Chapter 8 War Booty of Books from Olomouc

Catholic Libraries in Lutheran Sweden

In: The Baltic Battle of Books
Lenka Veselá
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About 25,000 books were taken to Sweden from the Czech lands at the end of the Thirty Years’ War. The first books to be seized in 1645 were from Mikulov and Olomouc, where the Swedes confiscated the largest aristocratic library in Moravia (the Dietrichstein Library) as well as church and monastic libraries. Three years later, the Swedes acquired extensive collections from Prague (especially from Prague Castle) where the most extensive booty was the biggest library in the Czech lands, the Rosenberg Library, and the Habsburg collections.1

Compared to the attractive monarchical and aristocratic collections taken from Prague Castle (1648) and Mikulov Castle (1645), the ecclesiastical libraries from Olomouc have appeared less appealing to researchers, and thus have gone unexamined for many decades. Furthermore, research into the looted books from Olomouc is complicated mainly because no original catalogue has been preserved; the remains of the book collections from there are dispersed across dozens of institutions in Sweden and other European countries.

Olomouc was the third-largest city in the medieval Czech lands and an important religious and administrative centre in Moravia.2 During the Thirty Years’ War, Olomouc became a crucial strategic target for the Swedish army in its battles with the Habsburg imperial troops. The city was taken by an armed force under the command of General Lennart Torstenson (1603–1561) in 1642, and consequently Olomouc served the Swedes as a stable military base for the following eight years. It was not until 1650 that the last troops left the city due to unpaid contributions to Sweden, two years after signing the Treaty of Westphalia.3

Olomouc was a traditional seat of significant ecclesiastical institutions: among the most ancient was a bishopric with a Chapter and a Premonstratensian convent, both founded in the twelfth century. Minorites and Dominicans settled in Olomouc in the thirteenth century and the circle of religious orders in Olomouc was expanded again by the Carthusian monastery and Augustinian and Franciscan convents in the fifteenth century. After the Hussite Wars, Olomouc remained a Catholic town with a bishop’s seat but the development of these institutions was negatively influenced by the religious turbulence of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the Hussite Wars, and, in particular the Lutheran Reformation, which was especially influential within the German population of Olomouc. Most convents and monasteries, however, stabilized their status and position after the re-catholicisation of the seventeenth century. The Catholics strengthened their position both locally and provincially thanks to the arrival of two new religious orders in Olomouc: the Jesuit college (1566) and the Capuchin convent (1614). In the middle of the seventeenth century, under the Swedish occupation, there were, besides the Chapter, ten monasteries and convents, of which two were nunneries.4 These institutions constituted an essential component in the city’s organization, which needed to be taken into account by the Swedish garrison.

During the occupation, the Swedish troops confiscated a substantial part of the institutional libraries in Olomouc. Although they did not take the opportunity to seize all of the available book collections, their bounty of books from Olomouc ranks as the largest where Catholic libraries are concerned. Even today, we do not know what books were in the libraries taken from Olomouc and how many, nor can we be sure which have been preserved until the present.5 What has negatively affected the interpretation of these events is a single dramatic, austere, and incomplete description of the Olomouc confiscations, reliance on which has been evident in the scholarly literature to date.6

The looted books from Olomouc are now being explored in my research project, which, among other objectives, aims to map all preserved specimens of books plundered from the Czech lands between 1646 and 1648.7 Although my investigation is at its outset, it is already apparent that the case of Olomouc is in some respects different from the taking of spoils of war from other cities. For instance, despite the general recommendations and explicit governmental orders to confiscate the libraries in Olomouc, the Swedish commanding officers did not appear to have shown much interest in them.

The present study aims to reconstruct the course of the confiscation of books in Olomouc, and thereby to reveal the circumstances that influenced this process. Was the case of Olomouc different and more specific than confiscation in other cities? The second major focus of the study is the second life of the books from Olomouc in their new cultural environment, after their removal to Sweden. I would like to underscore in the present study that the interruption of the natural development of the Olomouc libraries is not to be perceived only negatively, and that the insights into surviving books from the city may offer positive research perspectives.

1 The Course of Book Confiscations in Olomouc

The capitulation treaty, signed in 1642 by the city representatives and the Swedish garrison, guaranteed inviolability of the assets owned by the ecclesiastical institutions and the Chapter in Olomouc. From the very beginning, however, the treaty came into conflict with the practical needs of the Swedish troops. Shortly after seizing the city, the Swedes tore down all buildings outside the city walls for strategic military reasons. Among them were two convents, the Premonstratensian and the Capuchin.

