Gunnerus and Carl Deichmann
– as documented in catalogues from 1774
and 1790 – been excluded? The reason is not
If the interest was in “how the world was
presented to educated Norwegians”, the cata-
logues of common libraries and reading soci-
eties could also have been examined. For in-
stance: Catalogus over de Bøger, som for nærværende
Tiid befindes paa det hæderlige Bergenske Studenter-
Societets Bibliotheque, efter Societets Brødrenes fælles
Samtykke og til fælles Nytte (Bergen, 1758). And if
the interest was in the book trade, some of the
catalogues of books for sale which do not nec-
essarily stem from named owners (Grouped
under the heading “Forskjellige falbudte
bøger” in Bibliotheca Norvegica) might have been
This kind of research requires clearly de-
fined concepts. Gina Dahl uses the term “best-
seller” and “bestselling” (cf. table 8, p. 61) for
the books with the highest number of occur-
rences in the private libraries. A part from the
fact that a “bestseller” denotes a 20th century
phenomenon, a high number of occurrences in
library catalogues is not necessarily equivalent
to bestseller status, and if one were looking for
bestsellers one would definitely have to look
elsewhere as well. The term “bestseller” nor-
mally implies numerous editions of the same
book, but the translation of Antonio de Solís
by Birgitte Lange was only published once,
in 1747. Moreover, books sold at auctions
normally reemerged in other private libraries,
from which they would later be sold off at auc-
tions. For instance, Gabriel Naudé’s Jugement de
tout ce qui a esté imprimé contre le cardinal Mazarin
depuis le 6 janvier jusqu’à la déclaration du 1er avril
1649 also known as Mascurat appears in many
Danish 18th century library catalogues with-
out having ever been a bestseller. “Collector’s
favorite”, or “revenant” might be a more ap-
propriate term than bestseller.
The book seems to equate enlightenment
and books dealing with the world outside
Europe. Even though enlightenment authors
were indeed interested in exploring the world,
the link between the enlightenment and books
on the outer world is not a necessary one. The
underlying problem is highlighted by the fol-
lowing paragraph:
Following Gutenberg’s invention of mov-
able type, texts about other peoples and their
cultures were printed and distributed in large
number. The Norwegian context mirrors this
phenomenon: books on other worlds consti-
tute the most rapidly growing category of
writings in the Norwegian Enlightenment Li-
brary” (p. 10).
What about the 300 years separating
Gutenberg’s invention and the Norwegian En-
lightenment Library? The renaissance was the
age of overseas discovery and expansion. In his
book, The Book in the Renaissance, Andrew Pet-
tegree devoted the chapter “Science and Ex-
ploration” to the profound impact which the
voyages of discovery and exploration made on
the book: ”Through the course of the [16th]
century, as the books of description multi-
plied, [a]n explicit affirmation of the supe-
riority of knowledge derived by observation
became a commonplace among writers who
aimed, by their description, to encompass the
world.” (Andrew Pettegree: The Book in the Ren-
aissance. Yale UP, 2010, p. 285). The first Dan-
ish book auction catalogue dates from 1661,
but there were private libraries before the book
auction system was introduced – and for in-
stance Christian Barnekow’s late 16th century
library, which has been investigated by Fed-
erico Zuliani shows a keen interest in political
history and in the world beyond Europe.
It could be argued that the ethnographic
book started in the 16th century and not in
the 18th century. As a case in point, I would
like to cite an example, which is also cited by
Pettegree: An early 16th century attempt at
a description of the parts of the world was
originally published in Latin in 1520: Libro-
rum trium iohannis Boemi de omnium gentium, and it
was often reprinted and translated into several
vernacular languages. A true bestseller! In the
preface Joannes Boemus explained that he had
written the book so that the great number of
people who could not go out and discover the
world themselves could learn about the rest of
the world.
Gina Dahl also seems to imply (p. 43)
that a new classification system including
history emerged with Leibniz’ classification
system around 1700. But even though histo-
ry which had existed as a discipline at Copen-
hagen University since 1635 was not turned
into an examination subject (cf. p. 71) before
1732, history was present in library catalogu-
ing long before. History was thus a distinct
category in Konrad Gesner’s, Francis Bacon’s
and Gabriel Naudé’s classification systems
(Ib Magnussen: “De humanistiske fag” in S.
