In 1910 the International Swedenborg Congress was held in London, England, to celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of the foundation of the Swedenborg Society. The Society had officially been instituted on February 26 in 1810 for the purpose of translating and publishing the works of Emanuel Swedenborg. About four hundred representatives came to the Congress from countries around the world, including England, the United States, Canada, Australia, India, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, and Holland (see Swedenborg Society, Preface, Transactions of the International Swedenborg Congress, 1910).
The Congress began with an opening reception on July 4 and concluded on July 8. Most of the events took place in King’s Hall, a large room in the famous Holborn restaurant (see photos). Papers and addresses on Swedenborg were given under the general categories of science, philosophy, and theology. An exhibition of Swedenborgiana, which included portraits, manuscripts, books, curios, etc., was on display at the Swedenborg Society building at 1 Bloomsbury Street in London. On Wednesday, July 6, over nine hundred members of the Congress attended a garden party (see photo, below) at Bishopswood, home of David Wynter, Swedenborg Society president. The band of the H.M. Grenadier Guards played during the afternoon (Swedenborg Society, Transactions of the International Swedenborg Congress, 1910, 209).
King Gustaf V of Sweden consented to act as Patron, and although he did not actually attend the Congress, he granted an audience with a deputation from the Swedenborg Society on November 18, 1910. The audience was arranged by Alfred Stroh, who was living and working in Sweden at the time on the phototyping of Swedenborg’s manuscripts. The group, accompanied by Stroh, consisted of James Speirs, secretary of the Society, Rev. J.R. Rendell, Rev. Arthur Wilde and James Wynter, the son of the Society president. Speirs first read a “thank you” from the Swedenborg Society written on a vellum roll, followed by the presentation of a bound copy of the Transactions containing a special dedication page for the king (“An Audience with the King of Sweden,” New Church Life 1911, 47).
A number of publications were prepared in honor of the Congress, including Opera Poetica, which gathered together Swedenborg’s poems in one volume; a facsimile version of Festivus Applausus, written by Swedenborg in 1714 to celebrate the return of Charles XII to Pomerania; and a facsimile verison of Daedalus Hyperboreas, a scientific journal published by Swedenborg.
The year 2010 marks the two hundredth anniversary of the Swedenborg Society, which has planned a number of celebratory events throughout the year. One of those events is the International Swedenborg Publishers Conference, to be held June 3-4, 2010. This seems a fitting event for the two hundredth anniversary, as one of the outcomes of the 1910 Congress was a gathering of publishers held after the formal event on July 11. “The object of the meeting was to secure, so far as possible, general co-operation in the work of publishing the Writings, in place of the wasteful duplication that has been characteristic of the past; and especially to ensure the early completion of the phototyping of the theological manuscripts of Swedenborg” (“After the Congress,” New Church Life 1910, 688). The aim of the 2010 conference is “to bring together organizations and individuals, worldwide, currently working in the field of Swedenborgian publishing. Not only do we hope that the Conference will encourage closer relations between publishers and book rooms and other sales outlets, but that it also facilitates common online and other marketing strategies and will act as a forum to discuss the future of Swedenborgian publishing” (Swedenborg Society website).
Photos: All of the photographs are from a copy of Transactions of the International Swedenborg Congress owned by John Pitcairn, now in the collection of the Glencairn Museum Archives, Bryn Athyn, PA. Pitcairn was a member of the Congress and received a bound copy with a personalized dedication page. The top photograph shows the speaker’s platform in Kings Hall. The second photograph, also taken in Kings Hall, shows the opening reception. This is followed by King Gustaf’s photograph (placed opposite the title page in the book), and the garden party that took place at David Wynter’s home.
Questions and comments may be addressed to the editors at [email protected].