Archival collection | National Library of Estonia

Archival collection

One of the main duties of the National Library is the collection, preservation, and provision of access to items of the national imprint. The national imprint is the set of publications published in Estonia in all languages as well as abroad in Estonian, translations of Estonian-language works, and foreign-language works of Estonian authors. For this purpose, we collect books, periodicals and serial publications, ephemera, maps, musical scores, posters and postcards, audio and video recordings, compact discs, online publications, and print files. 

The collection began in 1918, when the State Library was founded. To preserve the collected materials, in 1935, the archival collection was created, which is provided with one copy (the best-preserved one) of each publication to this day. Chronologically, the archival collection includes Estonian-language publications from 1861 and foreign-language publications from 1831; all earlier publications are stored in the rare books collection. Works and print files acquired as online publications are stored in the digital archive DIGAR

The archival collection is supplemented on an ongoing basis in accordance with the Legal Deposit Copy Act and the acquisition guidelines. Additional acquisitions and international publications are acquired through purchases and donations. 

The national collection can be found in the ESTER online catalogue and the Estonian National Bibliography database. The usage of legal deposit copies is regulated by the Rules for Users of the National Library of Estonia. Rare books and single copies in the archival collection of the National Library can only be used in the Rare Books and Archival Collection Reading Room

Online publications, print files, and digital copies of publications can be accessed via the digital archive DIGAR. Print files and digital copies of periodicals can be accessed via the portal DIGAR Estonian Articles and the database of digitised Estonian newspapers



Ephemera are informational and advertising publications of low volume or information content or of transitory importance. The National Library only collects ephemera that can be considered part of the national imprint. Collected ephemera are stored, based on the year of publication, either in the archival collection, which contains over 255,000 ephemera, or the rare books collection. Music- and art-related ephemera can be found in the respective reading rooms. 

At the National Library, readers can find the following ephemera: 

  • calendars, 

  • placards and song sheets, 

  • product user manuals; 

  • promotional printed matter: advertising and client materials of institutions/organisations, product and drug catalogues, product offer lists; 

  • informational printed matter: transport timetables, phonebooks, publications introducing institutions/organisations; 

  • curricula and syllabuses of individual specialties and subject courses covering a period of less than 1 year; 

  • plans and programmes of theatre, concert, sports, and other cultural events; 

  • crossword publications; 

  • election materials (except election coalition programmes); 

  • publishing house plans (except annual plans); 

  • reports of agencies/organisations regarding their activities over a period shorter than 1 year. 

The archival collection also includes a collection of special modes of technical literature, containing more than 45,000 copies of product catalogues, price lists, guidelines, standards, and technical specifications printed during the Soviet era. 

The ephemera and special modes of technical literature contained in the archival collection are listed as separate categories in the ESTER online catalogue and can only be used in the Rare Books and Archival Collection Reading Room. Digital, online, and print copies of ephemera can also be found via DIGAR