Finland: National Library of Finland

The National Library of Finland is the oldest and largest scholarly library in Finland.
It is responsible for the collection, description, preservation and accessibility of Finland’s printed national heritage and the unique collections under its care. On this page, you will find an introduction to some of its special collections: The Collection of Oriental Manuscripts, The Tibet Collection, The Mannerheim Collection and The Donner Collection. Some of these resources are digitalized and can be found on the online repository, Doria.

If you seek more information on Asiatic Collections in the National Library of Finland, kindly see the book by Harry Halén, Handbook of Oriental Collections in Finland (London 1978).

The Collection of Oriental Manuscripts
The Collection of Oriental Manuscripts contains, for example, manuscripts in Arabic, Persian and Turkish. The collection is based on the manuscripts acquired by the explorer G.A. Wallin (1811–1852) during his trips to Arabia. Wallin’s diaries, notes and other materials are included in personal archives. The collection also includes materials derived from G. J. Ramstedt (1873–1950), such as Mongolian manuscripts. The materials in the collection are varied ranging from papyri, parchments and palm leaves to writing on pieces of clay.  In addition, the collection contains the manuscripts brought with C. G. E. Mannerheim (1867–1951) from his trip to Asia, which are deposited at the library of the Finno-Ugrian Society. These may only be studied with a permission of the society.

The Tibet Collection
The first part of the Tibet Collection was donated by Tibetan Lama Tsetul Pema Wangyal in 1993. Lhasa Kanjur is included in the donation. It is known as a printed edition under the name Zhol-Kanjur i.e. Zhol bka´gyur dpar ma literary collection, which was assembled into its current format in 1934. The collection includes text editions of wooden plates copied by photographing in the 1990s. The Lhasa-Kanjur Collection has a total of 100 volumes (1,359 texts): Vinaya (13 vol.); Prajñāpāramitā (21 vol.); Ratnakuta (6 vol.); Avatamsaka (6 vol.); Sūtra (30 vol.); Mahāparinirvanasūtra (2 vol.); Tantra (21 vol.); dKarchag (1 vol.).

The rest of the literature, around 200-300 volumes (3,458 texts) have been received as individual donations in the 21st century. The Tibet Collection thus consists of the following parts:  Lhasa edition bka’ ‘gyur (= kanjur); bstan ‘ gyur (= tanjur); other Tibetan scientific literature; commentaries on the canon, and cut sheets.

The Donner Collection
The Scientific Library of Professor Otto Donner (1835-1909) and his son Dr. Karl Reinhold (Kai) Donner (1888-1935), an extensive and valuable collection of linguistics and ethnology, was donated to the University of Helsinki in the 1930’s.

In this connection, a separate collection of Chinese literature was created, called nowadays the Donner collection. Otto Donner had commissioned Hugo Lund, a Finnish sinologist, to acquire for him representative classics and reference works, during Lund’s stay in Beijing in 1899 and 1901. The collection contains in total 71 titles (= 2565 volumes) and 17 small “notebooks” (pocket books of that time); f.e. reprints of ancient works, poetry, dictionaries and  dynastic histories.

Most of them are printed in 1890’s in Guangzhou (Guangzhou), Shanghai and Beijing.

C.G.E. Mannerheim’s Fragment Collection
In 1906 C.G.E. Mannerheim got an assignment to ride through Silk Road and Tian Shan to Peking. His real mission was to gather political and military intelligence but he passed himself as an explorer. During his journey Mannerheim gathered old manuscripts and fragments. Almost all fragments in the collection are Buddhist. They probably come from the ruins of some Mahãyana temple or monastery. C.G.E. Mannerheim fragment collection is valuable addition to the research of early phases of Buddhism in the Turfan region.

The fragments are organised according to their language (links open in Doria):

Finno-Ugrian Society has deposited this collection with the National Library of Finland. It is photographed by Professor Masashi Oguchi from Hosei University. Documents are published with their permission. Research of the original fragments requires a permission from the Finno-Ugrian Society (find them here).

Japanese collections

Two Japanese collections currently being catalogued to the National Library of Finland’s search service Finna.

The Japonica Collection

The Japonica Collection s a collection of Japanese books donated to the University of Helsinki in the early 20th century. It consists of a collection from several donors — perhaps the most famous of which is the collection of G. J. Ramstedt, Finland’s first Chargé d’affaires in Japan and professor at the University of Helsinki. Because the collection has many donors, it includes a variety of subjects, and chronological works are from the time period between the late 19th century to the 1960s. The collection has approximately 620 titles and more than 1,400 volumes.

The Buddhist Collection

The Buddhist collection is a donation from Komazawa University and Aichi Gakuin University from 1968, supplemented in 1973. This collection consists mainly of literature on Buddhism, in addition to which the collection includes philosophical, cultural historical and language-related (Sanskrit, Tibetan, etc.) material.  The collection’s Buddhist works highlight the Sōtō Zen school.

The services of the National Library of Finland are available to all persons residing in Finland. Foreign researchers can obtain access to the library for the duration of their stay in Finland. Books from special collections can be borrowed to the library’s Special Collections Reading Room.  For this, the customer must get a library card from the National Library of Finland’s customer service. Home loans or interlibrary loans are not possible from these collections.

You can browse the Japonica Collection here: JAPONICA and Buddhistica Collection here: BUDDHISTICA

You can book presentations of the Japanese collections from the National Library of Finland for e.g. student groups. At the moment, presentations are carried out on Zoom. All individual questions, comments and error notes are also welcome.

For further information, please contact:

Librarian Pauliina Vuorinen, [email protected]
Advice regarding special collections: [email protected]

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