The Swedenborg Society Library is located at the Society’s headquarters in Bloomsbury. The library was established in 1824 and has since become an important resource for people researching all things Swedenborg (and beyond). Over the years the library has also formed an important record of Swedenborgian publishing and scholarship—both in the United Kingdom and all around the world. The Library is divided into four main sections: the Swedenborg Collection; the Archives; Collateral titles; and Periodicals.
We are currently in the process of putting our library catalogue online. This is a lengthy and ongoing process, but the first section of the online library catalogue was launched on 23 February 2012, with an exhibition of objects from the archive. Meanwhile, hard copy catalogues and card index systems can be used on the premises at Swedenborg House where members of staff are happy to respond to and help with enquiries.
The information on this page is offered as an introduction to these holdings. For more detailed information please contact the Librarian.
The Swedenborg Collection holds the most extensive collection of Swedenborg editions in Europe. The Collection consists of editions of Swedenborg’s works in their original languages of Swedish and Latin; in English translation; and translations into upwards of forty other languages, from German to Gujarati, Bulgarian to Braille. The majority of Swedenborg’s existing manuscripts are located in Sweden at the library of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Diocesan Library of Linköping; but the Swedenborg Collection conveniently holds a complete set of photolithographic reproductions that have been of great use to editors and translators over the last century in their preparation of new volumes. In addition to editions of Swedenborg’s writings, the Swedenborg Collection also consists of biographies of Swedenborg, again in English and many other languages.
Where possible, the Society acquires every new edition of Swedenborg’s works, and we are in the process of publishing a complete bibliography of the printed works of Swedenborg.
Interestingly, the Swedenborg Collection is catalogued and shelved according to a system based upon the previous bibliography by James Hyde, the books being arranged in the order of which Swedenborg published or composed his works. The glass-fronted cabinets open a window on to the fluctuations and fads of Swedenborgian publishing and depict the ever-changing clamours and claims that have been made upon Swedenborg’s literary corpus—his early scientific and poetical works rest largely in just one cabinet, his theological writings stretch across seven. There are over 120 editions of Heaven and Hell—Swedenborg’s most popular work—in English alone, half of them in paperback or pocket-sized formats. The multi-volumed Arcana Caelestia takes up even more room, contrastingly, however, the vast majority of its editions are weighty and imperious-looking hardbacks.
This collection consists of approximately 5000 books and is housed in the Wynter Room.
The Archives are our most unique and varied holding ranging from rare and annotated books to manuscripts, portraits, audio recordings and curios. Star items include documents signed by Swedenborg; volumes of Swedenborg annotated or inscribed by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Flaxman, and T E Lawrence; a portrait of Swedenborg by Philip James de Loutherbourg; a miniature wax bust by Flaxman; and the manuscript of D T Suzuki’s translation of Swedenborg’s Heaven and Hell. The Archives contain a wealth of manuscript material charting the history of the Swedenborg Society, and ‘Swedenborgian’ culture in general.
There are also many manuscript translations (a lot still unpublished) and transcriptions of Swedenborg’s works, perhaps the most important of which is a codex transcribed at the behest of Augustus Nordensköld, an early follower of Swedenborg, containing copies of works by Swedenborg for which the original manuscripts are now lost; the Nordenskjöld copies have therefore formed the basis of all subsequent editions. The Archives contain correspondence by prominent figures in the Swedenborg Society’s history, perhaps most notably, Dr J J G Wilkinson, over a thousand of whose letters are in our possession (including to such luminaries as R W Emerson, D G Rosetti and John Ruskin). The Archives are housed in the Society’s strong room and are only viewable under supervision.
The Collateral Collection is the fastest-growing part of the library, bearing testament to the great amount of ongoing scholarship and research on Swedenborg and his impact. It also charts the many different types of written responses to Swedenborg: from academic studies to novels, poetry, memoirs, self-help books and dogmatic tracts. Janus-faced, the Collateral Collection looks backwards and forwards at the same time, its contents reflecting the influences upon Swedenborg by his predecessors and contemporaries (many of the early volumes match titles in Swedenborg’s own library) as well as the influence Swedenborg has had upon others.
Titles in this section range from early editions of George Berkeley’s Siris, John Flaxman’sLectures on Sculpture, Isaac Pitman’s Reminisensez ov the Erli Leif of Ser Eizak Pitman and Carl Bernhard Wadström’s Observations on the Slave Trade, amongst others, to current literature, including titles by authors such as Peter Ackroyd, Czeslaw Milosz and Raymond Moody.
