All of Finland’s books on fish under one roof
Muonio, a municipality in Finnish Lapland, is home to a unique commemoration of the centennial of Finland’s independence: the Finnish Fish Library, whose collection holds nearly every fish book title published in Finland since 1730. Ari Savikko’s Finland 100 project is a magnificent tribute to tradition, helping transfer old, soon disappearing knowledge to younger generations. The library houses the most extensive collection of publications on fish and fishing.
“Until now, the old fish books have been preserved at state research institutes and university libraries. Research institutes have done away with most of their collections and university libraries are facing cuts. The resources of the National Library of Finland are also limited. Therefore, the role of private collectors in the preservation of culture for posterity is becoming more important,” Ari Savikko says.
“Unfortunately, private collections tend to be split up and disappear once the collector passes away. There seldom is anyone in the family who is ready to carry on the work. However, a collection is always more valuable than the individual books,” Savikko points out.
A remarkable resource
for academic research
The Finnish Fish Library has more than 200 linear meters of books. The collection has original editions of nearly all the books on fish published in Finland between 1730 and the present. Included are also a large amount of older Swedish fish literature (from the 18th and 19th centuries) and English language classics in first editions.
The oldest titles are from the 17th century, and although published in Finland, these are mostly written in Latin. The collection also includes some German, Russian, Estonian, Norwegian and French literature on fish – and most of the fishing periodicals published in Finland. The Finnish Fish Library is a treasure trove for researchers, collectors and anyone interested in fish and fishing, or specialist literature in general.
However, the collection is not quite complete. At the top of Savikko’s shopping list is a 1858 title, Käytännöllinen oswiitto Lohi-sukuisten kalain kasvattamiseen (A practical guide to farming Salmonids) and a 1751 doctoral thesis Ichthyo-Theologiae primae linneae eller: Kårt försök til Guds kännedom af fiskarnars betraktande. Disp. (A study that seeks a link between God’s providence and the anatomy of a fish).
“The cultural value
exceeds the monetary one. ”
Ari Savikko, Finnish Fish Library
“I started collecting fish books in the late 1980s. First it was about fact finding to support my work and my personal interests. I soon realised that the older the book, the more difficult it was to part with, so the books started increasing in number and I kept wanting more,” Ari Savikko says, describing the origins of the collection.
“It is difficult to put into words the feeling when I find a book for which I have been searching for a long time. It is not perhaps quite like falling in love, but almost,” says Ari Savikko from the Finnish Fish Library.
Savikko is working systematically to acquire eventually all the old books that are still missing from his collection. His personal financial investment in the project has, in fact, been substantial. “I always tell my friends that I’ve bought yet another book so expensive that all my family can afford to eat is salmon and reindeer,” Savikko chuckles, who has lived in Lapland all his adult life.
“But for me, the cultural value of my collection far exceeds its monetary value,” Savikko adds.
In terms of books, his best catch so far is Uistimen heittämistaito (The art of lure casting) by a Kajaani-based captain of industry, Herman Renfors, published in 1908. There was no record of the existence of this 14-page Finnish-language publication, which is rich with illustrations, so its discovery aroused great interest among enthusiasts.
“The purpose is not to build a museum
but to preserve and share information. ”
Ari Savikko, Finnish Fish Library
The Finnish Fish Library will be opened in 2016 in Kemiläisenvaara, Muonio. The location of the library is not without meaning: the site is part of a legendary, historically significant landscape opposite the famous Keimiöniemi fishing huts.
To begin with, the library will be open by appointment only. The library building will also include accommodation and work spaces to allow researchers and thesis writers to stay and work in the library on a daily basis for short periods.
The library books are accessible to the public via the Fish Library website to be launched in 2016. The library database has more than 22,500 books or writings. If you have a publication that might be of interest to the Finnish Fish Library, and you wish to make a donation, the library will be happy to hear from you.
Volume I of the Finnish Fish Bibliography was published in 2012 and Volume II in 2015.
Read more (in Finnish): Suomen Kalakirjasto