The question of what to do with Emanuel Swedenborg’s possessions arose shortly after his death in 1772. “In London, where he had been living, his signet ring and some other valuables were gathered up and sent along with some papers and clothing back to Sweden in case any of his relatives wanted them. The remaining items were given to various friends. A bundle of letters to Swedenborg from Voltaire, Rousseau and others was not considered worth saving and was tossed into the fire! When the box of Swedenborg’s effects arrived in Stockholm two of his heirs, who were bishops in the Swedish Church, tried to have his papers burned as trash” (Marvin B. Clymer, “Academy Collection of Swedenborg Documents,” New Church Life 2009, 18). The Swedenborg family subsequently made the decision to donate his manuscripts, diaries, and papers to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Soon afterwards, members of the New Church began to study and organize the material held by the Academy of Sciences and to seek out additional materials that had not yet been found. By the beginning of the twentieth century, a great deal of work still remained to be done.
In 1902, Alfred H. Stroh (see photo, left), who had recently received a Bachelor of Theology from the Academy of the New Church in Bryn Athyn, PA, was sent to Sweden to oversee the copying of several of Swedenborg’s unpublished scientific manuscripts, as well as a phototype of part of the Spiritual Diary (see New Church Life 1902, 657). Stroh began to find other unknown Swedenborg documents, and quickly became devoted to researching and publishing Swedenborgiana. In 1910 the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences published An Abridged Chronological List of the Works of Emanuel Swedenborg by Stroh and Greta Ekelof, their assistant librarian. Sigrid Cyriel Odhner [Sigstedt] was hired to assist him in 1909, and four years later an updated version of the List was published.
In 1924, Reginald Brown, the librarian at the Academy of the New Church, organized the Swedenborgiana material collected up to that point into six volumes with green covers, which became known as “The Green Books,” due to their green covers (see photo, top and left). ”From the beginning of his research, Mr. Stroh had attempted to obtain photographic copies or transcripts of as many documents as possible. In 1925 it was estimated that over 1900 pages still needed to be copied or photographed. So later that year Cyriel Odhner returned to Stockholm to continue the work. By the end of her visit she had gathered over 3,000 pages of transcripts and photographic copies for the collection” (Marvin B. Clymer, “Academy Collection of Swedenborg Documents,” New Church Life, 2009, 21). The Green Books were given the title The Academy Collection of Swedenborg Documents, and by 1963 had grown to eleven volumes.
According to Marvin B. Clymer, “Researchers looking for information about Emanuel Swedenborg now have a substantial resource available for their use. The Academy Collection of Swedenborg Documents includes most of the known documents, correspondence and records relating to the life of Swedenborg, arranged in chronological order. The result of over 235 years of careful collecting and painstaking research, this collection is available once again to individuals and scholars around the world via the Internet” (“Academy Collection of Swedenborg Documents,” New Church Life, 2009, 18). The Academy Collection of Swedenborg Documents (The Green Books) can be found on the Swedenborg Library Digital Collections website in the Swedenborgiana section. To access the collection go to www.brynathyn.edu/academics/swedenborg-library. Click on Digital Collections, “Swedenborgiana,” “Swedenborg Documents” and then The Academy Collection of Swedenborg Documents. The easiest way to use the collection is by entering keywords into the “Search For” field.
Photos: The two photographs of The Green Books were taken by Marvin B. Clymer. The photograph of Alfred Stroh is in the collection of the Academy of the New Church Archives, Swedenborg Library, Bryn Athyn, PA.
The editors of NewChurchHistory.org would like to thank Marvin B. Clymer for his assistance with this New Church History Fun Fact. Questions and comments may be addressed to the editors at firstname.lastname@example.org.