Against all odds, this violent act does not seem to have affected the relationship between the convents, monasteries and the Swedes in a negative way. In the first phase of the Swedish occupation, there were no significant clashes between the Swedish garrison and the locals. Although the Swedish commanders perceived the ecclesiastical institutions as places of potential resistance, at the same time they respected their sovereignty and even, as did the locals, used them for hiding personal valuables. Swedish officers and commanders would visit the Jesuit college and even attend sermons. The Franciscan convent had even closer relations with the Swedish garrison. The convent superior, Michal Jahn, became the confidante of the Swedish commander, Georg Paykull (1605–1657), and an unofficial mediator between the city elite and the military garrison.8

The atmosphere in the city started to deteriorate, however, due to the increasingly tense military-economic situation. After the first escalation in the autumn of 1643, Jesuits were expelled from the city and the Augustinian convent was plundered, while other religious institutions were saddled with high contributions. Another critical point was the Emperor’s attempt at conquering Olomouc in 1644, supported by the above-mentioned superior of the Franciscan Friary, Michal Jahn. In the act of vengeance, the Franciscan convent was ransacked, and the situation of the religious orders in Olomouc became unsustainable. As a consequence, most of the inhabitants living in the ecclesiastical institutions gradually abandoned the city.

It was precisely at this moment when, according to the Olomouc Chronicle of the time, the systematic plundering of the books in the monastic libraries occurred. The author of the chronicle, Minorite friar Jakub Pavel Zaczkovic, says that what initially triggered the devastation was the accidental discovery of the Jesuit library, which the Jesuits had concealed before leaving the city, and which was unintentionally revealed by the last administrator of the Jesuit college, Jiří Pelinka.9 Though Zaczkovic’s Chronicle of occupied Olomouc is a valuable resource, it raises several issues. First, since it was written after a substantial time interval, the chronology of events is unreliable. Second, the Minorite friar was influenced by biased assertions and interpreted events unfavorably with respect to the Swedish occupants and local ‘enemies’, the Jesuits, who were seen as adversaries by the Minorites.

It cannot be completely ruled out that individual books had already been taken from the convents and monasteries during the attacks of 1643 and 1644. My assumption, nevertheless, is that book confiscation in the libraries was neither systematic nor organized until 1645. From the very beginning, the Swedish garrison led by Commander Georg Paykull showed no interest in the thousands of books located in the convents, monasteries, ecclesiastical institutions, or homes of Olomouc townspeople, thus ignoring the 1642 order of the Swedish Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna to requisition the libraries.10

The Swedish commanders’ lack of interest is apparent from, for instance, how the convents located outside the city walls were demolished. There was a deserted library in the Premonstratensian convent, dating to the twelfth century, which the canons had vacated before the city was occupied.11 Some of its books were destroyed during the demolition of the convent, while the rest were successfully moved to the Minorite convent. As documented in Jesuit accounting records, the Swedes sold several missals from the Premonstratensian convent to the Jesuits.12 Neither did the Swedes attempt to appropriate the library of the Capuchin convent, which was torn down in 1642. The Capuchins moved their books to the inner city of Olomouc without any trouble.

The fact that the books were still in Olomouc in the hands of their original owners in 1644 is shown in one of the books preserved at the University Library in Leiden.13 An eyewitness wrote down in Czech an account of the unsuccessful attempt by the Emperor’s army to conquer Olomouc in 1644. He remarked that ‘many people died on both sides’ in the course of a few hours (Figure 8.1). Unfortunately, we do not know either the writer’s name or which library the book came from.

Figure 8.1
Figure 8.1

A record of the attack on Olomouc made by the imperial army in 1644. Helfrich Emmel, Sylva Quadrilinguis (Prague: Daniel Adam z Veleslavína, 1598), Universiteitsbibliotheek Leiden (721 C 15)

I am assuming that the Olomouc libraries were not confiscated before the end of 1645 and that the initiative did not come from the local Swedish commander but was the result of intervention from higher military and political authorities. In the autumn of 1645, the war commissioner, Johannes Bussow, was sent to Olomouc to make an inventory of the confiscated books and prepare them for transportation to Sweden. However, in my view, the main reason for his expeditious mission was not the ecclesiastical Olomouc libraries, abandoned in the languishing or completely deserted convents for two years. The main incentive was, it seems, the unexpected acquisition of the large aristocratic library, which was taken over by the Swedes in Mikulov Castle in the autumn of 1645. This library belonged to the Austrian-Moravian family of Dietrichstein and contained more than eight thousand books, making it the second-largest private library in the Czech lands.14 Since the Swedish garrison could not stay in Mikulov permanently, it was thought necessary to move the library to Olomouc post-haste. Olomouc, 130 kilometers away, was chosen because it had been a long-term, stable Swedish base.

Unlike the looted books from Mikulov and Prague, the book collections in Olomouc were not confiscated en masse, perhaps except for the Jesuit library, which was, as far as we know, taken in its entirety.15 As for other libraries in the convents, perhaps even the Chapter library, the Swedish commissioner selected only some of the books.16 That confiscations were only partial seems to be confirmed by the fact that single books from the original fund of the Olomouc convents have been preserved across the Czech lands. These are mainly incunables from the Franciscan and Augustinian convents, and they have been preserved in significant quantities, especially in the Olomouc Research Library (Vědecká knihovna v Olomouci).17 Another piece of evidence is the insignificant number of books (so far only two registered books) preserved from the libraries of male Olomouc Dominicans and Minorites in Sweden and elsewhere. None of the preserved books from the Dominican and Augustinian nunneries have surfaced yet, but perhaps their libraries were so small that they were not subjected to the Swedish requisition.

