Oslo has Norway’s greatest concentration of antiquarian bookstores, many within an easy walk of each other in the center of this city of 550,000. One of the largest and oldest is J. W. Cappelens Antikvariat. Founded in 1829, Cappelens currently occupies an airy space at Tollbugt. 31; the shop’s central open space is the site of their twice yearly auctions. Ibsen is a shop specialty. Bookseller Kamilla Aslaksen says, “Considering Ibsen’s the second most played playwright in the world after Shakespeare, it’s amazing that you can get a really nice first edition for 5,000 NOK [about U.S. $750]. It’s really affordable.”
Norway offers much more for the collector than Ibsen or Hamsun. Take Theodor Kittelsen (1857–1914), the illustrator whose trolls are as firmly fixed in the Norwegian imagination as Munch’s Scream is in the world’s popular image of Norway. Kittelsen’s work, in the folk tales compiled by Asbjørnson and Moe or his own Svartedauen [The Black Death], transcends language barriers. And in Norway - where collectors like “the cold stuff,” says Kamilla Aslaksen - polarlitteratur is everywhere. Look for works by explorers Roald Amundsen, Fridtjof Nansen (who illustrated some of his own work), and Robert Peary.
Can’t make it to Norway? Bookmark Antikvariat.net. The online marketplace allows the user to search the databases of Scandinavian members of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB). There are 99 bookseller members in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden listing more than 1.5 million titles altogether.
Antikvariat.net also puts out a guide to Norway’s antiquarian bookshops. The brochure, which includes a map of the Oslo shops, is available at Norway’s antikvariater.
Erica Olsen is a freelance writer and a contract archivist at Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum in Blanding, Utah. Her Norwegian roots are in Stavanger and the Grimstad area.
(The article was first published in Fine Books & Collections. It is presented here, with our thanks, by permission of Erica Olson and Fine Books & Collections.)
More about the Antiquarian Book Trade in Norway
Vidar Wangsmo is president of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of Norway or Norsk Antikvarbokhandlerforening (NABF). Established in April 1942 by Jørgen W. Cappelen (Cappelens Antikvariat), Damms Antikvariat and others, who are still in business today. The NABF joined the League in 1948 and counts 19 affiliates at the moment. Rules are strict for applicants: They must have five years of practise as antiquarian booksellers and need recommendation from at least two NABF members. As ILAB affiliates they adhere to the Code of Ethics and Good Practice.
The Norsk Antikvarbokhandlerforening on this website.
Norwegian booksellers on ILAB.org
The Norwegian rare booksellers in the internet.