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There are books in almost every room at Ainola. Sheet music is kept alongside the grand piano in the living room on the ground floor. In Sibelius’s study on the ground floor there is a small bookcase, the contents of which include various reference books. In the upstairs study there is a large assortment of books, and in particular Aino Sibelius’s collection is also kept there. The total number of books at Ainola is more than 3,500 volumes. At the behest of the Sibelius family, Helsinki University Library (now the National Library of Finland) catalogued the collection and published a listing of the books (1971 and 1984).

The majority of the books are in the library, situated on the corner behind the dining room on the ground floor. Originally a room for the children, this room was converted into a library in 1935. The conversion and design were overseen by Aulis Blomstedt, husband of Sibelius’s youngest daughter, Heidi. The inner walls are covered with bookshelves. This was also the room where Sibelius listened to the radio and to gramophone records, often together with Aino.

The selection of books housed in the library proper was shared by Jean and Aino Sibelius, even if Aino had her own separate collection. The library contains books that had been in Jean and Aino’s possession since their childhood, for instance Robinson Crusoe with the bookplate ‘Janne Sibelius’. The extensive selection of works by Juhani Aho comes primarily from Aino Sibelius’s family home, and many later gifts were dedicated jointly to Aino and Jean – for example works by Arvid Järnefelt – those that were not dedicated to Aino alone. The large selection of works by Tolstoy also belonged to Aino, as did the books by Mika Waltari.

The library has been kept in its original order. Sibelius’s favourite books have their place alongside the armchair and smoking table. Here we find such items as Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales and Stories, Johan Ludvig Runeberg’s complete works, Homer’s Odyssey in Latin, Horace’s Opera omnia and works of Petrarch. Sibelius was very familiar with Goethe, Schiller, Lessing and Shakespeare. He also read new literature, however: in a letter from Berlin from 1928 he explains that he had very much enjoyed Knut Hamsun’s new novel Landstrykere.

Naturally Sibelius also bought books, both for his own library and as gifts for Aino and his daughters. His and Aino’s favourite reading matter consisted of history, biographies and memoirs, but fiction and international literature also had a prominent place. For example the selection of Swedish classics was wide-ranging (Almqvist, Bellman, Lagerlöf, Strindberg, Söderberg, Tegnér). Most of the books in the library are in Swedish or Finnish, but there are also some in German, a language that Sibelius understood well. He seems to have read French and English literature either in the original languages or in Swedish or German translations. He read non-Swedish Nordic literature in the original languages (Bjørnson, Hamsun, Ibsen, Undset). For her part, Aino read international literature translated into Finnish or Swedish, and also in French. Most of the foreign-language books at Ainola that Sibelius received as presents reflect his wide-ranging international contacts and circle of friends.

Literature also had a close association with Sibelius’s work as a composer. Especially as a young man he read poetry in Swedish, and his solo songs were mostly settings of poems in Swedish by such authors as Gustaf Fröding, Ernst Josephson, Johan Ludvig Runeberg, Viktor Rydberg, August Strindberg, Karl August Tavaststjerna, Zachris Topelius and Josef Julius Wecksell. Among Finnish-language authors Aleksis Kivi was foremost, and Sibelius owned his complete works. The most important works of Finnish literature were undeniably the Kalevala and Kanteletar, but Sibelius also seems to have read Juhani Aho’s Panu so much that his copy is almost falling to pieces. Moreover, on one page he has sketched the outlines of a musical theme.

Many of the books are presents. Among Sibelius’s friends and neighbours were Juhani Aho, J.H. Erkko, Arvid Järnefelt, Larin-Kyösti, Eino Leino, Adolf Paul, Hjalmar Procopé, F.E. Sillanpää, Werner Söderhjelm and Sigurd Wettenhovi-Aspa. The library contains a more or less complete collection of their works, complete with dedications from the authors. Sibelius was one of the group of Swedish-speaking Finnish artistic personalities that was centred on the journal Euterpe, and among the members of this group who gave their works to Sibelius were Sigurd Frosterus, Bertel Gripenberg, Werner Söderhjelm and Emil Zilliacus.

It goes without saying that Sibelius also acquired Finnish and international literature about music, including the sheet music for works by international composers such as Bach, Chopin, Mozart and Wagner. Miniature scores and musical literature was kept in the composer’s study. Of course many such works were given to him as presents. For instance, Sibelius’s bookshelves contain almost the complete writings of Otto Andersson. Heikki Klemetti is well represented, as are Ilmari Krohn, Sulho Ranta and A.O. Väisänen. The collection of both Finnish and international literature about himself is rather comprehensive, and some of these books are kept upstairs. In them Sibelius often wrote comments of his own, sometimes contradicting the authors.

The upstairs study is where religious literature was kept, primarily gifts from the composer’s sister Linda, along with philosophical works, concert programmes, periodicals and books about Finnish history. Aino Sibelius’s library in the upstairs bedroom includes memoirs and works of fiction – even such modern works as Väinö Linna’s Unknown Soldier (1954) – as well as books on practical subjects in which Aino took interest, mostly handiwork and gardening. Also upstairs are the children’s books that the family’s daughters read.

The librarian Eeva Mäkelä-Henriksson, who was responsible for cataloguing the collection, has characterized it as follows: ‘The library at Ainola is the library of a Finnish cultural home, where books were actually read and studied. Especially the first editions, complete with dedications, of Finnish literature from the turn of the century, both in Finnish and Swedish, make a valuable and interesting collection.’


Jean Sibeliuksen kirjaston luettelo. Förteckning över Jean Sibelius' bibliotek. Catalogue of the library of Jean Sibelius. 1–2. Helsinki: Helsinki University Library, 1973, 1985. [3], 186 pages and [3], 25 pages. (Helsinki University Library. Stencil Series 7, 13.)

E.J. Ellilä, Säveltäjän kirjasto – Kirjastolehti 1954: 7.

Eeva Mäkelä-Henriksson, Jean Sibeliuksen kirjasto – Bibliophilos 32 (1973), pages 116–118.

Eeva Mäkelä-Henriksson, Die Bibliothek von Jean Sibelius in seinem Haus Ainola. – Bibliophilie und Buchgeschichte in Finnland. Anlässlich des 500. Jubiläums des Missale Aboense. Ed. Esko Häkli and Friedhilde Krause. Berlin 1988. Pages 96–101.

Eeva Mäkelä-Henriksson, Aino Sibeliuksen kirjat – Bibliophilos 36 (1977), pages 92–94.

View from the library into the dining and living rooms

Professor Otto Andersson dedicated this copy of ‘Jean Sibelius i Amerika’ (1955) to Sibelius, with words that allude to their first meeting at Martin Wegelius’s house in 1902 and to their subsequent collaboration. In addition he thanks Sibelius for his ‘divine music’. It is an indication of the closeness of their relationship that Andersson uses the familiar form ‘du’ here.

Karl Ekman’s Sibelius book was published in the USA in 1938. The well-known publisher Alfred A. Knopf sent a copy to Sibelius with a long, admiring dedication:

Dear Mr Sibelius. It is with great pleasure that I inscribe this book to you. Your music has given me endless pleasure for many years and my enthusiastic admiration for and love of it grows with each successive hearing – especially when the interpreter is our dear friend Sergei Koussevitzky. One can feel certain of little in the world of today, but I am confident that your compositions will always rank high in the great music of all time.

Yours, with deep regard.
Alfred A. Knopf.
New York
August 1938