It remains unclear in what manner and how many books were confiscated from the Chapter library, the second largest after the Jesuit library and the oldest in Olomouc. The library of the Olomouc Chapter had been in continuous existence since the twelfth century, its flowering having taken place in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries when it possessed 250 manuscripts. A part of the earlier collection still forms part of the Chapter library, preserved today in Olomouc.18 Since the Chapter administrators had managed to move the Chapter archive to Vienna before the occupation, a theory emerged that together with the archive, a part of the Chapter library might also have been moved. Both were supposed to be returned from Austria to Olomouc after the Swedes finally left the town in 1650.19 My preliminary assessment, which needs to be confirmed by further research, is that, together with the archive, the administrators of the Chapter moved out only some of the precious medieval manuscripts which were traditionally an organic component of the Chapter archive, and that the rest of the library remained in Olomouc. On the one hand, the move would have involved thousands of books, whose transportation would have been overly complicated; and, on the other, the Chapter library collection had not been well looked after already for several decades before the occupation. In 1645, a partial book requisition presumably took place in the Chapter library and some other convents and monasteries. The main difference between Chapter library and monastic libraries lies in the quantity of the seized books; The Swedes probably gained only dozens or hundreds of books in convents and monasteries that had small collections, whereas the confiscation from the Chapter numbered more than 1,200 (see Table 8.1 below). Furthermore, the Chapter library is unique because it allows us to establish the approximate ratio of confiscated books to those left untouched.20 Based on the preserved manuscripts and incunables, it seems that approximately two thirds of the book collection was moved to Sweden while the rest remained in Olomouc.

Table 8.1
Table 8.1

Libraries confiscated in Olomouc in 1645

Moreover, some libraries were left entirely untouched by Swedish confiscations. For instance, the extensive library of the Carthusian monastery in Olomouc contained hundreds, maybe thousands, of books in the seventeenth century. Surprisingly, no one has explained how the medieval fund of the Carthusian library, preserved until today almost intact, survived in the Olomouc Research Library.21 This collection contains at least 250 preserved manuscripts. The fate of the Carthusian monastery during the Swedish occupation is still somewhat unclear and is not even mentioned in the Minorite chronicle from that time. It is possible that the Carthusians concealed the library or removed it temporarily. The Carthusians were the only order that remained in Olomouc throughout the entire occupation of the city and, as far as we know, avoided any serious conflict with the Swedish garrison. This might have given the Carthusian monastery greater protection than others.

The respect that the Swedes showed for the property of the monasteries in which monks remained is supported by evidence from other cities. There was a Capuchin convent with an exciting library near the emptied Mikulov Castle (where the Swedes had seized the Dietrichstein library in 1645), which, to the best of our knowledge, did not suffer any harm under the Swedish occupation. Similarly, the Swedes did not make claims to the private libraries of the Olomouc townsmen, even though some of these comprised hundreds of books and often surpassed in size the collections of smaller local monasteries.22 The only exception was the library owned by Ferdinand Julius Zirckendorfer, a city council member whose books appear in several Swedish libraries. Zirckendorfer’s library was officially confiscated, along with his other assets, as a punishment for conspiring with the enemy.23

Comprehensive confiscations, it seems, thus occurred, only in the religious institutions that were abandoned or that had tense relations with the Swedes during the occupation (Jesuits, Franciscans, and Augustinians). Confiscations in other communities were conducted as formalities, and it cannot be ruled out that some convents were completely spared (Carthusians). There were several reasons for this course of events. Despite the uneasy situation in the city, the Swedish garrison strove to maintain, to some extent, the legal status of the monasteries and ecclesiastical institutions as well as the inhabitants, treatment that was stipulated by the capitulation treaty in 1642. Furthermore, the Swedes may have considered irrelevant those book collections that remained significant in the Czech or Catholic context.

For all that, the book bounty from Olomouc was vast. The Swedish military commissioner Bussow made a thorough inventory of the books and prepared them for transport to Sweden. As a reward for his contribution to the Moravian book bounty, he was ennobled by Queen Christina (1626–1689). After his departure, the sealed barrels with books had to remain in Olomouc for one more year before their transport by General Wittenberg’s troops. The books were transported in two stages. The first to be shipped came from the Dietrichstein library and the Capuchin library (November 1646), and was followed by the Jesuit library and other book collections, including the Chapter’s library which departed two months later. The books arrived in Głubczyce (Leobschütz) during the winter of 1646–1647 and subsequently traveled to Głogów (Glogau). Then they were shipped on the river Odra on fourteen small vessels to Szczecin (Stettin), arriving in Stockholm in May 1647.24

