The Book Collection
The Danish National Art Library has the largest Nordic collection of art-historical literature (over 300.000 volumes). It continues to grow as it has done since 1754. The collection covers a qualitative selection of books on architecture, visual arts, art history and theory, together with interdisciplinary museology. More
What does the collection cover?
The main emphasis is laid on Western art from the Middle Ages up until today, with a focus on such subjects as:
- the history of art and architecture
- art theory, aesthetics, and method
- space, colour, perspective
- the history, theory and practice of collections and museums
- art and society
- artistic and cultural exchange
The book collection takes in subject literature in all the Western European languages with special emphasis on the Scandinavian languages, English and German.
How do I find what I’m looking for?
The book collection consists of three main sections: open shelves, the reading room and the storage magazine. Books from roughly the last ten years written in Danish or other Nordic languages, English or German are on the open shelves at Nyhavn 2, where as a borrower you yourself can find them, read or borrow them to take away.
In the reading room are particular reference works and surveys, as well as a number of museums' catalogues and topographic surveys. Many of these can be borrowed to take home, while the rest are only for use in the reading room as they have the status of "håndbibliotek" (reference library). Books which are slightly older or are in languages less used in a Danish context are kept in the closed stacks and should be located and requested via the Library catalogue.
What kind of books does the Library have?
Various types of books make up the collection. Among the most important are:
Reference works are indispensable for factual information or for checking such points as terminology, but also for finding an initial approach to a subject, which can subsequently be expanded in a more specific search. The Library possesses a large collection of encyclopaedias, artist lexicons, bibliographies, historical, topographic and iconographic reference works, art-historical surveys, etc., both of a more general or universal character or highly specialised works.
Monographs about individual artists or subjects +
One principal part of the Library’s collection consists of books dealing with an individual artist or a given period’s or place’s visual art or architecture, or possibly an individual building or single work of art. In the open shelf section are books about individual artists or architects arranged in alphabetical order in Section Z, while the books which are a little older or in languages less used in a Danish context can be found via the Library catalogue under personal name. The art and architecture of individual periods are to be found under Section A in the open shelves, and can be located via the Library catalogue through period subject heading while places and individual buildings are arranged under the names of countries and cities, under Section H in the open section – the older books on such subjects can be found with the aid of country and city names via the Library’s catalogue.
Museum and collection catalogues +
Museum and collection catalogues are often the most important source of current knowledge of a specific work, the technical information and that regarding the state of preservation, as well as the object’s history. They are therefore invaluable in dealing with specific works of art.
Exhibition catalogues both from this country and abroad constitute a large part of the Library’s stock. A great deal of art historical research is only published in exhibition catalogues, which are therefore a vital source of knowledge of works and their interpretation. The exhibition catalogues are part of the collection in the same sense as other books and are to be found in the same section on the open shelves and through the same use channels in the Library catalogue. The Library’s older Danish exhibition catalogues, covering the period from 1769 up to and including 1920, have now been digitalised and can now be read and downloaded via exhibition catalogues etc.
Festschrifts are anthologies of articles published to mark the celebration of a specific person, e.g. on the occasion of a special birthday. They are, therefore, often thematic with a set of themes which have relevance to that person’s own work, and are written by his or her colleagues and pupils.. Festschrifts often contain important articles, but the character of the festschrift means that it can be difficult to find the articles, and one must therefore often explore a bibliography to find one’s way to a specific article in a festschrift. See, e.g. our online-resources "e-ressources.".You can find our festschrifts by searching the Library's catalogue via this link: "festskrifter."
Materials from conferences and symposia +
Conferences and symposia, which bring together large or small groups of people around one or more subjects often result in reports with worked up versions of the contributions. As this is the case with festschrifts the result can be anthologies the content of which can be hard to locate, and which often can only be found by searching in bibliographies "e-ressources.". Since in terms of subject, however there is often a focus, unless we’re dealing with very large conferences with numerous departments, the conference and symposium material is frequently to be found under the relevant group in the Library’s open shelves and catalogue.
"Grey" literature +
Grey literature is the term for a type of material which is not published through a publishing house with an ISBN number and similar formal idetifiers, but copied in a limited number of examples for internal use in an institution, educational establishment or the like. A typical case would be reports, working papers, compendia, study plans etc. Because of the historic connection to The Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, The Danish National Art Library contains a considerable body of this kind of literature. In recent times the Library has also taken in reports from ministries and other national institutions as well as a mass of working papers from the art historical education provided by Copenhagen and Aarhus Universities. This material is registered and can be found by searching the Library catalogue.
In addition to books on art-historical and museological subjects the book collection contains [artists' books by predominantly Danish artists.
The oldest book in the Library, an architectural treatise by Leon Battista Alberti in an edition from 1512, is part of the collection of particularly rare and valuable books. The rare books collection counts nearly 500 titles.