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The Printed Sámi Language from Paulus Diaconus to Johan Turi

Jun 21, 2012 04:56 PM

The summer exhibition of the Sámi Museum Siida tells about the birth of the written Sámi language. The exhibition introduces the audience to the earliest literary mentions of the existence of a separate Sámi language and to the first books that were published in Sámi in Sweden, Norway and Finland.

The first written descriptions of the Sámi were recorded in handwritten manuscripts. The description that was written by Paulus Diaconus, the historian of the Langobards, in 790 and printed in 1515 is considered the first printed text in which the Sámi language is referred to as an independent language. Sámi words appeared in print for the first time in the work The Pricipall Navigations, voyages and discoveries of the English nation made by Sea or over Land, which was published in 1589. The words had been recorded by sea captain Stephen Burrough during his trip by the coast of the Kola Peninsula in 1557.

The jewel of the exhibition The Printed Sámi Language is the first book published in Sámi, from the year 1619: En lijten sångebook, hurudeles messan skal hållas, läsäs, eller sjungas, pä lappesko by Nicolaus Andreae. In the exhibition, there is also a virtual copy of this book for visitors to leaf through. We also highlight one of the most important works of the research on Lapland, Johannes Schefferus’ Lapponia which was published in 1673, and the Sámi yoik poems, Kulnasatz and Orre Jaura, that were published in it as written down by Olaus Sirma. Through the early translations of the work Lapponia, these poems spread widely in Europe and had an influence, for example, on the productions of Voltaire and Goethe.

Printed Sámi literature – literature written by Sámi in their own language – was not born until the early 1900s. The exhibition displays, for example, Johan Turi’s Muittalus samiid birra (”Turi’s Book of Lapland”) that was published in 1910, Anders Larsen’s novel Bæivve-Alggo from 1912 and Pedar Jalvi’sMuottačalmit, a collection of poems and short stories, from 1915.

Mr. Ilkka Paatero, the owner of this rare collection of books, took up collecting literature on Lapland in the early 1990s. His goal of creating a complete library of books on Lapland led him eventually to study the initial phases of Sámi literature, too. According to Paatero, especially the earliest Sámi works that were printed in the 1600s and 1700s are a real challenge for a collector, as only a few copies of them have survived – and almost always as part of public collections. As concerns his relationship to collecting literature, Paatero quotes Samuli Paulaharju: “Once a hunter, always a hunter.”

The exhibition The Printed Sámi Language will be opened for the public at Siida on 15 June and will last until 14 October. Siida is open from 1 June to 19 September every day from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and, from 20 September on, from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Welcome!


For more information, please contact:
Curator Arja Jomppanen, Sámi Museum Siida, tel. +358 (0)40 579 3313,  


Sámi museum, Siida, Inarintie 46, FI-99870 Inari, tel. +358 (0)400 898 212, siida@samimuseum.fi, www.siida.fi

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