Loading Library Hours...

National Bibliography of Latvia

page decoration

Publishing and Bibliography in Latvia

The history of printing in Latvian can be traced back to the 16th century, with the appearance of a multi-lingual German Mass in 1525 and the establishment of Riga’s first printing shop in 1588. Until the 18th century, the majority of texts in Latvian were religious in nature; however, that started to change with the publication of the first Latvian journal in 1797. Latvian printing really took off in the 19th century, with the publication of as many as 200 titles in Latvian per year by the 1880s (Riekstinš, J.V., 1977).

In many ways, the history of Latvian bibliography mirrors the history of Latvian publishing. Although official works of national bibliography did not appear until the first half of the twentieth century, Latvian bibliography can be traced back to the late 1700s. The first bibliographic materials to appear in Latvia were occasional lists of newly published books. These were followed by attempts at retrospective bibliographies of Latvian books compiled by private individuals. By the second half of the 19th century, commercial bibliographies compiled by publishers and booksellers became commonplace. Commercial bibliographies were soon followed by more comprehensive lists of all Latvian books registered with the government. The period of Latvian independence, from 1920 to 1940, saw the Riga State Library become the chief producer of Latvian national bibliography, as well as the publication of several important works of retrospective bibliography (Pilch, 2002).

After the incorporation of Latvia into the Soviet Union, in 1940, the Latvian Bibliographic Institute took over the production of national bibliography with its monthly publication, Latvijas PSR preses hronika (Pilch, 2002). Bibliographic projects were tasked with keeping up with the enormous growth of publications in Latvia. For example, in 1940, 392 books, 21 newspapers, and 35 journals were published in Latvian. By 1972, that number had grown to 2,591 books, 114 journals, and 78 newspapers (Riekstinš, J.V., 1997). The Latvian Bibliographic Institute continued to publish their bibliography, renamed the Latvijas preses hronika , after the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1989. In 1993, the Latvian Bibliographic Institute was absorbed by the National Library of Latvia (Pilch, 2002). The mission of the national library is broad in scope. However, the production of national bibliography is identified as the library’s “main concern.” After 2006, the bibliographic activities of the National Library transitioned from print to electronic format. Current and retrospective bibliographic information is available through its electronic database of monographs and serial publications (National Library of Latvia, 2014).


  • Pilch, J. (2002). Baltic National Bibliography. Slavic & Eastern European Information Resources , vol. 2 (2-4), 51-94. DOI: 10.1300/J167v02n03_05.
  • Riekstinš, J.V. (1997). Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic: Press, radio and television. In Great Soviet Encyclopedia . (vol. 14, p. 282). (New York and London: Macmillan, 1977).
  • National Library of Latvia (2014). About the Library. Retrieved from http://www.lnb.lv/en/library/about-library

Library Catalogs

Electronic Union Catalog of Latvian Libraries of National Significance

This electronic catalog contains some 700,000 records reflecting the holdings of ten major research libraries in Latvia, including the National Library of Latvia, the Library of the University of Latvia, the Scientific Library of the Riga Technical University, the Fundamental Library of the Latvian University of Agriculture, the Library of Riga Stradins University, the Library of the Latvian Academy of Culture, the Library of the Economic and Culture Higher School, the Academic Library of the University of Latvia, the Library of Latvian Maritime academy, the Library of Riga International School of Economics and Business Administration, and the Library of Riga Graduate School of Law. The catalog interface is available in both Latvian and English and the advanced search screen gives you many options for defining your search. When possible, perform subject searches in Latvian and known item searches in the language of publication.

Screenshot of Latvian National Library Union catalog record.

Electronic Catalog of the National Library of Latvia

This electronic catalog includes descriptions of items held by the Latvian National Library. Electronic records are available for all items, regardless of year of publication, added to the collection since 1990 (Latvian), 1996 (Foreign Language), or 2000 (Russian). The catalog is updated regularly with records for the most-often requested materials in the library, but is not comprehensive for materials obtained prior to 1990. Users interested in these materials may refer to the scanned card catalogs available on the Latvian National Library website. The search interface and catalog records are identical to the Union Catalog (described above).

Katalog literatury na Latyshskom yazyke

Moscow: Russian National Library, Department of National Literatures
U of I Library Call Number: International & Area Studies Microforms, MFICHE 016.94796 R736k; reference fiche and circulating copy available

This scanned card catalog represents the Latvian holdings of the Russian National Library until roughly 1998. The catalog is made up of 137 microfiche reflecting roughly 79, 460 items arranged alphabetically by author. You can see a sample of several entries from the catalog below. Please be advised that the quality of some of the scans is poor.

image of 4 cards from scanned card catalog of latvian titles at the russian national library

Scanned Card Catalogs at the National Library of Latvia

The National Library of Latvia has made available several scanned card catalogs reflecting their foreign language holdings. Separate catalogs are available for English, German, Russian, and French books with an additional catalog for materials in other languages. Also available are scanned catalogs of sheet music and Latvian historical place names. These catalogs provide coverage until 2000, after which time entries become available through the electronic catalog. Below is an example of the interface and one of the cards from the German-language catalog.

a card from the scanned card catalog of german books at the latvian national library

Contemporary National Bibliography

National Bibliography Database of Monographs and Serial Publications

Riga: Latvijas Nacionala Bibloteka

Online resource

This database is the electronic version of the Latvian National Bibliography ( Latvijas preses hronika and its predecessors). It contains information about all books published in Latvia from 1585 to the present. Since 1940, it includes descriptions of books about Latvia and Latvians published outside of the country and, since 2000, descriptions of serial publications. Starting in 2006, the database includes information about preprints and entries from 2009 to present include supplemental information, such as cover images and tables of contents.

