Zacharias Topelius
Humanist of the day

Zacharias Topelius

Today Zacharius Topelius is fondly remembered as a storyteller and a favourite of children. Behind this man’s modest image, however, lies the life of an ambitious young journalist, poet, literary pioneer and skilful populariser of history. His importance to the development of Finnish history can hardly be overstated.

Zacharias Topelius

Born January 14, 1818, Uusikaarlepyy. Died March 12, 1898, Sipoo.

MA 1840, licentiate 1844, PhD 1847 from the Imperial Alexander University in Finland

Rector 1875–1878, Imperial Alexander University
Professor extraordinary of Finnish History 1854–1863 and Professor of Finnish, Russian and Nordic History 1863–1875 at the Imperial Alexander University
Temporary amanuensis 1846–1850, University library

Journalist 1842–1860, Helsingfors Tidningar newspaper


The literary works of Zacharias Topelius (in Swedish)

Councillor of State 1878
Order of St. Anna Knighthood, 2nd class 1877
Honorary member of the Finnish Literature Society and the Society of Swedish Literature in Finland

Photo: Helsinki City Museum
Written by Eliel Kilpelä (Tomas Sjöblom, ed.)
Translated by Joe McVeigh

Zacharias Topelius was hired to edit Helsingfors Tidningar, a Swedish language newspaper, in December 1841. His salary was 200 silver roubles, which was not particularly high considering he was also required to pay the salary of his summer replacement.

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In connection with Tsar Nicholas I’s visit to Helsinki in March, 1854, Zacharias Topelius was appointed professor extraordinary of Finnish history. The appointment was both surprising in that Topelius had not applied for the post, and exceptional in that it seemed tailor-made for him.

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Zacharias Topelius Skrifter (ZTS) is a freely-available digital collection of the author’s writings, put together by the Society of Swedish Literature in Finland. The entire library of Topelius’s work, including previously unprinted material, will be available in a searchable digital database for the first time.

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