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SAMKUL-Samfunnsutviklingens kulturell

Literary Citizens of the World. Tracing the transnational crossroads of books in Early Modern Norway

Alternative title: Litterære verdensborgere. Bøkers transnasjonale forbindelser i det tidligmoderne Norge

Awarded: NOK 9.8 mill.

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Project Period:

2016 - 2021


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The 500th anniversary of the printed book in Norway in 2019 was an event that invited scholarly reflection on books and other printed materials. How did the book change society? In what ways did it influence ideas about children, gender and nationality; or simply the way that we consume entertainment? Why has books remained powerful and influential throughout shifting media revolutions? The way books cross borders and media boundaries offer important keys: The first 'Norwegian' book was printed in Paris in 1519, in Latin. Today, most 'Norwegian' books are printed in the Baltics, and the holdings of the National Library (NB) are digitized and made publicly accessible from around the world. The transnational and transmedial aspects of how we distribute knowledge and entertainment are both vital and typical to understanding book history. The project 'Literary Citizens of the World: Tracing the transnational crossroads of books in Early Modern Norway, 1519-1850' (LitCit; 2016-2021) explored books and other printed texts in their entangled contexts. Print culture in Scandinavia were on the one hand steeped in a pan European market and tradition, and on the other, constitute an important and different case of regional and local adaptation, marked by what has been termed ?Northern Enlightenment? and later the phenomenon of Scandinavian world literature (Ibsen and Strindberg). Four work packages with corresponding workshops explored these questions thematically: 1) Education, religion and literature, 2) Popular books and new readerships (both in Oslo), 3) Moving books: trade and media transformations (Venice) and 4) The politics of books: Negotiating identity, print and the public sphere (Copenhagen). Individual projects included studies of books and journals for children, popular literature and translations, reading societies, literary periodicals, catechisms and political pamphlets, bibliographies and works of history from the hand press period. Resulting research span a number of books, bibliographies, articles and papers in five languages. Books include a history of the dwindling importance of a literary canon (Haarberg 2017), a biography of Norway's first literary critic (Nøding 2018), as well as critical editions of source texts, including letters and journalism (Haarberg 2018; Dahl 2019; Krefting and Ertler 2020). The edited volume Litterære verdensborgere (eds. Bjørkøy, Hemstad, Nøding and Rønning, 2019; open access) presented a wide take on Norwegian book history for the first time in nearly two decades. The books have generally been well received, resulting in media debates and reviews on issues such as the literary canon, the untold histories of reading and the impact of print media. LitCit?s activities and members were valuable partners of the 2019 book anniversary. NB hosted the concluding conference, 'Literary Citizenship', in September. Key international book historians Roger Chartier, Ann Thomson and Daniel Bellingradt addressed scholars from 16 countries globally. Selected papers were included in the edited volume Literary Citizenship (eds. Hemstad, Krefting, Kaasa and Nøding; 2022). The project ended in June 2021, when postdoc Kaasa finalized her work on the early history of children?s visual and literary culture. The global pandemic of 2020-21 underlined the importance of digital source materials and communication platforms. Digitization, open access publication and online bibliographies proved vital for disseminating project results and research material. Kukkonen and Sjelmo produced the bibliography ?Literary Fiction in Norwegian Lending Libraries in the 18th Century? (2019;, a vital source on book import and multilingual reading. Rønning?s ongoing bibliography ?LitGift: Literary Gifts for Women? ( provides fascinating insight into a forgotten literary culture. The retrospective bibliography on Norwegian printed books 1519-1850 (launched 2019; covers c. 6500 entries, most digitized and open access. Furthermore, LitCit?s facebook group and web page remained an important part of our internal and external communication. LitCit brought together an interdisciplinary and international team of 15 media and book historians. Partner institutions were The National Library and the National Archives of Norway, The Universities of Oslo, Tromsø and (initially) South-Eastern Norway, The Society for Danish Language and Literature, and Cambridge Project for the Book Trust. Project manager was Dr. Aina Nøding, with Dr. Ruth Hemstad as acting manager 2018-2020, both research librarians at the National Library of Norway.

LitCit har styrket norsk bokhistorie som forskningsfelt og formidlet det til allmennhet og fagfolk, i Norge og utlandet. Det har igjen ført til ny forskning i UK. Forskere og publikum har deltatt aktivt på seminarer og workshops. LitCits monografier fikk en bred lansering og meget god mottakelse. LitCit har jobbet målrettet med kompetanseheving, rekruttering og kvinnelig ledelse blant ansatte og studenter på NB og UiO. En viktig effekt har vært ny åpent tilgjengelig infrastruktur: bibliografier og digitaliserte bøker. Det har sikret fagfolk og publikum enklere tilgang til viktig materiale, samt høynet nivået på metadata i biblioteksystemet Oria. Det bidrar til økt kunnskap om den norske bokarven, nå og i fremtiden. NFRs tildeling av prosjektstøtte til LitCit har muliggjort en betydelig strategisk satsning på bok- og lesningshistorie ved deltakerinstitusjonene, noe som igjen har gitt positive ringvirkninger i bl.a. biblioteker og museer rundt om i landet.

The year 2019 marks the 500th anniversary of the printed book in Norway. How did the book change society? In what way did it influence ideas on children, gender or nationality, or simply how we consume entertainment? Why has it remained such a powerful and influential medium through the shifting media revolutions? LitCit is an international and interdisciplinary project that covers the book medium's evolvement in Norway from its religious beginnings in 1519 to the emergence of the modern public sphere in the mid-1800s. Books in Scandinavia were on the one hand steeped in a pan European market and tradition, and on the other, they constitute an important and different case of regional and local adaptation, marked by what has been termed 'Northern Enlightenment' and later the phenomenon of Scandinavian world literature (Ibsen and Strindberg). LitCit will focus on these strategic areas of research: *The impact of the book medium on religion, education, and literacy. *The emergence of the book as a mass medium for new readerships. *The circulation and adaptation of books, texts and technology on the print market. *The book medium's role in negotiations of identity, politics and the public sphere. We will do so by applying transnational and comparative perspectives of book and media history on major social, aesthetic, textual and technological developments. Furthermore, the project aims to develop new theory and methodology, particularly in digital humanities and bibliography.

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SAMKUL-Samfunnsutviklingens kulturell