This study of clerical book collections in Norway 1650–1750 provides detailed evidence about the circulation of books among one specific layer of the educated classes in a peripheral part of Europe. The wide range of authors and works included in these book collections proves that the Norwegian clergy partook in the European flow of information across borders, a flow that was marked by expansion and exchange rather than narrowness and rigidity. Three core source areas stand out in terms of book acquisition, namely Germany, the Netherlands and England. This wide range of book distribution is indicative of the early modern transmission of knowledge across borders which took place in all areas of academic debate in the wake of Gutenberg.
During recent decades much has been written about early modern book distribution, but until now Norway has been absent from the discussion. Drawing on book listings, this study seeks to fill this lacuna by exploring the market for books in early modern Norway. Its approach is multifaceted: consideration of the types of books accessed by different elements of Norwegian society is set alongside developments within the book market itself, such as the extended life of popular books, the gradual replacement of Latin by the vernacular and the rise in the eighteenth century in the number of books available on the market. The study demonstrates the internationality of the Norwegian book market while acknowledging specific patterns that determine its Norwegian character.