PRIMARY SOURCES

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(1450-1900)

Commentary on:
Renewed Swedish Censorship Laws (1684)

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Commentary on Renewed Swedish Censorship Laws (1684)

 

Jonas Nordin

Division of Book History, University of Lund, SE

 

Please cite as:

Nordin, Jonas (2023) ‘Commentary on Renewed Swedish Censorship Laws (1684)', in Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer, www.copyrighthistory.org

 

1. Full title

His Royal Majesty’s Statute and Ordinance Regarding the Censorship of All Newly Written Works in the Realm, both at Academies and Schools, as well as other Places before they are printed. Additionally, Confirmation of previous Royal Ordinances on the same matter, as well as the delivery of copies to the Royal Archives and the Library of all that is printed. Also, the Punishment of Printers who violate this. Dated Stockholm, 5 July 1684.

(SW: Hans Kongl. May:tz Stadga och Förordning Om Alla Nyskreffne Wärkz Censerande i Rijket, så wid Academier och Skolor, som andra Orter innan dhe tryckte warda. Item Stadfästelse på förra Kongl. Förordningar om thet samma, så och Exemplars inlefwererande til Kongl. Archivum och Bibliotheket aff alt thet som tryckt warder. Sampt Booktryckiarnes Straff som här emot bryta. Dat. Stockholm 5 Julij 1684.)

 

2. Abstract

The first general censorship regulations in Sweden were issued in 1661 and 1662. Due to poor compliance and the expansion of the book market, they were repeated and reinforced in a renewed censorship statute in 1684. This was supplemented in 1688 with instructions for a newly established separate censorial office. Together, these two frameworks laid the foundation for the control of the book market in Sweden until 1766, when pre-censorship was abolished.

 

3. Background

Printing reached Sweden in the 1480s through traveling German workmen. Books intended for the Swedish market were also printed abroad. The earliest orders were made for the needs of the Church, but after the Reformation the Crown took its place and was essentially the sole publisher for all books on the Swedish market throughout the 1500s. For most of the century, there was only one active printer in the country, working under royal commission. On this limited market, there was no need for legislation, as printers were controlled through direct privileges.[1]

During the seventeenth century, both the number of printers and their production increased through active measures by the Crown. By the middle of the century, there were nine active printers in the realm, which created a need for tighter controls. In 1655, the academic consistorium at Uppsala University was tasked with controlling the books and dissertations authored by teachers and students.[2] The first general censorship regulations were introduced in the Chancellery Ordinance of 22 September 1661. It stipulated that all books printed in the realm should be sent to the central administrative agency, the Chancellery Collegium, for examination.[3] This post-printing but pre-distribution control could cause difficulties for printers in case a publication was prohibited. Therefore, after less than a year, on 15 July 1662, a provision was issued stating that printers should submit manuscripts for review before being granted permission to print.[4] These regulations were further formalized in 1684 when the absolute monarch, Charles XI, issued an ordinance that placed overall control firmly in the hands of the Chancellery.[5]

 

4. Content of the 1684 Ordinance

The censorship ordinance was justified by the fact that several works had been printed in the realm and its underlying provinces without prior examination. According to the government, this had created “disorder, disputes, and errors” and allowed for the publication of several unsuitable works. With the new ordinance, the king wanted to strengthen previously issued provisions.

The ordinance further emphasized that no academic works could be published without prior censorship by the respective university consistorium. All publications from other printing houses in the realm first had to be approved by the nearest cathedral consistorium, which assessed the book’s usefulness and value. Exceptions were made only for church books and schoolbooks with standardized content. Other newly written literature would be reviewed by the Chancellery or an appropriate expert authority, such as the Antiquities Collegium for historical presentations.

The ordinance also renewed and reinforced the obligation to deliver newly published books to the royal archive and the royal library, as stipulated in the 1662 ordinance. To facilitate the control of legal deposits, printers were required to submit lists of the books and other texts issued from their offices. Books that were still in stock and had not previously been delivered were to be immediately forwarded; for out-of-print books, the authors had to be named, and copies provided if possible.

Any printer who failed to report new manuscripts to the appropriate authority or neglected their legal deposit obligations was punished with a fine of 100 silver daler. The enforcement of compliance with the ordinance was entrusted to the Chancellery, university chancellors, the archbishop, bishops, consistories, and “all others who are in any way concerned”. However, that these regulations continued to be reiterated well into the eighteenth century and beyond is in itself an indication that the printers’ compliance left much to be desired.[6]

 

5. Consequences

During the 1686 session of the Diet, the clergy presented a request that a “learned and experienced man be appointed as censor over the new incoming books, which in part contain much that goes against both our theology and philosophy”.[7] The immediate cause was the Cartesian philosophy, which had made its way into Uppsala University and was seen by the clergy as a threat to the pure evangelical doctrine, actively opposing it.

In reality, the clergy had only requested a censor to control book imports, but King Charles XI heeded their request by issuing a detailed instruction on 7 July 1688, appointing an official who would oversee the entire book market in the realm: authors, printers, sales, and imports. The new censor was employed by the Chancellery, and the reason for the expanded function was to relieve the workload of the collegium and to streamline the control process. The instruction was specifically issued for the first holder of the censor’s office, Nils Rubens; but together with the 1684 ordinance it came to regulate the work of all censors until the office was abolished together with pre-censorship in 1766.[8]

 

Endnotes

[1] Henrik Schück, Den svenska förlagsbokhandelns historia, 1 (Stockholm: Norstedts, 1923); Bengt Åhlén, Ord mot ordningen: Farliga skrifter, bokbål och kättarprocesser i svensk censurhistoria (Stockholm: Ordfront, 1986), pp. 12–28.

