About the collection
In addition to correspondence included within the bequests, the University Library Basel owns a number of significant letter collections from the 16th to 18th centuries. These collections document the academic history of Basel, which at the time was highly regarded across Europe. Representative of this are names such as Amerbach, Grynäus, Bernoulli or Buxtorf. Other letter collections from the late 18th to 20th centuries have since been added. The autograph collections, which all date from the late 19th and 20th centuries, complement these inter-connected collections of letters. They contain numerous items from famous personalities.
The letters and autographs at the University Library Basel are indexed by name. You can start your search ideally in the HAN-catalogue and afterwards consult further relevant finding aids.
In addition to the HAN-catalogue, there is the letter catalogue in which you can search by letter author and addressee. This card index records all letters, separated into senders and receivers, which cannot be found in the HAN-catalogue. You can find the letter catalogue in the Special reading room.
Letters not recorded in the HAN-catalogue or in the letter catalogue can only be found in summarily indexed bequests. To locate them, a targeted search on-site is necessary.
The autograph collections are fully documented in the letter catalogue. Several autograph collections are incorporated in the HAN-catalogue. An overview of the collections and their structure, as well as the corresponding finding aids, can be found under Autographensammlungen A-Z.
Status of indexing
Since 1985, letters from the year 1800 onwards have been indexed in the HAN-catalogue, with older collections of letters also being indexed since 2005. The indexing of letters and autographs in the HAN-catalogue is continually expanded as part of the ongoing digitisation at the University Library Basel.
Frank Hieronymus: Briefe der UB als Quellen der Buchdruck- und Wissenschaftsgeschichte. Ein Auswahlverzeichnis als Folge von 25 Jahren Ausstellungen in der UB. Beiheft zu: Für alle(s) offen. Bibliotheken auf neuen Wegen. Festschrift für Dr. Fredy Gröbli, Direktor der Öffentlichen Bibliothek der Universität Basel. Basel 1995 (catalogue). (in German)
Hans Zehntner: Musikerbriefe in der Universitätsbibliothek Basel. In: Fontes artis musicae 13, 1966, S. 140-149 (catalogue). (in German)
Collection of letters on humanism and the Reformation
The foundation of the letter collection at the University Library Basel is on one hand the letter bequest of the Amerbach family, which is mostly available in an annotated edition (in German), and on the other hand the collection of Johann Wernhard Huber (1700-1755). The two collections came to the Library in 1806. Together with the collections of the Frey-Grynaeum and the church archive, they form an incomparable source on the history of humanism, the Reformation and the scholarly history of the 16th century.
Letter collection of the Bernoulli mathematician family
The largest part of the letter collection of the Bernoulli mathematician family is in the possession of the University Library Basel. This collection consists of multiple parts. The first, older part arrived at the library between the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century. The most comprehensive part of the Bernoulli letters was purchased for the University Library Basel in 1936 from the Ducal Library of Schloss Friedenstein in Gotha and in 1965 from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm.
Autograph collection of Karl Geigy-Hagenbach
The Basler manufacturer Karl Geigy-Hagenbach (1866-1949) invested in and systematically built up a collection of autographs which is, as a private collection, singular in its extent, range, and valuable unique specimens. After his death, the University of Basel was gifted two thirds of the collection as part of the University’s 500th anniversary celebrations in 1960. The remaining third was auctioned off in 1961 at the Stargardt auction house, for which the University Library Basel obtained funds from the Geigy-Hagenbach family in order to bid for further pieces to be integrated into the main collection.