Pietist tracts in Swedish, printed at Reval/Tallinn in the early eighteenth century: background and bibliographical career

Jürgen Beyer


Between 1718 and 1726, the printer Johann Köhler at Reval/Tallinn produced about seventeen fairly small books of pietist persuasion in Swedish. It has generally been assumed that these books were meant to be smuggled into Sweden and Finland where the authorities would not allow the printing of such literature. Furthermore, bibliographers have attributed some other books of that ilk, but not indicating the printer, to Köhler. The article, firstly, shows what is known about the provenance of the extant copies. This suggests that the books might not have been produced for the Swedish and Finnish markets in the first place but rather for readers in Estonia and Russia. Secondly, the article argues, primarily on typographical grounds, that the attributions are unfounded. They were probably made because collectors since the eighteenth century had cherished books suppressed by the authorities as rare books. These attributions have been repeated and added to by generations of bibliographers and scholars. The author calls for a critical reassessment of attributions, not only in the Reval case but also concerning more important centres of clandestine publishing such as Amsterdam. The article concludes with a bibliography of Köhler’s books published
in Swedish, including the attributed titles.

Keywords: History of printing, history of books, bibliography, pietism

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.12697/AA.2014.1.05

ISSN 1406-3859 (print)
ISSN 2228-3897 (online)
Journal DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.12697/issn1406-3859