2 The Scope of the Book Booty from Olomouc

Although some of the book collections escaped confiscation, the booty from Olomouc ranks in its scope as the greatest acquired by the Swedes, at least as far as ecclesiastical libraries are concerned. By comparison, in 1621 the Swedes confiscated approximately a thousand books in a Jesuit college in Riga, and five years later, roughly 2,200 books in the Jesuit college of Braniewo (Braunsberg). There is no precise estimate of how many books were looted from Poznań in 1655 which, besides the Jesuit library, comprised collections from some monasteries, but it was probably somewhere between two and six thousand.25

Similarly, the scope of the Olomouc book booty was unknown, even as an approximation, until recently. Unlike in Prague or Mikulov, none of the catalogues from Olomouc have been preserved (that is, the one compiled by Johann Bussow before the transportation, in addition to some older catalogues of the monasteries that sources mention as having existed).26 Despite facing this obstacle at the start of my research, I have sought to estimate the scope of the book booty in Olomouc, focusing both on the overall picture and on several of the libraries.

In the past, research into the looted books from the Czech lands used a rough estimate from the size of preserved book collections from several libraries whose original content is known. For instance, researchers looked into Rosenberg’s library, which was the largest and oldest aristocratic library in the Czech lands. It contained nearly ten thousand volumes and was taken from Prague Castle in 1648. Another library, for which research exists, was owned by an Austrian knightly family in the service of the Habsburgs, the Becks from Leopoldsdorf; it later became part of the Dietrichsteins’ library in Mikulov.27 The preserved manuscripts can be compared to the catalogue made at the royal library in Stockholm in 1650.28 The research I have conducted in all these areas of the book booty from the Czech lands and Moravia points to the same conclusion: compared to the former quantity, only 20 per cent of the books have been preserved.29

Two main factors can explain this low proportion of preserved books. First, in contrast to the book booties from Lithuania and Poland, those from the Czech lands were primarily designated for the royal library in Stockholm, which experienced a destructive fire in 1697. The fire destroyed three quarters of the royal collections, including an untraceable number of books from the Czech lands. Second, during the first years after they arrived in Sweden, some of the books found their way to other locations, which is also of some significance. Queen Christina gave larger and smaller book collections to individuals and Swedish ecclesiastical and educational institutions. After her abdication in 1654, she took hundreds of books from the Czech booty to Rome; however, only manuscripts have been preserved in her private library.30

Furthermore, minor losses occurred while the books were transported to Sweden or shortly before. Yet these losses were far less significant than those of the war booty from Prague, which took place two years later. In Prague, dozens, perhaps even hundreds of books were appropriated by several Swedish commanders for their private collections.31 Among these persons was a military counselor in the service of Sweden, Alexander Erskine (1598–1656), whose ‘inappropriate’ interest in books had also been observed in Olomouc. He was admonished for stealing from the Olomouc book bounty by Queen Christina herself.32

Today, almost 1,800 preserved books have been successfully traced from the Olomouc booty, now dispersed in nearly twenty libraries across Europe. Assuming that, as in other cases, approximately 20 per cent of the Olomouc books were preserved, their total number at the moment of transportation could have amounted to between eight and nine thousand volumes.

The most extensive library was the collection of the Olomouc Jesuit college, probably the only one that was confiscated in its entirety, approximately six thousand volumes (Table 8.1). The reason for this uncompromising approach, which differed from that of other Olomouc ecclesiastical institutions, could be that in the eyes of the Swedish elites, the Jesuits were perceived as ‘enemies’. Nearly 1,300 books have been preserved from the Jesuit library; they indicate that the Jesuits would acquire books from traditional sources and gifts from supporters of high rank, especially Olomouc bishops and members of the Order. The preserved remains of the original Jesuit library reveal a wide range of private and hitherto completely unknown collections: among the most interesting, the books of a Catholic cleric, Jan Sarkander (1576–1620), deserve special attention. This controversial pastor was tortured to death in Olomouc during the Bohemian Revolt in 1620, and in 1995 he was beatified. His books entered the library as a legacy of his brother, Mikuláš Sarkander. The Jesuits in Olomouc employed acquisition strategies that reached not only the libraries of competing Olomouc institutions (Dominicans, Franciscans, and the Cathedral Chapter) but also several older ecclesiastical-educational institutions (the Cathedral school and the bishop seminary). Founded after 1566, the Jesuit library contained large quantities of older literature and a surprising number of incunables (of which 320 are preserved). The Jesuits also engaged with the Swedish soldiers to buy old manuscripts from the demolished Premonstratensian convent in 1642.

Such a progressive approach as this was used by the newer orders to create their libraries, in contrast with the stagnating libraries of traditional medieval monasteries and convents. The approach can also be seen with the Capuchins, who settled in Olomouc as late as 1614. Although they lost their entire library during the Bohemian Revolt, they built a new book collection of considerable scope during the following thirty years, amounting to hundreds of volumes (Table 8.1).

The books preserved from Olomouc also reflect more significant socio- cultural changes in the book culture of the local ecclesiastical institutions, as, for instance, in the ways that personal sponsorship strategies changed. It was mainly Olomouc bishops who would donate books to monasteries and convents, while at the beginning of the seventeenth century, this activity was assigned to the congregation of the chapter deans. There was also a change in the spectrum of the recipients. Traditionally, the members of the Cathedral Chapter would bequeath their private libraries to the Chapter library; in the seventeenth century, however, we observe a clear trend of book donations to different Olomouc ecclesiastical institutions.

