The Special reading room offers 20 work spaces where books from the historical collection can be consulted that cannot be borrowed. To reach the Special reading room, go through the door under the clock at the far end of the information centre, and then go down the stairs two floors.

The use of laptops in the Special reading room is permitted (Internet available via WiFi). Only pencils may be used for writing in the Special reading room.

Please deposit your bags, coats and jackets, etc. in the cloakroom next to the main entrance.

Consultation only available in the Special reading room for:


Opening hours

Monday to Friday 09:00 – 18:00

A special user card will be issued to users of the Special reading room. On your first visit or after a longer period of absence, please bring along an official ID with your personal details and address.

Registration in advance at or by calling +41 61 207 29 93 is recommended. The bequests/private archives as well as the maps, images and ex libris collections can only be consulted by appointment.

All print media may be ordered via the swissbib Basel Bern catalogue or via the catalogue interface IDS Basel Bern. After the usual delivery time, the books will be available for consultation in the Special reading room.

Manuscriptsand documents from our bequests/private archivesmay be ordered via the HAN-catalogue or directly in the Special reading room. Orders of manuscripts are usually processed immediately. Depending on the quantity, orders from bequests/private archives are available within a few working days.

The use of bequests/private archives as well as of the maps, images and ex libris collections is only possible by appointment:, ✆ +41 (0)61 207 29 93.

We will store the books or documents in a deposit box in the Special reading room for as long as you need them. If a deposit is not consulted for over a month, the media will be returned to the closed stacks.

Recordings with a camera or with our book scanner in the Special reading room are permitted to a limited extent and on specific conditions; copying is not possible. Our digitisation centre is at your service to make copies and digitise items at a low cost, although this is available only if the original is in a well-preserved state.

Reproduction orders from the historical holdings may be placed with the supervising staff in the Special reading room or online.

There is also a reference collection in the Special reading room. It includes literature on the Basel holdings, catalogues of manuscripts in libraries abroad, literature on watermarks and on the study of manuscripts, lexicons, dictionaries, etc.

The holdings of the Special reading room reference library carry the call number prefix “SLS” and include four subsections, which follow an in-house classification:

  • SLS H: Manuscript catalogues 

  • SLS D: Incunabula and early print catalogues, book printing finding aids

  • SLS B: Literature on Basel – including Basel manuscripts and print catalogues

  • SLS A: tools such as reference works and literature on the study of manuscripts and incunabula, full-text editions, finding aids, lexicons and dictionaries

More books on our holdings and editions from our manuscripts and old prints are kept under the call numbers BUB and HHss Cv, as well as editions from our extensive collections of manuscript facsimiles (call number PAL), and they may be ordered from the catalogue in the Special reading room.

Literature on our map collection is kept under the call number Kartenslg and may be ordered to the Special reading room.

The reference collection is documented in the catalogue.