Special collections

The poison cabinet, Wasa reading library, Black library, Londicer...

The poison cabinet – Banned books

Main library, Social sciences and economics (2nd floor)

The poison cabinet is a cabinet with a collection of books banned from the library after World War II.

The poison cabinets are a fascinating part of the history of the Finnish libraries. In the years following World War II, the Allied control commission involved itself in inspecting the contents of the collections in Finnish libraries, and made demands for the removal of particular ‘anti-Soviet’ material. The libraries were allowed to decide which material should be written off. The books were boxed and the boxes sealed by the police. In 1958, the books were reclaimed and returned to library collections, but were still not allowed to be lent to customers. Many libraries placed these books in warehouses, basements or so-called poison cabinets.

The poison cabinet in Vaasa is one of the few collections of banned books that have remained intact. The cabinet was stored in the library basement until the renovation of the library was completed in 2001. The books in the poison cabinet are for in-library use only. If you want to borrow a book from the collection, ask for a circulating copy at the customer service desk.


Wasa Reading Library

The Wasa Reading Library was the first public library in Finland. It was established by a group of members of the Vaasa court of appeal in 1794. It served as a library for the Wasa Reading Society, but even non-members were allowed to borrow books for a small fee. The library had a wide range of titles from a map of Polynesia to books by Montesquieu. The collection also had portraits and copperplates. The library declined during the nineteenth century when the Russian censorship hampered the operating conditions. The library ceased operations in 1845 and its remaining books were auctioned off.

The collection in the Vaasa city library consists of 30 original copies from the Wasa Reading Library. The Ostrobothnian Museum and Tritonia also have several copies, placed in the Finnish Library Museum and the Vasa Swedish Lyceum's collections. In 2009, the Vaasa city library digitized a selection of the originals with funding from the Ministry of Education and Culture. The digitized books are catalogued on the Vaasa city library database; the books in the Vasa Swedish Lyceum's collections are catalogued on the Tritonia database Tria.

The letters of correspondence between court judge Olof Langenstein, who first managed the library, and royal librarian Pehr Malmström are now preserved in the national archives in Stockholm and available in digital form on our website.

The books in the Wasa Reading Library collection have five different bookplates.



In 1775, a court of appeal was established in Vaasa. It soon needed a printing house to print the court of appeal decisions and circulars, and province governor Cederström convinced Georg Wilhelm Londicer to base a printing house in Vaasa. Established in 1776, Londicer was the second printing house in Finland, after the Frenckell printing house in Turku. In addition to the court of appeal publications, Londicer also printed religious literature. The printing house had little national importance, but held a local significance. Londicer was in business from 1776 to circa 1830 (with a three-year pause in the 1790's).

The Vaasa city library has 31 original items from the Londicer printing house, some of them in poor condition. In 2009, the library digitized a selection of the items with funding from the Ministry of Education and Culture.

Black Library

Main library, Finnish library museum (3rd floor)

When the Wasa Reading Library ceased operations in 1845, Vaasa was without a library for several years. In 1850, however, Oskar Rancken put forward an idea of a new library, and the Wasa city library opened a year later. Another new library, the People's Library, opened in Vaasa in 1863, and the two libraries co-existed for a few decades. By the beginning of the 1900's, however, the Wasa city library had ceased operations.

In the late 1930's, a collection of books from the Wasa city library was found in the attic of Palosaari library. The collection comprises about 15 shelf metres and it is called the Black Library because the books have black leather spines.


Sharpshooter battalion library – The Vaasa battalion soldiers library

The sharpshooter battalion library opened in 1882. It had a collection of 720 books in Finnish and Swedish, collected and donated to the library by the inhabitants of the province of Vaasa. The collection expanded through donations and purchases. The battalion also had its own reading room.

The collection has been donated to the Vaasa city library and comprises about 20 shelf meters. The books are bound in light brown leather and are in good condition. The collection is located in the Vaasa city library but will eventually be moved to the Finnish Library Museum.


Vaasa volunteer fire department library

Main library, Finnish library museum (3rd floor)

The Vaasa volunteer fire department was established in 1868. It organized recreational activities for its members – theatre, music and gymnastics – and promoted reading and literature. The volunteer fire department library was established in 1875, and it was located in the Bell-Lancaster school in Vaasa. By the following year, the library had 346 books and a reading room. In 1887, the library relocated to the fire station.

The collection has been donated to the Vaasa city library, and it comprises about 20 shelf metres. The books are mainly in Swedish, but there are also some in Finnish. Each book has a paper slip with the library rules glued inside the front or back cover.


Wanki collection

The Wanki collection consists of literature printed before the great 1852 fire in Vaasa, and donated to the library throughout the years. A selection of the collection is located in the Finnish Library Museum on the third floor of the main library.


Other special collections

The Vaasa city library also has donated collections. One of the most significant private donations is the Svanljung collection from the 1950's. The collection has many rarities, and each book has the Svanljung bookplate.

 The library has also received donations from associations, for example from the Swedish-Ostrobothnian association (Svensk-österbottniska samfundet) and the Ostrobothnian archaeological association (Fornforskningssällskapet). The latter is catalogued on the Vaasa city library database. The collections are for in-library use only.