Last year my hometown Västerås in Sweden celebrated the 700th anniversary of the diocese library. The oldest documented evidence of a library for the use of students and priests is dated 11 July 1317. The document is an inventory of the Cathedral’s library certified by the Archbishop.
It later came into the hands of Rudbeckianska gymnasiet, the oldest gymnasium (secondary school) in Sweden, that was founded by the renowned bishop Johannes Rudbeckius in 1623.
These important collections have been handled by the public library in Västerås since the middle of the 1950s. The collections comprise books, homilies, maps, music, manuscripts and portraits. There are around 45,000 books, 70 linear metres of manuscript shelving, 30,000 items of ephemera and 11,000 portraits.
In celebration of the anniversary the public library has introduced a permanent exhibition of highlights from the collections. During the preparations for a special exhibition in connection with the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Pia Letalick (a IAML colleague, and librarian responsible for the old collections) made a sensational discovery: on the inside cover of a German bible from 1551 she found an inscription by Philipp Melanchthon, Martin Luther’s foremost collaborator.