Royal Library, Denmark

Det Kongelige Bibliotek, Danmarks Nationalbibliotek og Københavns Universitetsbibliotek
(The Royal Library, the National Library of Denmark and the Copenhagen University Library)

The Black Diamond building, viewed from the southeast
Country Denmark
Type National library, university library
Scope National Library of Denmark - Main library of the University of Copenhagen - Danish Museum of Books and Printing, National Museum of Photography, Museum of Danish Cartoon Art.
Established 1648 (1648)
(University Library founded 1482)
Reference to legal mandate No special law. The obligations of the library are stated in the annual state budget
Location Copenhagen
Size 35.4M items. Digital collections: c. 791TB[1]
Legal deposit Since 1697
Other information
Director Mr. Erland Kolding Nielsen, director general (since 1986)
Staff 591 persons, 430 Full-time equivalent
The building of the Royal Library, Denmark, on Slotsholmen, which dates to 1906, viewed from the northwest

The Royal Library (Danish: Det Kongelige Bibliotek) in Copenhagen, Denmark, is the national library of Denmark and the university library of the University of Copenhagen. It is the largest library in the Nordic countries.[2]

It contains numerous historical treasures, and a copy of all works printed in Denmark since the 17th century are deposited there. Thanks to extensive donations in the past, the library holds nearly all known Danish printed works back to and including the first Danish book, printed in 1482.


The library was founded in 1648 by King Frederik III, who contributed a comprehensive collection of European works. It was opened to the public in 1793. In 1989, it was merged with the prestigious Copenhagen University Library (founded in 1482) (UB1). In 2005, it was merged with the Danish National Library for Science and Medicine (UB2), now the Faculty Library of Natural and Health Sciences. The official name of the organization as of 1 January 2006 is The Royal Library, the National Library of Denmark and the Copenhagen University Library. In 2008, the Danish Folklore Archive was merged with the Royal Library. It is open to anyone above the age of 18 with a genuine need to use the collections. Special rules apply for use of rare and valuable items.

Items collected

Books, journals, newspapers, pamphlets and corporate publications, manuscripts and archives, maps, prints and photographs, music scores, documentation of folkways and popular traditions, four annual electronic copies of the Danish Internet by legal deposit. Physical collections size: 35,400,000 items (6,400,000 books and journals, 20,000,000 prints and photographs, 7,900,000 pamphlets and corporate publications, 1,100,000 other materials). Digital collections: 791,000 Gigabyte (GB) (676,000 GB legal deposit, 116,000 GB retrodigitizied collections).[1]

The Royal Library today

Today, The Royal Library has five sites: The main library at Slotsholmen, Copenhagen harbour (in the Black Diamond), covering all subjects and special collections; one at Nørre Alle, Faculty Library of Natural and Health Sciences; one at Gothersgade, central Copenhagen, Faculty Library of Social Sciences; one at Amager, Faculty Library of Humanities; and, one in Studiestræde, central Copenhagen, The Faculty of Law Library. The annual circulation is 11,400,000 loans (10,900,000 of these are electronic loans). The members are 32,196 active users. The annual budget: 394M Danish Kroner (58M US Dollars), including building expenses and maintenance.

Old building

The old building of the Slotsholmen site was built in 1906 by Hans Jørgen Holm. The central hall is a copy of Charlemagne's Palace chapel in the Aachen Cathedral.

Black Diamond

Panoramic view of the new building opened in 1999 (taken by Peter Pihlmann Pedersen, 2013)

In 1999, a new building adjacent to the old one was opened at Slotsholmen, known as the Black Diamond. The Black Diamond building was designed by Danish architects schmidt hammer lassen. Named for its outside cover of black marble and glass, the Black Diamond building houses a concert hall in addition to the library. (Location: 55°40′25.5″N 12°34′55″E / 55.673750°N 12.58194°E / 55.673750; 12.58194.)

This new building was opened 1999. It is formed by two black cubes that are slightly tilted over the street. In the middle of them, there is an eight storey atrium whose walls are white and wave-shaped, with a couple of transversal corridors that link both sides, and balconies on every floor. The atrium's exterior wall is made of glass; so, you can see the sea; and, on the opposite shore, you can see Christianshavn's luxury buildings.

Three bridges connect the Black Diamond with the old part of the Royal Library; those three bridges (two small ones for internal transport and a big one with the circulation desk) go over the road. In the ceiling of the big bridge, there is a huge painting by Danish painter Per Kirkeby.

