Palsbo's collection of songs

Palsbo's collection of songs contains occasional songs, broadsheet ballads, cantatas, hymns and more that relate to all sections of society and both known and unknown people from the 1600s-1900s.

File drawers comprising Palsbo's collection of songs

Photo: Det Kgl. Bibliotek

How do I access Palsbo's song collection?

First search option

If you know the title of the song, you can search in our library system. If the song is digitised, the search result contains a link to a digital version.

Second search option

If you want to find songs that are not digitised, or you would like to search more broadly in the collection, you must look in the registers for Palsbo's song collection. Each registry also contains detailed instructions on how to use it.

Find the digitised registers in our library system (in Danish).

The registers can be read directly in the library system or downloaded from there. To search the registers, you need to download them to your computer. The title register is the most detailed of the registers, so once you have found a song in one of the other registers, it may be a good idea to look in the title register for more information.


Song titles are generally registered under the original title, transcribed verbatim (En nye og moersom Viise om de tvende Kiemper....), but usually also in normalised language form (En ny og morsom Vise om de tvende Kæmper). In some cases, the title is also found in abbreviated form (Vise om de tvende Kæmper) or under the first meaningful word in the title (Tvende Kæmper).

Beginning lines

Alphabetical register of the beginning of the song texts. The first two lines of the songs are registered, as the first line may be similar to several other songs.

Subject register

The register includes only select items. It is probably started after Palsbo's time and not complete, but can be a help in some situations.

Instead of an actual subject register, Palsbo himself arranged parts of the song collection by subject, especially broadsheets dealing with murders, ship disasters, fires and similar events. It may therefore be a good idea to look at the broadsheets that are physically located just before or just after a relevant song if you want to find others with similar content.

The signature numbers follow the collection's physical arrangement.

Author and author signature

Includes named authors as well as pseudonyms, initials and characters. A song can be registered under several forms of the name. For example, AB may be Anders Bording, K. may be Thomas Kingo, and Dr. Balfungo is a pseudonym for Oluf Bang.

Publisher and print

Publisher and place of printing are registered, if known. Certain publishers, such as Strandbergs (æ. and y.), account for such enormous quantities that the registration is in fact unmanageable, but it has nevertheless been carried out for the sake of principle.


The composers' register probably started after Palsbo's time. It is not known if the registry is complete. The register includes only composers who are directly mentioned in the print.


The register only includes melodies that are directly indicated in the print. Here some quirks appear where the printer has apparently used his ear and not his eye. For example: "Mens Nordhavet bruser mod Fjeldbys Strand" (actually: fjeldbygt), "I Østens Sølv blaa Dagen smiler" (I Østens sølvblaa ...) , “Vær Glædens Ven” (Hver ...) or “Du er rig, du er dejlig og sød” (... dejlig, o Syd).


All personal names, both real and fictitious, are registered (for example Hans Christian Andersen and Cupido). Names consisting of family name and nickname are registered under both (Jacob Hansen Kulsøe under "Hansen", "Hansen (Kulsøe)" and "Kulsøe").


Locations are thought of in the broadest sense as both geographical places and institutions, thus both Aabenraa (street or city) and Højesteret are locations.

Order material for use at the Research Reading Room

When you want to order songs from the collection, write to us via Ask the library with information about the song you want to view. Then we will find it for you for viewing it in the reading room.

Remember to note the signature of the song/broadsheet as indicated in the registers (for example Z, 100/5 or G 5555).

Also remember to write that it concerns material in Palsbo's song collection.

Incidentally, it makes it easier for us to find the song if you also write (the beginning of) the title or other written characteristics of the song you would like to view.

You can view the material at the Research Reading Room in The Black Diamond, Copenhagen.

The song collection is more diverse than the name suggests. It contains a large number of printed occasional songs written for every conceivable and unimaginable occasion, as well as a correspondingly large number of broadsheet and other prints with a variety of songs. There are funeral songs, hymns, confirmation songs, mission songs, songs about the blind, songs in dialect, military songs, cantatas, concert programmes, oratorios, toast songs, spiritual songs and hymns, just to name a few.

The collection includes about 25,000 prints and touches on a wide range of human cultural, social and political worlds of experience and traditions: working life, the workers' struggle, bourgeois club life, trade unions, prejudice, the constitution, war, women's struggle, love, happy and unhappy events, power struggles between men and women, murder, political parties and so on.

It deals with both urban and rural commons, bourgeoisie and upper class, and has been sung, collected and composed by the same. Many countries are represented in different ways. It can be as a side note in the lyrics, as the theme of the song, in the form of relations between countries, prejudices or skepticism towards other countries, or lyrics and melody may have been written by a foreign author and composer.

The songs can be serious, tragic, sad, cheerful, ironic and satirical.

The history of the collection

The song collection is named after Torben Palsbo, who was employed at the University Library in Copenhagen in the period of 1948-1984. He collected broadsheet ballads, occasional songs and other loose prints related to songs which the library had received over the years. He also thoroughly registered the collection with seven different search entries.

The material is distributed in 274 archive capsules with nine associated registers written on a total of 73,000 index cards. Some prints are digitised, and several are digitised continuously after ordering, after which they are made available.

Find out more about Palsbo's collection of songs: "Visesamlingen i Fiolstræde" in Meddelelser fra rigsbibliotekaren, 34. årg, nr. 2, 1983, s. 33-35.