3 Catholic Libraries in Lutheran Sweden

As has already been noted by Peter Sjökvist, looted books served primarily as cultural capital in their new environment.33 The same applies to the vast majority of books brought from Olomouc, which became, for another three centuries, a passive historical fund for several Swedish institutions, in much the same way as any collection of old books in other libraries. The short period after they arrived in Stockholm (1648–1654), a time of both intellectual and political turbulence, deserves attention. Here we can look more closely at the books that Queen Christina gave away to single individuals and institutions, before leaving Sweden, and the role of the Olomouc collections in these donations.

Books from Olomouc found their way into private hands less frequently than those from the aristocratic libraries of Prague and Mikulov. This is unsurprising, as most of the Olomouc books consisted of Catholic theological literature; those that did fall into private hands tended to deviate from this thematic content and reflected the interests of the new owners. For example, Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie (1622–1686) obtained as a gift from Queen Christina a collection of Olomouc incunables with legal texts.34 Queen Christina chose several manuscripts from the Olomouc Chapter and Jesuit college for her private library, which she transported to Rome after her abdication in 1654. These were precious parchment manuscripts with classical texts, created in Florence in the fifteenth century.35 Furthermore, in compensation for unpaid wages (and perhaps less legally), several books from the royal library were selected by the Queen’s librarian, Isaac Vossius, and some others ended up in the private collection of his successor, Edmund Gripenhielm, inspector of the royal library in Stockholm.36 Their humanist interests coincided with the chosen books from Olomouc that dealt with modern science: books on geography, mathematics, astrology, and current editions of classical and patristic works or bilingual editions of biblical texts. Most of them originated in the Olomouc Jesuit library.37

Even more interesting is the range of books distributed to the bookshelves of Swedish institutions and the intention behind their destination. Queen Christina gave approximately five hundred looted books to the Västerås gymnasium (upper secondary school) and between 2,000 and 2,500 books to the Strängnäs Chapter.38 In both cases, approximately 70 per cent of the books came from the Olomouc book booty.

Researchers disagree on how to interpret these book donations. Some authors claim that Queen Christina wanted to create an intellectual base for the schools of higher education that had been founded not long before in both cities. Others argue that it was an elegant way for the Queen to dispense with books that she found uninteresting or were duplicated in the royal collection.39 My analysis of both collections revealed that both the endowments consisted mainly of theological texts by Catholic authors and included only a few books (such as textbooks, dictionaries, language manuals, or ancient literature) that would be of use for teaching at school. Thus, the donated books could not be said to have fulfilled ‘educational’ functions in any of the cases.40

Comparing the structures of the donated theological literature in greater detail, it seems that the selection for the Chapter library in Strängnäs was made with greater care, especially in the range of authors representing different religious learnings. What I would argue is that the religious and, at the same time, multi-confessional nature of the books donated to the Strängnäs Chapter was not random. It was Queen Christina’s symbolic act of support for the Strängnäs Bishop, Johannes Matthiae Gothus (1592–1670), and his controversial (for the Lutheran institution) ecumenical attitudes.

Bishop Matthiae was an extraordinary figure in orthodox Lutheran Sweden. He was strongly influenced by Ramism, which, within the Lutheran Church, sought to (though rather unsuccessfully) advance Christian humanism, with elements of ecumenism. Bishop Matthiae had a close relationship with the Queen not only because of his tolerance towards different religious attitudes: in his youth, he had also worked as her tutor.41 Thus, the Queen’s book gift to the Strängnäs Chapter was well-considered, reflecting the crucial role of their like-minded philosophical-religious attitudes. This symbolic subtext is reinforced by the fact that the Bishop immediately started to open the donated book collection to the public. Not only did he perform a symbolic act by giving everyone access to the catalogue, as he mentioned in 1663, but moreover, by storing the volumes in the Strängnäs Cathedral, he made them, in practice, available at a publicly accessible place. Books by Catholic and Calvinist authors, who were, in Lutheran Sweden, strictly forbidden, thus entered the public domain.42

There was yet another influential factor: the scope of the Strängnäs gift differed fundamentally from other similar gifts aimed at Swedish educational institutions. The academy in Turku/Åbo and the university library in Uppsala, for example, received volumes from the Czech book booty numbering only in the tens. The gift for the school in Västerås was somewhat less extensive, however, compared to the Strängnäs gift. The underlying intention was not explicit, nor did it have the potential for educating local students. It seems that in this case, the Queen merely granted the request that the gymnasium had repeatedly made to obtain looted books ever since its founding. In this case, the aim was to fill empty shelves with books regardless of their content, that is, it was a typical display of the distribution of cultural capital.

