Star collection

Piispa Henrikin surmavirsi 1600-luvulta. SKS KRA.
Bishop Henrik’s death hymn from the 17th century. SKS KRA.
The Star Collection features the oldest folklore manuscripts kept in the SKS archive. The Star Collection has been important for building Finnish identity, language and literature since the 19th century.

The Star Collection mainly consists of Kalevala poetry and other folklore material collected by scholars who were inspired by nationalism and romanticism. The material features proverbs, riddles and the first Finnish fairy-tale collections. The collection comprises the material of 107 collectors and contains a total of nearly 25,000 pages. The manuscripts have been bound in 285 works. Most of the collection’s material comes from the period between the 18th century and the 1880s. The oldest manuscript is Bishop Henrik’s death hymn.

SKS has published the material of the Star Collection in, for example, the Finnish national epic, Kalevala, as well as lyrical songs in Kalevala’s sister collection, Kanteletar (1840), and pieces in the general publication of Kalevalan poetry, Suomen Kansan Vanhat Runot.

The most well-known collector of the Star Collection is Elias Lönnrot, the editor of both Kalevala and Kanteletar, and a developer of written Finnish. Collectors before Lönnrot were e.g. Zacharias Topelius Senior, Abraham Poppius, Adolf Ivar Arwidsson, C. A. Gottlund and Reinhold von Becker. After Lönnröt, several other collectors looked for works to “complement” Kalevala. These included such figures as M. A. Castrén, D. E. D. Europaeus, H. A. Reinholm and August Ahlqvist The collection also has some tradition collections by less well-known people – “folk” writers such as Henrik Laitinen, Pietari Mansikka and Antti Puhakka. The later material of the Star Collection, from the 1870s, is characterised by the increasingly scientific nature of folklore collection. Some of the collectors of the era were Aksel August Borenius (Lähteenkorva), Aksel Berner and Arvid Genetz (Jännes).

The development of collection operations and research of material has led to a rapid growth of material quantity since the 1870s. This is related to why the oldest material is now called the Star Collection: when Matti Pennanen first tried to compile an archive catalogue for the folk poetry collection in 1903, the massive amount of material became an obstacle, and he had to leave the organising of the oldest collections to his successors. Pennanen used an asterisk in his list to separate the unorganised collections from the other material: “They have been set apart from others with a star * written in front of the name of the sender.” Later, this “star” was used to refer to the oldest and most valuable part of the collection of traditions.


The Star Collection was approved in Finland’s National Memory of the World register in 2017.

All the material has been digitised and is available for use in the archive’s facilities. For more information on the Star Collections, please see the collector collections listing.