The Reference Library today keeps most, if not all the books, maps, prints and other related material collected by the last nine kings since the Library’s founder, Frederik V. The collections of four of their Queens are also more or less entirely preserved. There are books belonging to other members of the Royal Family but not as many. The Reference Library comprises eight separate collections of varying size and content, all listed below. The catalogues of the first three are in the process of being made available online.
1. The Book Collection
2. The Manuscript Collection
3. The Map Collection
4. The Collection of Prints
5. Frederik IX's Collection of Music
6. Frederik IX's Collection of Film
7. The Audio-Visual Collection
8. The Eigil Knuth Collection
The Book Collection
The Book Collection currently comprises approx. 3000 m of shelf space, estimated at 60-65,000 titles or 80-90,000 volumes. The oldest books are about 500 years old, dating from the late 15th and early 16th centuries, but these are rare. There are a greater number of 18th century volumes but the bulk of the collection (at least 90%) dates from the 19th and 20th centuries, most of which are from the former.
For the most part the books are arranged by subject according to a system introduced at the beginning of the 20th century. There has been no systematic registration of provenance (although all books are embossed with the monogram of the monarch in whose reign they are acquired). The only collections to have been preserved as separate entities are those of the two last kings, Christian X (1912-47) and Frederik IX (1947-72) and Queen Caroline Amalie (1796-1881), wife of Christian VIII. Christian VIII’s (1839-48) vast collection has recently been partially reconstructed and arranged separately.
Acquired by purchase and numerous gifts, the book collection as a whole has a varied and rather eclectic nature. Due to its origin no single subject is comprehensively or systematically represented. It contains valuable, rare and, in some cases, unique material on a wide range of subjects. Even so, there is a marked similarity in the subjects that have continued to dominate the collection. Principal subjects include history, mainly of European countries, art, theology, geography and travel and literature. Most are Danish but there are also many of English, German, French and Italian origin, as well as smaller numbers of books from numerous other countries. Books on Denmark and Danish issues, including other countries and territories that were formerly part of the Danish monarchy in Europe and further afield, naturally occupy a very large part of the collection.
Viewed in its entirety, the collection reflects, often in great detail, the official and private histories, personal interests and tastes of the kings who added to it, as well as their public roles as Head of State. In a multifaceted way it presents a picture of the status and function of the Royal House in Danish society over the last 250 years, from the high point of absolutism to the constitutional monarchy of today. About 4-500 books and periodicals are acquired annually, almost 80% of which are gifts.
The Manuscript Collection
The Manuscript Collection comprises about 5 metres of shelves and covers much the same subjects as the book collection. Rather random in its composition, it includes some valuable items such as the Norske Reise anno 1733 [Tour of Norway 1733] which provides a lavishly illustrated account of the journey to Norway by King Christian VI and his entourage in that year (published by the library in a facsimile edition in 1992); or the Samples of Greenlanders’ Drawings collected in 1857-61, containing about 100 original examples of early Eskimo art (also published in a facsimile edition in 1980). Each year this collection grows a little.
The Map Collection
The Map Collection, stored naturally in the ‘map room’ is particularly valuable. It contains 400 atlases and approx. 3000 individual maps, many of them in manuscript form. The oldest maps date back to the late 17th century but most are from the early 18th – mid-19th century. The maps are primarily of territories ruled by the Kings of Denmark but the collection covers the whole world. Many maps show military operations and fortifications.
The collection also includes a section of architectural drawings by prominent Danish 18th century architects. A special section of the collection is the Atlas of Juliane Marie which contains numerous maps and prospects of all parts of the world. It was collected in the mid-18th century by Queen Juliane Marie, wife of Frederik V. Bound in 37 volumes it now contains 2798 sheets. The Map Collection is practically a closed collection with hardly any acquisition.
The Prints Collection
The Collection of Prints includes a broad spectrum of material including drawings, water-colours, etchings, prints, photographs etc. Of particular interest are original drawings and water-colours by distinguished Scandinavian and German artists, primarily of the 19th century. There is also a huge collection of old and new photographs on a great variety of subjects; photographic material is constantly being added to the collection.