All said, even the ‘positive phase’ in Strängnäs did not last long in the history of the Chapter library. Following the abdication of Queen Christina in 1654 and her subsequent conversion to Catholicism, Johannes Matthiae’s position in the leading establishment became unsustainable. He was accused of religious syncretism and, a few years later, forced to resign from his office. Already in the seventeenth century, the Strängnäs library became a closed book collection whose origin was still perceived as disparate and unnatural.43

4 Conclusions

The case of the Swedish book booty from Olomouc is extraordinary in several respects in the context of confiscations during the Thirty Years’ War. First, the reconstruction of the confiscations revealed that this process did not follow any simplified scheme, as may seem to be the case from narrative sources of that time or from the historiography that followed. The Swedish military command in Olomouc, led by Georg Paykull, did not show interest in the Olomouc collections, despite the official and unequivocal position (Gustavus Adolphus’s articles from 1621 and General Torstenson’s order in 1642). The Swedish command did not use the opportunity to seize monastery and convent libraries, either during their demolition (Premonstratensian and Capuchin convents) or random plundering in 1643 and 1644. What influenced the course of the book confiscations, besides the absence of motivation and interest on the part of the Swedish command, was an atypical situation of long-term occupation of the city, the necessity to co-exist on a long-lasting basis, and to respect, at least informally, the legal status of ecclesiastic institutions as well as their inhabitants.

The confiscations from Olomouc libraries did not start until 1645 when the Swedish high command sent the military commissioner Johann Bussow. Under his authority, there was a massive seizure of the local ecclesiastic libraries. It was by no means comprehensive, however. The only library that was confiscated in its entirety was that of the Olomouc Jesuits, whereas other book collections were seized only partially. It seems that some book collections, for instance, that of the Olomouc Carthusians, were spared entirely. Still, between eight and nine thousand books were confiscated, giving Olomouc the leading position in the Swedish spoils of war from ecclesiastic institutions.

After they arrived in Sweden, the books looted from the Czech lands faced diverse fates compared to the book bounties from Jesuit libraries in Poland or the Baltic lands that were destined for the newly founded university library in Uppsala. The books from the Czech lands were assigned to the royal library in Stockholm, though some were donated to institutions or individuals by Queen Christina. The historical events that followed, mainly the fire at the Royal Palace in Stockholm in 1697, meant that only approximately 1,800 looted books from Olomouc were preserved; these are, furthermore, now scattered across more than twenty Swedish and other European institutions.

Although only a small part of the former libraries has survived, the preserved books represent a unique source that reflects the actual state of ecclesiastical Olomouc libraries in the middle of the seventeenth century, irrespective of later acquisitions. They constitute a unique micro-research laboratory that allows us to explore the course of confiscations in Olomouc, their approximate scope compared to other countries, and the fate of the books in Sweden. Research into the transported Olomouc libraries poses a challenge not only in the tracing of personal and institutional libraries, but also in the investigating of their potential to impact broader socio-cultural issues, such as the book transfer amongst diverse ecclesiastical institutions in certain locations.

Without a doubt, the role of the looted books from Olomouc fundamentally changed in their new environment. Most of them assumed the role of passive cultural capital in the following centuries. A closer look into the frantic period in the first years after the Czech books arrived in Stockholm (1648–1654) reveals, nevertheless, several extraordinary, though short-term historical episodes. In this respect, the most significant is Queen Christina’s gift to the Strängnäs Chapter, which was one of the most important spiritual centres in Sweden. With this significant gift, which mainly originated in Olomouc, the Queen wanted to support the ecumenical stance of Strängnäs Bishop Johannes Matthiae. The new library in Strängnäs, freely accessible to the public for several years, aptly illustrates the atmosphere of religious tensions at the time, where an essential factor was the symbolism of artifacts, including books.


This study is a result of the research funded by the Czech Science Foundation as the project GA ČR 22-06083S ‘The Swedish War Booty of Books from the Czech Lands’.


Jindřich Schulz (ed.), Dějiny Olomouce (2 vols., Olomouc: Statutární město Olomouc – Univerzita Palackého v Olomouci, 2009).


A summary of the Swedish occupation of Olomouc: Miroslav Koudela, The Swedes in Olomouc 1642–1650 (Olomouc: DANAL, 1995); Miroslav Koudela, ‘Za třicetileté války’, in Dějiny Olomouce, I, pp. 333–336.


They were houses, convents and monasteries of the following orders: Jesuits (from 1566), Franciscans (1453), Minorites (from 1214), Augustinians (from 1425), Premonstratensians (1078), Carthusians (1437), Capuchins (1614) and Dominicans (1239).


The only comprehensive information regarding the Olomouc book booty can be found in the studies by Otto Walde and Beda Dudík, which were published more than one hundred years ago. Beda Dudík, Forschungen in Schweden für Mährens Geschichte (Brünn: Winiker, 1852); Beda Dudík, Iter Romanum: Im Auftrage des Hohen maehrischen Landesausschusses in den Jahren 1852 und 1853 (2 vols., Wien: In Commission bei F. Manz & Comp., 1855); Otto Walde, Storhetstidens litterära krigsbyten: En kulturhistorisk-bibliografisk studie (2 vols., Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1916–1920).


