About us

Our mission

The Hagströmer Medico-Historical Library is the core of Karolinska Institutet´s Unit for Medical History and Heritage, which promotes public and scholarly understanding of the history of health, medicine and science. Through publications, exhibitions, lectures, and demonstrations we hope to spread the interest for the history of medicine and old books to students, teachers and researchers of the Karolinska Institutet and to all interested in our cultural heritage.

About the library

The Hagströmer Medico-Historical Library was established in 1997 in order to take care of the collections of old and rare books of Karolinska Institutet (KI), founded in 1810, and Svenska Läkaresällskapet (Swedish Society of Medicine), founded in 1807. The oldest and most valuable parts of the collection derive from the old Swedish state board of medicine, Collegium Medicum (1663-1812), whose library and manuscript collection were transferred to KI in 1816. A great number of the books derive from donations and gifts from some of the most distinguished Swedish physicians of the 18th and 19th centuries. Since its establishment our library has been enriched by new purchases as well as donations and deposits, major ones including the old and rare books collections from the Swedish Pharmaceutical Society and  the Swedish Society of Dentists.

About the collection

The book collection
The library holds more than 43 000 catalogued rare and important books, the majority printed before 1860, the oldest printed during the incunabula period before 1501.  Many of the books in the Hagströmer Library collections had an epoch-making significance in the history of medicine and science. Andreas Vesalius’ The Humani Corporis Fabrica, William Harvey’s, De Motu Cordis and Charles Darwin’s, Origin of Species are only a few examples of the library’s treasures. The main collection consists of works from the library of Karolinska Institutet (KIB) and the library of the Swedish Medical Association (Svenska Läkaresällskapet). Smaller collections come from the Pharmaceutical Association (Apotekarsocieteten), the Swedish Dentist Association (Tandläkaresällskapet) and the Medical History Museum Eugenia. The library also includes Carl Benedick's collection of books on alchemy and older chemistry and extensive special collections of books by and about prominent Swedish scientists such as Carl von Linné, Carl Wilhelm Scheele and Jöns Jacob Berzelius.

Manuscript Collections
Karolinska Institutets manuscript collection originated in the archives of Collegium Medicum, of which parts were incorporated into KI's library by A. J. Hagströmer. The collection includes documents linked to the Collegium Medicum and to the Association of Surgeons (Barberarskrået / Kirurgiska Societeten) , Abraham Bäck's archives, and A. J. Hagströmers own extensive manuscript collection. The Hagströmer Library also holds the Swedish Medical Society's manuscript collection and several deposited or donated smaller collections of older and newer material. The main parts of the manuscript collections originate from the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Hagströmer Library has a small number of Swedish and foreign journals, mainly from the 18th and 19th centuries, such as the Royal Swedish Academy’s periodicals and Hygiea. We also hold a smaller number of journals on the history of medicine and science. However, most of the journals available at KI are best accessed through KIB. For those who are looking for newer journal articles, we recommend that you primarily turn to KIB's journal and article databases.

Images, photographs and artefacts
The Hagströmer library's main collection of medical and scientific illustrations can be found in our books, which contain an abundance of images from the 15th century onwards. The anatomical, botanical and zoological illustrated works are particularly detailed and colourful and have been the focus of several exhibitions. In addition, the library keeps a number of specific image- and photo collections on various topics. The library also has an extensive collection of portraits of Swedish doctors and medical researchers (17th century to the 20th century). Mention may also be made of the Wessler collection, which in addition to books and objects also contains a large collection of prints linked to the practise of dentistry.

Karolinska Institutet's Nobel Collections
The core of the collections is the Medical Nobel Assembly’s book collection, which was previously available at KIB. It mainly covers scientific publications of Nobel laureates in medicine or physiology as well as chemistry. In addition, the collection includes printed texts, images, manuscripts and objects related to the Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology and to international top research at KI.

