The designation Copernicana at Uppsala University Library refers to a collection of books that were owned or used by Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543), the well-known Polish astronomer, who along with ancient Greek astronomers claimed that the sun is in the centre of the universe, not the earth.

Poland 1626. The Swedish army is ravaging the country under the command of Gustavus II Adolphus, the Swedish King, during the war that was to become the first between Sweden and Poland. A Sweden that was victorious, but poor in books, was especially interested in capturing important libraries, now when there was an opportunity. One of them was in Frauenburg (Frombork), another in Braunsberg (Braniewo).

The books which Nicolaus Copernicus had owned or used had in different ways reached the chapter library of Frauenburg and the library of the Jesuit college of Braunsberg after his death. Now they became Swedish property. They were soon loaded for transport to Sweden, and finally to the university at Uppsala, where they became an important addition to the library that had been founded there only five years earlier. This was an essential part in the efforts of Gustavus II Adolphus to improve the university.

At Uppsala University Library the great majority of these books have been kept ever since, with the exception of single volumes that for different reasons have ended up at other Swedish libraries (two volumes at the Library of the Astronomical Observatory, three at the Diocese Library of Strängnäs, one at the Diocese Library of Linköping, and one at the Royal Library in Stockholm).

A group of scholars confirmed the identity of Copernicus’s books as early as the later part of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, and then a new collection containing 45 volumes was created from them at Carolina Rediviva. Since then researchers have at several occasions questioned the real connection of many of these books to the Polish astronomer. In an important article by Pawel Czartoryski from 1978, the author asserts that only fifteen of the volumes at Uppsala University Library have either been owned or used by Copernicus. Twenty four were rejected as completely lacking connection. In four cases there were doubts.

Regardless of the identification of every single book in the Copernicana-collection, as it has been called ever since the beginning of the 20th century, it is still a fact that this is the collection with the largest number of books with Copernicus’s provenance in the world.

The collection has been registered in the national union catalogue LIBRIS, as well as in the local catalogue DISA. Thus they can also be found in our search tool. For a list covering the titles in the Copernicana Collection:

All books in the Copernicana Collection are now digitised:


  • Birkenmajer, Ludwik Antoni, Mikolaj Kopernik. - Krakow, 1900

  • Birkenmajer, Ludwik Antoni, "... Nova Copernicana ...." - Krakow, 1909 (In: Bulletin international de l'Académie des sciences mathématiques et naturelles, 1902:2, pp. 29-33)

  • Birkenmajer, Ludwik Antoni, Stromata Copernicana. - Krakow, 1924

  • Czartoryski, Pawel, "The library of Copernicus" (In: Science and history: studies in honor of Edward Rosen. - Warszawa: Ossolineum, 1978. - (Studia Copernicana; 16)

  • Trypucko, Józef, Polonica vetera Upsaliensia: catalogue des imprimés polonais ou concernant la Pologne des XVe, XVIe, XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles conservés à la Bibliothèque de l'Université royale d'Upsala. - Uppsala: Universitetsbibl., 1958. - (Acta Bibliothecae R. Universitatis Upsaliensis; 13)

Last modified: 2021-02-24