The primary source for describing the book confiscations was the chronicle written by a Minorite friar Jakub Pavel Zaczkovic. It was made available by the editor Beda Dudík as Chronik des Minoriten-Quardians über die Schwedenherrschaft in Olmütz 1642–1650 (Wien: Gerold & Comp., 1881).


The research results are presented in the database of preserved books on a web portal with map visualizations and other informative sources: The Swedish Booty of Books from Bohemia and Moravia 1646–1648, available on (last accessed 20 July 2022).


Martin Elbel, Město a klášter: Františkánský konvent v raně novověké Olomouci (Praha: Nakladatelství Lidové noviny, 2017), pp. 22–25.


Chronik des Minoriten-Quardians, pp. 575–576.


Walde, Storhetstidens litterära krigsbyten, 1, p. 229; Generally speaking, the confiscation praxis was introduced by the military order issued by Gustavus Adolphus in 1621, see more in Emma Hagström Molin, ‘Spoils of Knowledge. Looted Books in Uppsala University Library during the Seventeenth Century’, in Gerhild Scholz Wiliams et al. (eds.), Rethinking Europe: War and Peace in the Early Modern German Lands (Leiden: Brill, 2019), pp. 256–257.


Their library contained at least 699 books; this number indicating the order of the books in the original catalogue of the monastery was preserved on the front page of the incunable stored in the Royal Danish Library in Copenhagen, Inc. Haun 196, see the database The Swedish Booty of Books from Bohemia and Moravia 1646–1648.


Chronik des Minoriten-Quardians, p. 575; Zdeněk Orlita, ‘Olomoucká univerzitní knihovna od svého založení do zrušení jezuitského řádu (1566–1773)’, in Zdeněk Orlita (ed.), Chrám věd a múz: Dějiny Vědecké knihovny v Olomouci (Olomouc: Vědecká knihovna v Olomouci, 2016), p. 17.


Helfrich Emmel, Sylva Quadrilinguis (Praha: Daniel Adam z Veleslavína, 1598) USTC 567757, Universiteitsbibliotheek Leiden (721 C 15).


Miroslav Trantírek, Dějiny mikulovské zámecké knihovny (Mikulov: Okresní vlastivědné muzeum, 1963); Burkhard Seuffert, ‘Bibliothek und Archiv auf Schloss Nikolsburg in Mähren vor 1645’, Zentralblatt für Bibliothekswesen, 42 (1925), pp. 253–259.


Nearly 200 books were allegedly saved from the Swedes; according to Jana Mačáková, they were hidden in the basements of the townsmen and in the Carthusian monastery: Jiří Žáček, Jezuitský konvikt: Sídlo uměleckého centra Univerzity Palackého v Olomouci. Dějiny – stavební a umělecké dějiny – obnova a využití (Olomouc: Univerzita Palackého, 2002), pp. 23–24.


Chronik des Minoriten-Quardians, p. 576.


Francyszek Bajger, Česká františkánská knižní kultura: Knihovny minoritů, františkánů a kapucínů v průběhu staletí, Dissertation (Ostrava: Ostravská univerzita, 2007), pp. 412–423; Jiří Glonek, ‘Pozdně gotické vazby z moravských františkánských klášterů (Brno, Olomouc, Uherské Hradiště, Znojmo)’, Bibliotheca Antiqua (2017), pp. 32–76.


Miroslav Flodr, Skriptorium olomoucké: K počátkům písařské tvorby v českých zemích (Praha: SPN, 1960); Markéta Poskočilová, Geneze historie a skladba souboru prvotisků z fondu kapitulní knihovny v Olomouci, Masters thesis (2 vols., Olomouc: Filozofická fakulta Univerzity Palackého v Olomouci, 2017).


Štěpán Kohout, Kde voní pergamen: Čtrnáctero návštěv rukopisné knihovny olomoucké kapituly (Olomouc: Univerzita Palackého v Olomouci, 2009), p. 11.


However, only the manuscripts and some incunables can be compared with certainty. Find more about the transported part of the Chapter library in the database of the preserved books: The Swedish Booty of Books from Bohemia and Moravia 1646–1648.


Find more about the medieval fund of the library in Tomáš Černušák, ‘Knihovna dolanských kartuziánů jako historický pramen’, Problematika historických a vzácných knižních fondů Čech, Moravy a Slezska, (1997), pp. 30–34; Jiří Glonek, ‘Knihvazačská dílna olomouckých kartuziánů’, Bibliotheca Antiqua (2013), pp. 40–61.


Jaroslav Miller, ‘Zchudlé město bohatých měšťanů?’, in Martin Elbel, Ondřej Jakubec (eds.), Olomoucké baroko: Proměny ambicí jednoho města (2 vols., Olomouc: Muzeum umění Olomouc, 2010), 1, p. 73.


Walde, Storhetstidens litterära krigsbyten, 1, p. 241. Preserved specimens can be found in the database The Swedish Booty of Books from Bohemia and Moravia 1646–1648.


