The 18th-century library

By Karin Monié. Translation: Aidan Allen

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Most of Lövstabruk’s famous 18th-century library is housed in a pavilion, designed by Jean Eric Rehn, beside the manor house. photo: Erik Hamberg, 2017.

On each side of the west facade of the manor house is a rectangular flat-roofed pavilion, designed by the architect Jean Eric Rehn. Each pavilion bears witness to the renowned Charles De Geer and his contributions to science and culture. One building houses the unique 18thcentury library; the other was built for his natural history collection. Charles De Geer (1720–1778), the owner of the ironworks, was not only a scientist and entomologist, or insect researcher, he collected books too. He amassed a rich, beautiful library worthy of a European gentleman and scholar two hundred and fifty years ago. Today the collection comprises over 8,500 volumes. It also includes many engravings and musical manuscripts.

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The well-preserved library interior. photo: Lars-Owe Wennman.

Charles De Geer spent his childhood and youth in Holland. From an early age he began collecting books in his hometown of Utrecht, later moving to Amsterdam, The Hague and Leiden, building up a valuable contact network for his acquisitions. He moved to Uppsala in Sweden in 1738, and began running Lövstabruk in 1741. Here he continued buying books and subscribing to the latest scientific journals.

His library comprised mainly French works, reflecting the ideas of the Enlightenment. Here, for example, is a first edition of Encyclopédie by Diderot and d’Alembert, published in 1751–1772. Other works cover subjects such as religion, childrearing, history and biography. Travelogues, novels and books on music and theatre feature too.

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Rows of beautiful bindings of mostly French literature. photo: Erik Hamberg, 2017.

Charles De Geer was acquainted with Olof Rudbeck the Younger in Uppsala, from whom he obtained the hand-coloured works Fogelboken and Blomboken (on birds and plants respectively) for the library. The absolute rarities include the printed, first part of Rudbeck’s Campus elysii, one of only two surviving copies. The rest of the edition was destroyed in the great fire of Uppsala in 1702. There are also works by Carl Linnaeus, including Catalogus plantarum rariorum Scaniae from 1728. In addition, the library houses a large collection of engravings, mostly of English and French art.

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Various books from the library. photo: Erik Hamberg, 2018.

After Charles De Geer’s death in 1778, his son Charles De Geer the Younger inherited the library, adding a thousand volumes, mostly political literature but also engravings, mainly by Italian artists. More recently, in around 1900, a smaller library, designed by Isak Gustaf Clason was created inside the manor house.

Since 1986 the collections have been maintained by Uppsala University library, following a dramatic, yet successful, cultural-rescue action funded by the Beijer Foundation and the Crafoord Foundation. The library building, along with the rest of the manor house, is now cared for by the National Property Board. Lövstabruk’s musical and written manuscripts are now housed at Uppsala University library, along with some of the books.