Latvijas preses hronika .

Riga: Latvijas Nacionala Biblioteka, 1990-2006
U of I Library Call Number: Main Stacks 015.4796 L358.

This series continues the Soviet period bibliography Latvijas PSR preses hronika. Like its predecessor this series is divided into one subseries on books, music and videos and a second on periodicals and reviews. The issues are organized by subject classification and each includes an author, title and ISBN index. The national bibliography includes Cyrillic publications as well as those in Latin characters. As one would expect, even the smallest publications are included here.

a sample entry from Latvijas preses hronika

Retrospective National Bibliography

Latvijas Nacionala biblioteka.Seniespiedumi Latviesu valoda 1525-1855. Kopkatalogs.

Riga: Latvijas Nacionala biblioteka. 1999.

U of I Library Call Number: International & Area Studies–Baltic Reference Q. 015.4796 Se571

a sample entry from Seniespiedumi Latviesu valoda 1525-1855

This excellent bibliography is the collaborative work of scholars at the Latvian National Library, the Latvian Academy Library, the Latvian University Library and the Central State Library of Liepaja. The catalog is intended as a comprehensive listing of Latvian publications issued from 1525-1855.

As can be seen from the record above, the title is given in Fraktur and in modern Latvian with complete information including the date of censorship. It may be interesting to compare this entry with that found in Misins (shown below). The entries also include references to bibliographic entries in other sources for the same title. Thus the “M. I 2398” in the record refers to Misins, volume I, entry no. 2398. Similar entries can be found for such sources as Napiersky’s Chronologischer Conspect der Lettischen Literatur, Estreicher’s Bibliografia polska and many other sources. The bibliographies consulted are listed in the opening pages of the volume.

In general, the bibliography is arranged chronologically. There are several indexes to facilitate access: title, subject, personal or organizational name, publisher and geographic. The volume concludes with some 60 pages of illustrations adding to the wealth of bibliographic data available from this resource.

Latviesu Rakstniecibas Raditajas.

Riga, 1924
U of I Library Call Number: History, Philosophy and Newspaper Library FILM 016.89193 M68L

Latviesu Rakstniecibas Raditajs.

Misins, Janis, Riga: Latvijas Akademiska Biblioteka, 1998, v.1-2.
U of I Library Call Number: International & Area Studies–Baltic Reference 016.94796 M687l

Misins 1924 publication is considered by many to be the first serious attempt at retrospective national bibliography for Latvia. The original catalog has recently been expanded by a two volume supplement covering the years 1585-1919. Misins original two volume work covered the years 1585 to 1925. As tremendous a work as this was, it was based on Misins personal library and, thus, could not be comprehensive. Nevertheless, it is an enormous accomplishment.

a sample entry from Latviesu Rakstniecibas Raditajas

The entry above is typical of the information found in the catalog. The catalog is arranged by subject and includes an author and title index for each of the original volumes. While Misins intended to publish a third and fourth volume to his bibliography that would have included periodical titles, the work was never completed.

The recently published supplementary volumes extend Misnis original work by adding legally and illegally published titles, as well as ephemera of 5 pages or more. These include the publications of societies, government regulations, bookdealers catalogs and pricelists. Books in the Latgallian dialect which were omitted from Misnis original work have been included here. The arrangement in the supplement is somewhat different than that found in the original. Entries here are arranged alphabetically by author. The compilers have also included titles identified in the Helsinki University Library catalog of Lettonian collections.

Valsts bibliotekas biletens; latvijas bibliografijas zurnals

Riga:Valsts bibliotekas, 1927-1944.

U of I Library Call Number: Main stacks 015.474 R449V, 1927-1941.

a sample entry from Valsts bibliotekas biletens; latvijas bibliografijas zurnals

This was independent Latvia’s first bibliography. Serially published, the bibliography was a list of new publications issued in Latvian territory, regardless of language, arranged in a classified list. A systematic index was published annually of authors and headings. As can be seen from the entry shown above the individual titles were fully described with all series information included. The bibliography included ephemera with records in the list for items of only a few pages. There were even listings for concert programs.

Preses hronika. Riga. 1949-1956

U of I Library does not hold this title

Available at the National Library of Latvia. Record number: 000376513

This was a quarterly publication issued during the Soviet period. The publication is described by Pilch (SEEIR, 2001:2(3/4)) as “listing books, music, printed graphics and periodicals.”(pp.75-76) The title is not held at the University of Illinois and thus could not be examined de visu.

Latvijas PSR preses hronika. Riga. 1957-1989

U of I Library does not hold this title

Available via WorldCat. OCLC Accession Number: 24168353

This title continued the Preses hronika cited above. This later title was issued monthly and listed books, music, graphics and periodical publications.


page decoration