Dudík, Forschungen in Schweden, p. 40, 50.


Peter Sjökvist, ‘Books from Poznań at the Uppsala University Library’, The Central European Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities (CEJSH), (2017), pp. 319–328; Peter Sjökvist, ‘Polish Collections at Uppsala University Library. A History of Research’, in Dorota Sidorowicz-Mulak and Agnieszka Franczyk-Cegły (eds.), Książka dawna i jej właściciele (2 vols., Wrocław: Wydawnictwo Ossolineum, 2017), 2, pp. 237–244.


Walde, Storhetstidens litterära krigsbyten, 1, p. 245. Handwritten ex libris in the books indicate that there were older catalogues for the Jesuit and Premonstratensian library.


Lenka Veselá, Knihy na dvoře Rožmberků (Praha: Knihovna Akademie věd ČR – Scriptorium, 2005); Lenka Veselá, Ritter und Intellektueller: Hieronymus Beck von Leopoldsdorf (1525–1596) und seine Bibliothek (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2017).


Lenka Veselá, ‘Rukopisy a švédská knižní kořist z českých zemí’, Studie o rukopisech, 50/1 (2020), pp. 25–45.


Veselá, Knihy na dvoře Rožmberků, p. 261; Veselá, Ritter und Intellektueller, p. 267.


Eva Nilsson Nylander, The Mild Boredom of Order: A Study in the History of the Manuscript Collection of Queen Christina of Sweden (Lund: Lund University, 2011).


Robert Rebitsch, Jenny Öhman and Jan Kilián, 1648. Kriegführung und Friedensverhandlungen: Prag und das Ende des Dreißigjährigen Krieges (Innsbruck: Innsbruck University Press, 2018), pp. 295–320; Emil Schieche, ‘Umfang und Schicksal der von den Schweden 1645 in Nikolsburg und 1648 in Prag erbeuteten Archivalien’, Bohemia, 8 (1967), pp. 111–133.


Pavla Slavíčková, ‘Nové materiály švédské provenience k dějinám města Olomouce’, Acta Universitatis Palackianae Olomucensis: Facultas philosophica. Historica, (2007), pp. 129–137, p. 133.


Peter Sjökvist and Krister Östlund, ‘War Booty at Uppsala University Library’, paper presented at IFLA WLIC 2017 – Wrocław, Poland – Libraries. Solidarity. Society, available on (last accessed 20 July 2022). See also Emma Hagström Molin, Krigsbytets biografi: Byten i Riksarkivet, Uppsala universitetsbibliotek och Skoklosters slott under 1600-talet (Göteborg: Makadam, 2015).


These books can be found in the University Library in Uppsala, see the database The Swedish Booty of Books from Bohemia and Moravia 1646–1648.


The selection of the books was done hastily by the librarian Isaac Vossius; however, this was probably the Queen’s intention. Veselá, ‘Rukopisy a švédská knižní kořist z českých zemí’, pp. 41–42.


Christian Callmer, Königin Christina, ihre Bibliothekare und ihre Handschriften: Beiträge zur europäischen Bibliotheksgeschichte (Stockholm: Kungliga biblioteket, 1977), pp. 41–42.


See the database The Swedish Booty of Books from Bohemia and Moravia 1646–1648.


Eugeniusz Gawryś, Slavica Arosiensia (3 vols., Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1961), 3, p. 11 and card catalogue Praedae Bellicae Arosiensis at Stadsbiblioteket Västerås; Ragnhild Lundgren, Strängnäs domkyrkobibliotek: Systematisk katalog över tryckta böcker = The Cathedral Library in Strängnäs: Systematic Catalogue of Printed Books (2 vols., Skellefteå: Artos Academic, [2017]).


Walde, Storhetstidens litterära krigsbyten, 1, p. 26; František Horák, ‘Dodatková a souhrnná zpráva o průzkumu humanistických bohemik za léta 1966–1968’, Listy filologické, 92 (1962), p. 360.


Lenka Veselá, ‘Užitečné, či nepotřebné? Knihy z Čech a Moravy jako dar královny Kristiny švédským vzdělávacím institucím v polovině 17. století’, in Lucie Pavelková et al. (eds.) Knihovny a jejich majitelé: Odraz zájmu a touhy po poznání (Brno: Moravská zemská knihovna v Brně, 2018), pp. 63–73.


Callmer, Königin Christina, pp. 15–16, 28.


Lundgren, Strängnäs domkyrkobibliotek, p. 21.


Emma Hagström Molin, ‘The Materiality of War Booty Books: The Case of Strängnäs Cathedral Library’, in Anna Källén (ed.), Making Cultural History: New Perspectives on Western Heritage (Lund: Nordic Academic Press, 2013), pp. 131–139.

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The Baltic Battle of Books

Formation and Relocation of European Libraries in the Confessional Age (c. 1500–c. 1650) and Their Afterlife

Series:  Library of the Written Word, Volume: 116 and  Library of the Written Word - The Handpress World, Volume: 116