First page of the Primer nueva corónica y buen gobierno of Guamán Poma de Ayala

Significant holdings

The Royal Library acquires Danish books through legal deposit. The holdings include an almost complete collection of all Danish printed books back from 1482. In 2006, legal deposit was extended to electronic publications and now the library harvests four electronic copies of the Danish Internet each year. The library also holds a large and significant collection of old foreign scholarly and scientific literature, including precious books of high value and of importance for book history, including The Gutenberg Bible.

The library holds treasures which are inscribed on UNESCO's Memory of the World Register: A collection of about 2,000 books by and about Carl Linné (1997);[3] the manuscripts and correspondence of Hans Christian Andersen (1997);[4] the Søren Kierkegaard Archives (manuscripts and personal papers) (1997); Guamán Poma de Ayala's El Primer Nueva Coronica y Buen Gobierno, an autographed manuscript of 1,200 pages including 400 full-page drawings depicting the indigenous point of view on pre-conquest Andean life and Inca rule, the Spanish conquest in 1532, early Spanish colonial rule, and the systematic abuse of the rights of the indigenous populationt (2007).[5] Biblia Latina. Commonly called the Hamburg Bible or the Bible of Bertoldus (MS. GKS 4 2°), a richly illuminated Bible in three very large volumes made for the Cathedral of Hamburg in 1255. The 89 illuminated initials in the book are unique both as expressions of medieval art and as sources to the craft and history of the medieval book. (2011);[6]

Other treasures are the Copenhagen Psalter, the Dalby Book (a Latin Gospel on parchment), the Angers fragment (parts of Denmark's first national chronicle), and maps of the Polar Region. The library also holds important collections of Icelandic manuscripts, primarily in Den gamle kongelige samling (The Old Royal Collection) and Den nye kongelige samling (The New Royal Collection). Denmark's most outstanding Icelandic collection, the Arnamagnæan Manuscript Collection, is however not a holding of The Royal Library but of University of Copenhagen.

Book thefts

Between 1968 and 1978, the library saw one of the largest book thefts in history. Someone had managed to steal some 1,600 historical books worth more than $50 million, including prints by Martin Luther and first editions by Immanuel Kant, Thomas More and John Milton. The theft remained undetected until 1975. Between 1998 and 2002, the thief succeeded in selling books worth some $2 million at various auctions. The case was finally solved in September 2003, after a stolen book had surfaced at Christie's auction house in London. The thief, a head of department of the library's oriental department named Frede Møller-Kristensen, had died in February 2003. His family then became careless in selling the remaining books. At a coordinated raid of the family's homes in Germany and Denmark in November 2003, some 1,500 books were recovered. In June 2004, his wife, son, daughter-in-law and a family friend were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 18 months to three years; the friend was acquitted on appeal. In April 2005, a daughter of the thief was also found guilty.


The first librarian was Marcus Meibom, followed 1663-1671 by Peder Griffenfeld.[7] Later librarians included J. H. Schlegel, Jon Erichsen, Daniel Gotthilf Moldenhawer (1787-1823 notorious for stealing numerous books to enrich the library collections) and Chr. Bruun. Since 1900 the former librarians are H.O. Lange (1901-1924), Carl S. Petersen (1924-1943), Svend Dahl (1943-1952), Palle Birkelund (1952-1982), Torkil Olsen (1982-1986), followed by the present Director General Erland Kolding Nielsen.

See also


  1. 1 2 All figures are from: Årsberetning 2015 (Annual Report 2015) (Danish)
  2. Den store danske: Det kongelige bibliotek (Danish)
  3. "The Linné Collection". UNESCO Memory of the World Programme. 2008-05-16. Retrieved 2009-12-11.
  4. "Manuscripts and correspondence of Hans Christian Andersen". UNESCO Memory of the World Programme. 2008-05-16. Retrieved 2009-12-15.
  5. "El Primer Nueva Coronica y Buen Gobierno". UNESCO Memory of the World Programme. 2008-05-16. Retrieved 2009-12-15.
  6. "MS. GKS 4 2°, vol. I-III, Biblia Latina. Commonly called "the Hamburg Bible", or "the Bible of Bertoldus"".
  7. Albert Fabricius: Det kongelige Biblioteks Embedsmænd og Funktionærer 1653-1943, 1943
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Coordinates: 55°40′25.77″N 12°34′55.95″E / 55.6738250°N 12.5822083°E / 55.6738250; 12.5822083

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