Dahl (ed.): Nordisk Håndbog i Bibliotekskundskab,
bind 1, København, 1957, s. 49-51). In 1660
Libri Historici was a subject category in the
catalogue of the newly established Royal Li-
brary in Copenhagen (cf. The Royal Library’s
Archive E3).
Where as the methodology in the first
part of the book is clear, the methodology
in the second part of the book is regrettably
impressionistic. The content of the books are
described in lengthy summaries with a focus
Sjuttonhundratal | 2016
on the evaluations of the other and with no
mentioning of secondary literature. I would
have preferred shorter summaries of the texts
themselves and more discussion with the exist-
ing secondary literature.
The modern edition of the Voyage du sieur
Paul Lucas dans le Levant, which was published in
1999 with an introduction and notes by Henri
Duranton, should at least have been integrated
and included in the analyses. Instead, in the
list of primary sources, Gina Dahl refers to a
POD–print of the Parisian edition from 1714
of Paul Lucas printed by Kessinger Publications,
which is one of the disputable publishers print-
ing PDF-files derived from Google Books.
Birgitte Lange’s translation of Antonio de
Solís y Rivadeneira: Historia De La Conquista De
Mexico, (1684), which was published in Copen-
hagen in 1747, appears fifteen times in Dahl’s
source collections (p. 165) and is therefore
one of the two books analyzed in the chapter
concerning America. Strangely enough, Gina
Dahl treats the book as Birgitte Lange’s work,
so she gives a brief introduction to her life but
none to Antonio de Solís y Rivadeneira’s life.
Linguistically, Gina Dahl is constantly on the
verge of turning Lange into the author of the
book: “The narrative form of the work written,
or rather translated, by Birgitte Lange is com-
plete contrast to that of Jens Kraft.” (p. 178);
“Through her purely historical account Lange
(de Solís) wrote to show how the conquest of
Mexico was allegedly accomplished” (p. 192);
“From her sickbed Birgitte Lange engaged with
a world distant in time and space and produced
a book that would be a bestseller in Enlighten-
ment Norway” (p. 200). When she does not
refer to Lange as the originator of the book,
she refers to the author with the compund “De
Solís/Lange”. We are told that Lange “is not
just translator but also editor, for she omits
passages that she characterizes as ‘unreasonable
fables’” (p. 178) – but this is a characteristic of
many 18th century translators and not sufficient
reason to turn her into the author.
In one of the entries in the catalogue of
Carl Deichman (p. 259, nr. 2203), Birgitte
Lange appears correctly as the translator and
not as the author, and I would assume that the
same holds true for some of the other auc-
tion catalogues: “Historien om Conqueten af
Mexico af D. Ant. de Solis, oversat af Birgitte
Lange. 2. Tom: 1 Vol: 1747”.
Often, the translator’s share in the im-
portance of a work is not properly recognized,
but in Lange’s case Dahl is guilty of the op-
posite error: The translator is treated as an
author and put on an equal footing with the
author. Even though the Norwegian woman
Birgitte Lange is an interesting figure whom
I did not know before reading Gina Dahl’s
book, and her contribution to the history of
translation is indeed an interesting one, fo-
cusing on Lange solely distracts the author’s
attention from other interesting questions
which could have been raised.
The lack of discussion with fellow travel-
lers distinguishes the second part of the book
from the first part but is not limited to the
second part. Lis Byberg’s doctoral disserta-
tion on book auctions in the Norwegian lit-
erary public sphere, Brukte Bøker Til Bymann Og
Bonde, Bokauksjonen I Den Norske Litterære Offent-
lighet 1750-1815, figures in the bibliography
but is only mentioned once in the book, in
a note without substance, note 46 on p. 20.
A further discussion with Lis Byberg’s book
could have been desirable. The single index
with subjects and names of persons includes
names of historical persons but excludes
names of persons named in the secondary lit-
erature. This makes it more difficult for the
academic reader to find the discussion with
fellow travellers.