This collection is catalogued according to the following subdivisions:
S.1. ‘General’—Studies of Swedenborg and his influence; works by people influenced by Swedenborg; works on Swedenborgian themes.
S.2. ‘Biographies’—Biographies and monographs on people influenced by Swedenborg; contemporaries of Swedenborg; and people who were an influence upon Swedenborg.
S.3. ‘Histories’—Includes histories of religious and social movements and of church buildings and congregations, with particular emphasis on those of the New Church.
S.4. ‘Pamphlets & Sermons’—Pamphlets and sermons of New Church ministers and Swedenborgian clergymen, primarily dating from the nineteenth century.
S.5. ‘Liturgies & Church Music’—Liturgies, hymns, church music and catechisms.
S.6. ‘Bibles & Testaments’—Editions and translations of the Bible and its individual books.
S.7. ‘Old Church Theology, Philosophy, Occult’—Works of and about theology, philosophy, mysticism and the occult.
S.8. ‘Physical Sciences’—Scientific works, predominantly on anatomical subjects, including many seventeenth- and eighteenth-century books referenced by Swedenborg.
S.9. ‘Reference; Miscellaneous’—Dictionaries, grammars, encyclopaedias, and concordances. Also works giving a background to the Enlightenment period in which Swedenborg lived.
The Collateral Collection is housed in the Secretary’s Office and the Marchant Room. Rarer and more valuable items are stored in the strong room and part of the Collection is housed in the Society’s publishing office.
The Swedenborg Society subscribes to over thirty current periodicals and newsletters from Swedenborgian and New Church groups worldwide. What’s more, our library also has complete and near-complete sets of past and hard-to-find Swedenborgian periodicals such asThe Aurora; The Intellectual Repository; Morning Light; The New Philosophy and New Jerusalem Magazine. These publications shed a great deal of light on readers of Swedenborg and their varying formal and informal, intellectual and practical, activities worldwide from the late eighteenth century to the present day. The periodicals provide a useful tool for anyone who stumbles across characters with Swedenborgian connections in the course of their research.
The periodicals section of the library is housed in the Marchant Room. Index volumes are available for reference.
The online catalogue is a work-in-progress, but as of February 2012, over 2600 items have been listed including the Periodicals Collection, and large portions of both the Collateral Collection and the Archives. Please browse, but be reminded that material can be viewed by appointment only. See here for more details. Click here to be directed to the Swedenborg Society’s online library catalogue.
The Swedenborg Society Library is a research library open to both members of the Swedenborg Society and non-members alike. Visitors are asked to make appointments in advance (giving at least one week’s notice), specifying their areas of interest and (where possible) catalogue nos. or titles of items they wish to view. Visitors are reminded to bring with them a form of photographic ID (passport; driver’s license; NUS card) and proof of address (utilities bill, bank statement, etc.).
We are also happy to deal with enquiries by telephone or email for those unable to visit the library. Contact details are listed below. We do aim to reply to queries as quickly as possible, but the library is only staffed part-time, so sometimes this can take a few days. If no reply has been received after 2 weeks, please email again!
Photocopies can be made by a member of staff; the charge is 15 p per page.
Swedenborg House is wifi enabled and visitors are welcome to bring laptops.
Use of the Library is free of charge, but donations to preserve and add to our stock are always appreciated.
And who uses the library? The library is used primarily by people with an interest in Swedenborg and his influence, be they translators, researchers and editors of Swedenborg; academics and students; or curious and avid readers. Some will be looking at Swedenborg and aspects of his work as their specialist area, others will be researching broader discourses and will have encountered Swedenborg in the course of their reading. Swedenborgians, over the years, have tended to record and publish their goings on; as such, for people with ties to the New Church past or present, the library is also a useful resource for genealogists and historians.
Details of our ‘Adopt a Book’ scheme to help preserve and maintain our collections will be forthcoming.
The Swedenborg Society Library is open during office hours, Monday-Friday 9.30 a.m. – 5.00 p.m, by appointment only. Appointments to visit must be made in advance (see ‘Who Can Use the Library?’ above).
Our address is:
London WC1A 2TH
Telephone no.: 0207 405 7986
James Wilson, Librarian