November 2019: Call for Papers — Conference on Northern European Libraries

Proposals are now welcomed for a conference hosted at the National Library of Latvia from October 8-10, 2020 on the theme of  “Sacred Books, Looted Books: Formation, Transfiguration and Replacement of the Northern European Libraries in the Confessional Age (c.1500-c.1650) and their Afterlife.”


The deadline for proposals is December 1, 2019.


The full call for papers appears below. More information is available at



“Sacred Books, Looted Books: Formation, Transfiguration and Replacement of the Northern European Libraries in the Confessional Age (c.1500-c.1650) and their Afterlife”

National Library of Latvia, Mūkusalas iela 3, Rīga

October 8-10, 2020


Spiritual orders and other religious institutions controlled the vast majority of libraries in Northern Europe at the beginning of the early modern era. As confessional politics and allegiances became ever more intricate, libraries could suddenly turn into pawns in power struggles and conflict resolution.

The aim of our conference will be to explore how libraries fared in a rapidly changing early modern world. What role libraries played in late medieval and early modern culture? Were they primarily bastions of continuity and tradition? Or are they of importance primarily for the unparalleled window which they provide into the upheavals and transformations of this tumultuous age? How did libraries adapt to all these changes? When were they kept intact and used as war booty? When were they disbanded and broken up? In which situations were the libraries themselves agents of change? How the removed libraries have been reconstructed during the 20th and 21st centuries?

The erstwhile Jesuit College Library in Riga (1583-1621) will serve as a backdrop for our conference on the varying fates of libraries in the confessional age. Itself a conglomerate of disparate book collections, it underwent several transformations before assuming its recognised form in the inventory lists prepared after its transport as war booty to Sweden in 1621. The conference will take place to direct attention to the efforts of the National Library of Latvia in compiling a new modern inventory list and to bring this collection (now part of the Uppsala University Library) into the digital age.

Though at the centre of attention, the aim of the conference is look beyond the Jesuit College Library in Riga and to explore as the histories of Northern European libraries in general during the confessional age. The topics of the papers may feature:

– book collections of late medieval religious institutions and their fate during the Reformation;
– Jesuit libraries – their formation, use and role in the networks within the Society of Jesus (in Northern Europe and beyond);
– Catholic libraries in the Protestant environments;
– libraries and books as early modern war booties and their fate after the removal;
– digital repatriation of libraries once removed from their initial locations.

The keynote speaker of the conference will be Andrew Pettegree (University of St Andrews).

Please consider that after the conference we have planned to publish a conference volume.

Working language: English

The abstracts (max. 350 words) have to be emailed to until 1 December, 2019.

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