In her book, Gina Dahl tries to combine
the two approaches; in the first part she stud-
ies book diffusion and book collecting and in
the second part she studies the contents of
books and their authors’ contribution to the
history of thought. Combining literary history
and history of books is a commendable enter-
prise but Gina Dahl does not entirely succeed.
Whereas the first part is convincing, the sec-
ond part is much less so.
In a certain sense Gina Dahl tries to ap-
proach the history of reading and the history
of mentalities by determining which books
were present and what ideas these books con-
tained. The fact that these books were present
in the libraries does not prove that they were
actually read. One would have to look for signs
of reading elsewhere: manuscript notes, cita-
tion, inspiration and imitation.
Academic publishing in the humanities
faces on the one hand the “publish or perish”-
tendency and on the other side an enormous
amount of information available online. This
situation should be encountered by new means
of research publication. This is an inspiring
and audacious book. Allow me therefore the
audacity to state that parts of the results that
the present book comprehends could instead
– in another world – have been distributed as
a combination of articles and as a set of open
data (the content of the library catalogues or
the bibliographical data concerning the 9000
volumes analyzed), which could have been
evaluated and reused by other scholars.
Anders Toftgaard
Knut Dørum, Frå undersått til medborgar. Styre-
form og politisk kultur i Noreg 1660 til 1884 (Oslo:
Samlaget, 2016). 221 pp.
Freden i Kiel 1814 innebar slutet på Napole-
onkrigen i Norden och ett av de viktigaste re-
sultaten var att Danmark tvingades överlämna
Norge till Sverige. Tillspetsat kan sägas att en
flerhundraårig maktkamp mellan Danmark och
Sverige här fick sin upplösning, med Sverige som
segrare. Norge hade sedan slutet av 1300-talet
varit i union med det danska riket och beslutet
i Kiel 1814 startade en norsk självständighets-
kamp som resulterade i grundlagen i Eidsvoll
den 17 maj och valet av kronprins Kristian
Fredrik till norsk kung. Svenskarna ingrep
militärt och efter ett kort krig etablerades den
personalunion som förenade Norge och Sverige
intill unionsupplösningen 1905.
Med händelserna 1814 i centrum har his-
torikern Knut Dørum skrivit boken Funder-
sått til medborgar. Styreform og politisk kultur i Noreg
1660 til 1884. Boken är en syntes av den norska
politiska historien mellan åren 1660 och 1884.
Den är tänkt att användas som lärobok för
undervisning på universitetsnivå. Boken inne-
håller sammanlagt sex kapitel. Efter en kort
inledning presenteras i kapitel två ideologin
bakom den enväldiga staten Danmark-Norge
mellan 1660 och 1814. Kapitlet tar avstamp
i införandet av det danska enväldet 1660 och
diskuterar det i förhållande till nordisk och in-
ternationell forskning om statsbildning under
tidigmodern tid. Kapitel tre handlar om den
politiska kulturen 1660–1814, preciserat som
hur politiken fungerade i praktiken. Här står
människorna i centrum och deras handlings-
utrymme och möjligheter att påverka politiken
diskuteras och presenteras.
I kapitel fyra ges bakgrunden till händel-
serna 1814. Framför allt diskuteras i vilken
omfattning 1814 ska ses som ett brott med
de enväldiga styrelseformerna, eller om också
den nya författningen kan sägas vara präglad av
kontinuitet från tidigare århundraden. Kapitel
fem berör den politiska praktiken under pe-
rioden efter 1814 och diskuterar utvecklingen
av offentlighet och demokrati under perioden
fram till 1884. I kapitel sex summeras den
forskning och de diskussioner som presente-
rats i boken. Framställningen avslutas med en
litteraturförteckning och ett register.
Ett uttalat syfte med boken är att be-
skriva processen från envälde till folkstyre,
genom att följa hur styrelseformerna och den
politiska kulturen i Norge förändrades under
perioden. Centralt för Dørum är de två olika
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