In November, I went to Scandinavia for Thanksgiving break with my mom and was fortunate enough to be able to visit some incredible people in the book world. This is the first in a series I am calling Book Nerd Abroad, where I recount my visits, share pictures, interviews, things I learned and interesting tidbits about the publishing industry around the world; the first posts will be from Nordic countries!
Chapter 1: Copenhagen, Denmark
We landed in the Copenhagen Airport around noon and took the train to Malmo, Sweden. We stayed there for a few days before returning to Copenhagen. We got into the city from the central train station and made our way to our Airbnb in the cold, dark night. In the morning, we woke up early and headed downtown.
We passed by the town hall, walked through a main shopping pedestrian street all dressed up for Christmas, and after a couple turns we found ourselves in front of a very old building with a modern entrance.
I couldn’t believe where I was; it was hard to wrap my mind around the fact that this was the publisher of Harry Potter in Danish and that I was going to be shown around. Since the publisher of Harry Potter was out of town, I had arranged to meet with Jeanett, an editorial coordinator. I looked around the reception while I was waiting which was lots of fun; the design was fantastic and they had a vibrant selection of books on display.
When Jeanett came, she led us into the courtyard. She told us about the history of the building–it was philosopher Søren Kierkegaard’s school, which he attended for nine years. They displayed this proudly on a plaque.
The courtyard was decorated with a big mural and was surrounded by stunning architecture, all of which was part of Gyldendal.
Gyldendal is the oldest and largest publishing house in Denmark; they’ve been publishing books since 1770, making them older than the United States! Our first stop was the dining hall, or commons area, which was a sunlit and atmospheric space. This is where the employees eat a partially-subsidized lunch together every day. The space is full of art chosen by employees from picture books and art books published by Gyldendal.
Next, we headed to the main meeting room, which I believe the called the “black room.” This room made my jaw drop; it was every book lover’s dream; bookcases floor-to-ceiling, surrounding the room. They towered over the meeting table. As I marveled at the sheer amount of books, I saw a familiar set of spines staring back at me.
Next, I peeked through some ground-level windows in the courtyard and saw shelves and shelves of books. It was the archives; full of every book Gyldendal has published since 1770, thoroughly cataloged and well preserved. I could have stayed here for years.
It was absolutely mindblowing wandering through the shelves and going back in time. I saw some familiar books; of course, my eye was first drawn to Harry Potter, and I salivated over their first printing copies. Here are some pictures in case you don’t believe me.
I saw some other YA books I know, and the archivist showed me the first books published by Gyldendal. They were massive, beautiful tomes that I wanted to pore over, but I didn’t know Danish and they were very old and fragile.
They had to drag me out of here: it was such a cool place! Next, we headed upstairs, away from all the books, to the offices of the editors and marketers, etc. in the children’s section. We went a couple floors up some stairs, past a statue of who seemed to be the founder of Gyldendal himself, and arrived at the children’s section.
We walked through the hallway where they had some newer books on display like The Hate U Give and the Brian Selznick Harry Potter covers, and into the office at the end. You could tell as you stepped in that it was where Danish Harry Potter had been worked on for years; stacks of Potter books lay on the floor, box sets were given special spots on a shelf above the desk, and two of the bookshelves, all Harry Potter books, spanned the numerous Danish editions and had languages from all over Europe. They were organized by sticker dots and numbers.
I marveled at the different books and could’ve stayed there for days. We left the children’s floor and I was given two books–a pre-movie Prisoner of Azkaban paperback and Goblet of Fire in the new Brian Selznick cover! On the way downstairs, Jeanett pointed out the office of the head publisher of fiction, which had a fancy sign on it.
Thankful for such a fantastic tour, we headed out the back entrance which was an automatic door that made for an awesome photo op; especially since I brought my copy of the first book in Danish from home.
I left the Gyldendal offices with a smile on my face, books in my hand, and some new Danish knowledge. If you’re curious, Gyldendal is actually pronounced Goo-En-Dale. A big thanks to all of the people at Gyldendal for letting me visit and showing me around, they kicked off my trip to Copenhagen feeling like the luckiest person in the world!
If you want to find out more about Gyldendal, or perhaps buy some of the beautiful Harry Potter books in Danish for yourself, visit gyldendal.dk.