FI / SV / EN

Kirjan kansi: Johann Joachim Winckelmann: Geschichte der Kunst des Altertums (1764)

Year of induction: 2017

Custodian: The National Library

Further information: the Monrepos library on the National Library website

The Monrepos library

The Monrepos library is a cultural-historical document of the Enlightenment in Europe. It accurately reflects the philosophical, literary and artistic interests of the 18th century. The collection is rare in international terms, because it represents a well-preserved literary and cultural lifestyle of only two generations. Even in Central Europe, such collections were usually dissolved after their collectors died.

The library was collected by Ludwig Heinrich von Nicolay (1737–1820), a Strasbourg-born writer, who later worked as an official for the Russian court, and his son Paul von Nicolay (1776–1866). It is an “arts et lettres” type of library which, von Nicolay collected during his tours of Europe and later Russia, and reflects the typical features of the age as well as the literary interests of its owner during the culture of Enlightenment in the 18th century, with a focus on classical culture, literature, art and philosophy. More than half the books are in French, and about a fifth are in German. The other books are in Latin, English, Italian and Dutch.

When Ludwig Heinrich von Nicolay retired in 1803, the library was moved from Saint Petersburg to Vyborg and the manor house of Monrepos, which became the family residence. Approximately 8,000 of the library’s 9,000 books were moved to the Helsinki University library in 1916, first as a deposit, later as a donation.

The collection is unique in Finland. Although the collection had few connections with Finland in its early stage, the later history of the collection – its more than 100 years in Vyborg and in the National Library from 1916 – is noteworthy. The collection made the study of the culture and literature of the Enlightenment possible in Finland, where large collections of books have not been preserved, which means that then library’s value to Finland today is immeasurable.