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A Donation of Books

Bregenhoy donation

The library of the Archives of Latvian Folklore, ILFA, UL, has just received a remarkable gift — the folklore researchers Annikki Kaivola-Bregenhøj and Carsten Bregenhøj from Kerava in Finland have donated to Latvian folklorists and anyone interested in the field a collection of valuable scholarly publications. The Archives of Latvian Folklore wishes to express the most heartfelt gratitude to both our colleagues, as well as the Embassy of the Republic of Latvia in Finland and the Diplomatic Mail service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for their help in transportation of the books to Latvia.

The Affection for Learning

by Annikki Kaivola-Bregenhøj and Carsten Bregenhøj

In our professional lives we have always appreciated books, in several different ways: as sources of the necessary information, as links to past and present colleagues or the previous owners, and as a form of art both in their content and appearance. But we have acquired our books first and foremost as a tool for our research, and throughout our adult lives we have adjusted the acquisition of them to the need for knowledge.

Annikki had an early inspirational encounter with folklore books. In the 1960s, being a young student she found a part time job at the Finnish Literature Society in Helsinki. In the basement of the building the publishing division had its storage space, containing different books, even back copies of publications by authors of the times long past. One winter day it was announced to the staff of the Society, that in order to free some space for new books the Society would give away books to its employees. Annikki was picking one book after another – mostly those by older generations of folklorists. The cardboard box in which she had collected the treasures of her predecessors was so heavy in the end that she could not carry it. So she tied a piece of string to the box and dragged it home like a sledge through the snow to Kaisaniemenkatu – some three or four blocks away.

Her little library grew over time: she was presented with books as gifts from her peers and teachers, and she bought some more that she needed for her research. In exchange for the books Annikki wrote she received those written by other researchers. As a researcher at the Finnish Academy of Science she received her first volumes of the Folklore Fellows’ Communications, a collection which later was supplemented by her predecessor at the University of Turku, the editor of the FFC series, Professor Lauri Honko. She received books at conferences or for evaluation, when she became a Professor her colleagues gave her their latest publications; when she became a member of the board at the Finnish Literature Society all books published by the Society were sent to her.

Sometimes it was also mere luck. When in the 1970s the storeman, caretaker and chauffeur at the Finnish Literature Society retired, it was revealed, that he had hid away several sets of the precious Suomen kansan vanhat runot (The Old Songs of the Finnish People), an outstanding work consisting of 34 tomes. So Annikki managed to buy a full set at a reasonable price.

The same as Annikki also Carsten read a lot as a child. A kind librarian in the village library turned his interest away from boys' books and towards the classics of literature, books that roused his curiosity. The first folklore book he read was a popular edition of Danish proverbs, which he found at the age of fourteen in the rather limited family book shelves. At birthdays and Christmases his own book shelf received yet again more books on various subjects, including his first encyclopaedia. His lasting interest in folklore came later as he followed the radio programmes by the musicologist Thorkild Knudsen and his lectures on collecting folk song. He took on office work at the Music Collection of the Danish Folklore Archives. He browsed second-hand bookshops for cheap books, searching for books by Evald Tang Kristensen, he subscribed to Kulturhistorisk leksikon for nordisk middelalder (The Cultural History Encyclopaedia of the Nordic Middle Ages), the Topographical Description of Denmark by J. P. Trap and the monumental edition Danmarks gamle folkeviser (Denmark's Old Folk Songs). His superiors at the Danish Folklore Archives encouraged him in his studies that branched out to many subjects, and every time turning his attention towards a new subject he acquired a book or two. For an assignment in ethnology on the Structuralism of Claude Lévi-Strauss he went to the French book shop in Copenhagen, bought two French paperbacks, looked through the references and bought the same books in English. In 1972 he was appointed archivist at the Folklore Archives. With his project on masks and mumming he came to Finland on a scholarship - and married Annikki there.

For their joint folklore library Carsten saw to it that in project work there was always a book at hand with comparative material. Nordic projects in particular inspired them to extend the knowledge by yet more printed matter. The life line to the Danish folklore circles came through books by Danish colleagues, similarly impulses received at conferences usually resulted in some new book of folklore literature. Also the series already present in the Bregenhøjs' book collection were supplemented, for instance the FFC collection received a reinforcement of old volumes from the estate of his deceased teacher, Laurits Bødker, when the Nordic Institute of Folklore was closed down, as well as by volumes from a friend at a book binding course, who was the nephew of the Finnish folklorist A. V. Rantasalo.

Two events have marked the Bregenhøjs' attitude towards books. One such event happened when the family was living near the town of Vasa, and Carsten worked there as a folklore archivist. The public library of Vasa needed more space, and the staff went through the doublets and donation books, and gave many books away to other institutions. But so much material was gathered that it would not fit into the space on that second floor. One morning when Carsten passed by he noticed with dismay, that a large window on the second floor had been removed and books were flying through the air landing into a large open container below. Such institutionalized vandalism was intolerable.

However, we live in an era, where digitized information is supposed to have taken over the role of literature. A friend and colleague of Annikki and Carsten had to move to a smaller home. This colleague had tried to give away her books to second-hand bookshops, but those refused to accept any of them. - 'The general book buying public does not possess the imagination to ask for books like this', is a frequently used phrase in the second hand book business. For several evenings in a row this colleague engaged in tearing the pages and the bindings apart so that she could bring the pages to the paper recycling and the covers to the bin for burnable waste.

So, now that we ourselves can foresee a move to a smaller home we decided to put in extra effort to find a future for our books. We decided to keep a reduced library serving for special interests. For the rest of our books anything is better than vandalism and book burning. For more than ten years we have already been reducing our research endeavours and for the same period of time our beloved books have been more of a symbol of learning than a research instrument. And as their pecuniary value seems to decrease constantly an opportunity to donate them to the Archives of Latvian Folklore is a great satisfaction to us.

April 29, 2017

Last time modified: 12.05.2017 14:39:24