Monday, January 11, 2016

Faroe Islands 2015
H.N.J. Bookstore 150 years

ISSUE DATE: 28 September 2015
THEME: H. N. Jacobsen's Bookstore
STAMP SIZE: 40 x 31 mm
 STAMP DESIGN: A.E.Petersen and Jógvan á Dul

H. N. Jacobsen's Bookstore - 150th Anniversary
H.N. Jacobsen's Bookstore is among the most distinctive places in the Faroe Islands. Outside the building there are old trees dating back to the 1870s giving their special character to this important institution of Faroese literature, printing and publishing. This was the site of the old secondary school until H. N. Jacobsen's bookstore moved here in 1918 from the old premises in Gongin which accommodated the bookstore from 1865 to 1918. This year marks 150 years since the founding of the company.

H. N. Jacobsen stands for Hans Nicolai Jacobsen (1832-1919), colloquially known as Hans Niklái. After he passed away his daughter Sigrid Jacobsen Niclasen (1854-1927) assumed control of the business. In the late 20th century, the entire business and enterprise was reorganized into a fund which it still is today.

From Bindery to Bookstore
Hans Niklái was a very skilled individual. As a young man he became a Jeker. This was in 1849 - and Jekers were soldiers at Skansin, the historic fortress located on a steep hill by the Tórshavn harbour. He was soon to master other subjects. The Governor Carl Emil Dahlerup (1813-1890) wished to lend his support to Hans Niklái when he initiated his bookbinding business. The Governor wanted him to go to Copenhagen to learn more about bookbinding because, in the Governor's view, the Faroes lacked this kind of specialists. "A perceptible evil here in these islands consists in the great shortage of reasonably able professionals." In 1854 Hans Niklái made his way to Denmark.

A Growing Literary Public
In the years leading up to his trip to Denmark a socio-cultural milieu was taking shape in the Faroe Islands in support of initiatives based both on enlightenment and business endeavours. Individuals such as Jens Davidsen and others started a reading society. A library was founded in Tórshavn in 1828 - with the initial help of friends of the Faroes and Nordic literary scholars such as Rasmus Rask and Carl Christian Rafn. These individuals also founded libraries in Iceland and Greenland. In this way Faroese literature was put on the map, perhaps mostly by travelling scientists and people interested in Faroese ballads, fairy tales and oral traditions. The publication of the ballads of Sigurd the Dragon Slayer (1822) and the Norse Saga of the Faroese (1832) attracted attention both in the Faroe Islands and around Europe. Jakob Grimm, the renowned German scholar wrote, among other things, a review of the former publication.

At this particular point in time the population of Torshavn and the Faroe Islands, as a whole, was starting to grow. The introduction of obligatory school attendance increased demand for books and similar reading materials. People therefore turned to the bookbinder requesting that he should provide them with books. Hans Niklái joined the Danish Booksellers Association in 1864 and in November of the same year he received official permission to conduct business. He himself states that the bookshop was founded on Ólavsøka (the Wake of St. Olav)  in Tórshavn on July 29th 1865. For more than 40 years, from 1864-1906, he was a board member of the Faroe County Library.

The First Store in Gongin
Hans Niklái began operating his business of selling and producing books in  Gongin which is one of the oldest streets in Tórshavn. In his book "Torshavn the Wonderful" William Heinesen writes about the old shop, "So this was the bookbinder's shop. Steep steps lead up to this red fairytale house where one could buy "pictorial reproductions" and large sheets of paper soldiers ... it was like looking into one of the Thousand-and-One-Night adventures from the East". The house soon became too cramped, and the couple moved into a nearby house. Hans Niklái began working as editor and publisher.
In 1918 the business and the whole enterprise moved to its present premises.

The Old Bookstore
It is interesting to see what things and paraphernalia were sold by a bookstore in those times. Ordinary bookstores in Danish provincial towns sold everything from paper to fine wallpaper and soon some of them also started photographing people. This was also true for H. N. Jacobsen's bookstore, which eventually got its own photo studio and printing.
An article about the company which was printed in "The Danish Book Market" in the 1950s about the company states that H.N. Jacobsen's Bookstore employed 30 people. The store sold books (Danish, Faroese and foreign), paper, fountain pens, photos. They had a photographic studio, gramophone records, porcelain, glass, leather goods, toys - and of course the company also owned an important printing shop and publishing company which had released several remarkable books. One fine example was the later publication of "Faroese Folk Legends and Fairy Tales" by Dr. Jakobsen, the son of the House.

Both provisional stamps and banknotes were printed by H.N. Jacobsen printing shop.

H. N. Jacobsen's bookstore is one of the oldest companies in the Faroe Islands. The activities of this institution have helped shape and influence Faroese culture. It is therefore highly significant that Posta commemorates H.N. Jacobsen's Bookstore and Hans Niklái for their unique importance in developing and strengthening Faroese awareness of their own cultural heritage and the very groundwork of a growing culture of writing.

author: Kim Simonsen

Stamp image and description thanks to Posta

Faroe Post - Posta - COLLECTORZPEDIA