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May 8: UND's Scandinavian Literature Collection

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On this date in 1925, the University of North Dakota's student newspaper, The Dakota Student, ran this article about the university library:

“At one time classed as one of the largest collections of its kind in the country, the collection of Scandinavian literature in the University library now consists of 4,500 volumes, and includes all kinds of Norwegian, Icelandic, and Swedish books and magazines, according to A. D. Keator, librarian.”

The collection was made possible by the generosity of the Norwegian and Icelandic citizens of North Dakota, who had donated $4,000 in the years 1905-1906.

Some of the Scandinavian writers represented in the collection are Johan Boger, Knute Hamsum, Ibsen and Bjornson. Mrs. Anna Skabo, cataloguer of the library, had been educated at the University of Christiania in Norway. She was had collected many of the magazines and circulars.

The article reported that the collection was not only used by people of Grand Forks and the students at the University, but also by professors at the University of Minnesota and other people outside the city and the university.

The collection featured, and continues to feature, two Norwegian recipients of the Nobel Prize in Literature. Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, laureate of the 1903 Nobel Prize in Literature, had avid republican and socialist sympathies.

In contrast, the virulent racism of Knut Hamsun, laureate of the 1920 Nobel Prize in Literature, is legendary. His ardent pro-Nazi sympathies and his support for the Nazi invasion of Norway would eventually turn him into a national disgrace.

UND's collection of books in Scandinavian languages has expanded moderately since 1925. According to Curt Hanson, head of special collections and university archivist, “The UND Chester Fritz Library currently owns more than 8,000 books in the four Scandinavian languages. This includes the Arne G. Brekke Bygdebok Collection, one of the largest collections of Norwegian bygdebᴓker in the world.” A Bygdebok is a record book kept by a church.

Dakota Datebook by Andrew Alexis Varvel


Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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