The History of Karolinska Institutet
The Hagströmer library preserves KIB's older collection of printed documentation about and from KI, including older course catalogues, staff lists, small print and messages from management and institutions. However, the main responsibility for this type of material, as well as collecting and preserving newer material, lies with KI's Archival Unit. The Hagströmer Library holds a large collection of portraits, caricatures and photos of employees, and of course texts (monographs, articles and some manuscripts) by many KI researchers. Mention may be made in particular of our special print collections set up by author names, which provide immediate access to the scientific production of individual researchers or, where appropriate, entire scientific fields for specific periods of time. Photo albums from conferences and anniversaries, photographs that document KI as a physical environment, and a small number of maps and drawings that document its building history are also available at the Hagströmer library. Printed works about KI's history are available in the reference library.

Reference library
The Hagströmer Library has an extensive reference library on the history of medicine and science and adjoining subjects, with a focus on the period before about 1830. The reference library also contains certain English and Swedish journals on the history of science and medicine.

Anders Johan Hagströmer

When the Swedish Society of Medicine and the Karolinska Institutet decided to gather their old, rare and important collections of books and manuscripts under one roof in a special medico-historical library, they were proud to name this new institution after one of their most prominent early personages, Anders Johan Hagströmer (1753-1830), as a mark of his generous donations.
The decades of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century represented a turning point in Swedish public administration, the medical profession included. After years marked by war and political disarray in the domestic arena, as well as turmoil in foreign policy, the country entered a calmer phase. It was during this period that the foundations were laid for the country's current public administration and new institutions were established.

A number of physicians took an active role in this development by building up an effective health care system and an educational system that responded to the needs of the time through the establishment of the Royal Caroline Medico-Chirurgical Institute (Karolinska Institutet).

Anders Johan Hagström, ennobled Hagströmer in 1812, was a central figure of this period. His short autobiography with its additional supplements (the original manuscripts are preserved in the Hagströmer Library), and in an extensive correspondence (as well as in the portraits of contemporary biographers) describe how this emerged.

Provenances and short biographies

List of provenances, donators, early owners of books as well as some authors and other persons. By a click on the name you will find a short biography and when available accompanied by a portrait from our portrait collection:
  • ACREL olof von (1717-1806)
  • ALMQVIST pehr anders (1775-1817)
  • BERGH anton (1830-1890)
  • BLOM carl magnus (1737-1815)
  • BöTTIGER gustaf (1817-1887)
  • CARLANDER christopher (1778-1848)
  • CEDERHIELM germund carl (1717-1789)
  • CEDERSCHIöLD pehr gustaf (1782-1848)
  • ENGELHARDT carl diedrich (1722-1812)
  • GAHN henric (1747-1816)
  • HAMMER christian (1818-1905)
  • HUSS magnus (1807-1890)
  • LEVERTIN jacob (1810-1887)
  • LILJEWALCH petter olof (1807-1877)
  • LINDESTOLPE johan (1676-1723)
  • LINDHULT johan (1718-1770)
  • NORDENSON erik (1847-1919)
  • RETZIUS anders (1796-1860)
  • RETZIUS magnus (1795-1871)
  • RETZIUS gustaf (1842-1919)
  • ROSéN VON ROSENSTEIN nils (1706-1773)
  • ROSENHANE schering (1609-1663)
  • RöNNOW casten (1700-1787)
  • SACKLéN johan fredrik (1763-1851)
  • SALBERG johan (1741-1810)
  • SANDAHL carl (1818-1889)
  • SANTESSON carl (1819-1886)
  • SCHULTZ VON SCHULZENHEIM david (1732-1823)
  • SCHüTZERCRANTZ herman (1713-1802)
  • SKRAGGE samuel (1660-1718)
  • SONDéN carl m ()
  • STRANDBERG zacharias (1712-1792)
  • TILLAEUS pehr cornelius (1747-1827)
  • WALLNER samuel (1778-1865)
  • WIDMARK johan (1850-1909)
  • WISING per johan (1842-1912)
  • WITTHOFF sven anders (1778-1806)
  • ÖDMANSSON Ernst (1831-1910)