Early Printed Books and Special Collections

At Uppsala University Library we find very rich collections of early printed books, also from an international perspective. Here are ca 2500 incunables (books printed until the year 1500), and important collections of early Swedish and foreign books, with both Swedish and foreign provenance.

Early Printed Books here refers to publications printed from the birth of book-printing in the middle of the 15th century until and including 1850. 

With Special Collection, a collection of books is referred to, which have certain characteristics in common, such as previous owner (provenance), subject, printer or origin.

Until around 1850 most of the printed material was produced in hand presses, on high quality paper made from rags. From about 1830 and onwards the printing process starts to change; to an increasing degree printing is now carried out in machine presses. At the same time paper starts to be mass-produced from wood pulp, which most often produces paper of a much inferior quality. The year 1850 in many ways becomes a natural border between earlier and later printed books.

The University Library's collections of early printed books have, ever since the foundation of the library in the 1620s, grown through donations, purchases, war booty (the 17th century) and Swedish legal deposits (in practice from the middle of the 18th century and onwards). Early printed books include various types of material such as books, journals, newspapers, brochures and other ephemera. Unfortunately some books have gone missing through the ages.

The special collections mainly contain early printed books, but several collections grow on a continual basis with new publications. Read more on our webpage Items and Collections, where the catalogues for specific collections are listed.


In addition to the continuous work to give access to the collections of early printed books, there are at present primarily two current projects on early printed material:

Search and Find Early Printed Books

More and more of the library's early printed book collections are searchable in the digital catalogues of Uppsala University Library and in LIBRIS, the Swedish union library catalogue. Always start your search in one of those two catalogues. Before you make a request, search for the materials in Alvin – platform for digital collections and digitised cultural heritage.

  • LIBRIS – Swedish union library catalogue.
  • Uppsala University Library Search Tool
  • Catalogue -1962 – Catalogue of books and periodicals in the University Library, kept up to and including 1962. Some of the content, but far from everything, are also available in the Uppsala University Library’s search system.
  • Aurivillius – Catalogue of the books and periodicals that were held at Uppsala University Library in 1796. Much of the material has been transferred to Catalogue -1962, begin your search there.
  • Inventory  – The Inventory is a list of books and periodicals according to older inventory numbers (subject denomination and serial number) up to and including 1796. Only used together with the Aurivillius catalogue.
  • Bibliotheca Walleriana  – Catalogue of medical and natural science literature (printed circa 1490s – 1940s) from the Waller collections.
  • Occasional Poetry – The Catalogue on Occasional Poetry lists the occasional poetry extant at Uppsala University Library.
  • Catalogue of Swedish Biography – Catalogue of a great portion of Uppsala University Library’s biographical materials like funeral sermons, panegyrical poetry and minor biographies of both Swedish royalty and private individuals. 
  • Sermons – The Catalogue of sermons lists the sermons extant at Uppsala University Library.
  • Förteckning över Uppsala universitetsbiblioteks utländska dissertationssamling (-1799)  – a list of early dissertation from other countries in Uppsala University Library's collections.

N.B. Please note that the catalogues above currently represent a portion of the early printed collections at Uppsala University Library. If you need help with further searches in the collections, contact Ask the Library 

Last modified: 2022-12-02