[2] Jonas Nordin, “Building a Nation through Books: From Military to Cultural Armament in Seventeenth-Century Sweden”, in Jonas Nordin, Gustavs Strenga & Peter Sjökvist (eds), The Baltic Battle of Books: Formation and Relocation of European Libraries in the Confessional Age (c. 1500–1650) and Their Afterlife (Leiden: Brill, 2023), pp. 151–8, 174–8.

[3] “Chancellery Ordinance according to which His Royal Majesty most graciously wishes that his Chancellery Collegium shall be established and particularly conducted during His Royal Majesty’s current minority. Adopted in Stockholm on the 22 of September in the year 1661”, in Samling af instructioner rörande den civila förvaltningen i Sverige och Finnland, [ed. Carl Gustaf Styffe] (Stockholm: Kungl. Samfundet för utgifwande af handskrifter rörande Skandinaviens historia, 1856), pp. 327–65. Regulations regarding censorship, the royal archives, royal library, and legal deposit are primarily found in §§ 8 and 14. See Jonas Nordin, “Plikten bakom allt: Pliktleveranshanteringen vid det kungliga biblioteket under 1700-talet”, i Otfried Czaika, Jonas Nordin & Pelle Snickars, Information som problem: Medieanalytiska texter från medeltid till nutid (Stockholm: Kungliga biblioteket, 2014), pp. 17–27.

[4] “His Royal Majesty’s letter to the Archbishop, bishops, superintendents, consistories, as well as the common clergy in Sweden and subjected lands and provinces, regarding certain books and writings published by the bishop of Strängnäs”, 15 July 1662, in Gustaf Edvard Klemming & Johan Gabriel Nordin, Svensk boktryckeri-historia 1483–1883 med inledande allmän öfversigt (Stockholm: Norstedts, 1883), pp. 280–3.

[5] Hans Kongl. May:tz Stadga och Förordning Om Alla Nyskreffne Wärkz Censerande i Rijket, så wid Academier och Skolor, som andra Orter innan dhe tryckte warda. Item Stadfästelse på förra Kongl. Förordningar om thet samma, så och Exemplars inlefwererande til Kongl. Archivum och Bibliotheket aff alt thet som tryckt warder. Sampt Booktryckiarnes Straff som här emot bryta. Dat. Stockholm 5 Julij 1684. Tryckt i Stockholm hoos Niclas Wankijff Kongl. booktr.

[6] Nordin, “Plikten bakom allt”, pp. 27–38.

[7] The Clergy’s report on the Cartesian philosophy, 8 November 1686, in Prästeståndets riksdagsprotokoll, 4: 1680–1714, ed. Lennart Thanner (Stockholm: Riksgäldskontoret, 1962), appendix 13, p. 303.

[8] “Instruction for Mr. Nicolaus Rubens on how he should perform his duties in the censorship of books, which His Royal Majesty has graciously entrusted to him. Issued by His Royal Majesty’s Chancellery, 7 July 1688”, in Klemming & Nordin, Svensk boktryckeri-historia, pp. 288–91.

 

References

 

Printed sources

Hans Kongl. May:tz Stadga och Förordning Om Alla Nyskreffne Wärkz Censerande i Rijket, så wid Academier och Skolor, som andra Orter innan dhe tryckte warda. Item Stadfästelse på förra Kongl. Förordningar om thet samma, så och Exemplars inlefwererande til Kongl. Archivum och Bibliotheket aff alt thet som tryckt warder. Sampt Booktryckiarnes Straff som här emot bryta. Dat. Stockholm 5 Julij 1684. Tryckt i Stockholm hoos Niclas Wankijff Kongl. booktr.

Prästeståndets riksdagsprotokoll, 4: 1680–1714, ed. Lennart Thanner (Stockholm: Riksgäldskontoret, 1962)

Samling af instructioner rörande den civila förvaltningen i Sverige och Finnland, [ed. Carl Gustaf Styffe] (Stockholm: Kungl. Samfundet för utgifwande af handskrifter rörande Skandinaviens historia, 1856)

 

Literature

Åhlén, Bengt, Ord mot ordningen: Farliga skrifter, bokbål och kättarprocesser i svensk censurhistoria (Stockholm: Ordfront, 1986)

Klemming, Gustaf Edvard & Johan Gabriel Nordin, Svensk boktryckeri-historia 1483–1883 med inledande allmän öfversigt (Stockholm: Norstedts, 1883)

Nordin, Jonas, “Plikten bakom allt: Pliktleveranshanteringen vid det kungliga biblioteket under 1700-talet”, i Otfried Czaika, Jonas Nordin & Pelle Snickars, Information som problem: Medieanalytiska texter från medeltid till nutid (Stockholm: Kungliga biblioteket, 2014)

Nordin, Jonas, “Building a Nation through Books: From Military to Cultural Armament in Seventeenth-Century Sweden”, in Jonas Nordin, Gustavs Strenga & Peter Sjökvist (eds), The Baltic Battle of Books: Formation and Relocation of European Libraries in the Confessional Age (c. 1500–1650) and Their Afterlife (Leiden: Brill, 2023)

Schück, Henrik, Den svenska förlagsbokhandelns historia, 1 (Stockholm: Norstedts, 1923)

Co-funded by the ERC project Before Copyright, funded by the European Union (ERC, BE4COPY, 101042034). Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Research Council. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

 



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