Hogenskild Bielke's Library

Hogenskild Bielke was wealthy and educated, and was a member of one of the most prominent families of the nobility in 16th-century Sweden. Everything that such a man could be supposed to own was represented in the library of Hogenskild Bielke. Because of the donation of Gustavus II Adolphus what remains of this library is kept at Uppsala University Library.

The nobleman Hogenskild Bielke (1538–1605) in short time made a brilliant career. After studies in Wittenberg in his youth, he was a counsellor of the realm as early as at the age of 24. Later he was to become governor in Stockholm. But taking the right measures during the political turbulence in the second part of the 16th century was not easy; in the conflict between King Sigismund and Duke Charles (later Charles IX) it was necessary to take side, and taking the wrong one could be devastating. In 1599 Hogenskild was thus imprisoned for treachery by Duke Charles, since he had all the time kept the loyalty towards King Sigismund. He had during a long time been the enemy of the Duke, who among other things had given him the nickname den listige raven (‘the cunning fox’), and den gamle basilisken (‘the old basilisk‘). Having spent six years in prison he was eventually sentenced to death. Suffering heavily from gout he was so weak that he had to be carried to the execution at stortorget (‘the Great Square’) in Stockholm 3 June 1605. He head was thereafter attached to and publicly displayed at the city walls.

Bielke’s library was confiscated and located in the depot of the crown on Gråmunkeholmen in Stockholm, and was later part of what was donated by Gustavus II Adolphus to the recently opened university library in Uppsala 1621. With time parts of if were scattered, and these can today be found in other Swedish libraries. The great majority, however, is still in Uppsala.

The collection initially contained ca 270 books, primarily printed and acquired between 1560 and 1600. As regards subjects, the library contains literature in theology, the humanities, politics and natural science. In addition it contained 15 manuscripts, one of which consisted of 10 volumes with Hogenskild Bielke’s own copies from Riksregistraturet (‘the Registry of the Kingdom’).

The collection in Uppsala is now catalogued and searchable in the national library catalogue LIBRIS and the local catalogue Disa:

Wolfgang Undorf’s catalogue on Bielke’s library from 1995 is an attempt to restore an important 16th-century library, primarily founded on the research carried out by Otto Walde.


  • Undorf, Wolfgang, Hogenskild Bielke's library: a catalogue of the famous 16th century Swedish private collection / reconstructed and compiled by Wolfgang Undorf. - Uppsala: UB, 1995. - (Acta Bibliothecae R. Universitatis Upsaliensis; 32)

  • Walde, Otto, "En svensk boksamlare från Vasatiden: Hogenskild Bielke och hans bibliotek". (I: Uppsala universitetsbiblioteks minnesskrift 1621-1921. - Uppsala, 1921. - S. 193-267)

  • Munkhammar, LarsBöckerna från Gråmunkeholmen


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