Foundation

One of the most remarkable private libraries of all time.

Bernard Breslauer

On 26 February 1971, one month before he died, Martin Bodmer bequeathed his library in Cologny to a private Foundation. It was established under private law and recognized as being of public interest. It contained more than 150,000 items.

On 2 April 1971, during a sitting of the Grand Conseil (Great Council) of the Canton of Geneva, the State Counc’llor André Chavanne, Head of the Department of Public Education, paid tribute to Martin Bodmer. His gesture, he said, ‘was his way of marking his affection for Geneva and his concern to ensure that its people, particularly its young people and its university, enjoy the benefit of cultural riches of the highest value’ (Mémorial des séances du Grand Conseil).

At the time, the chairman of the Board of Trustees was Daniel Bodmer, Martin Bodmer’s eldest son. The other members of the Board were: Professors Denis van Berchem and Bernard Gagnebin, André Chavanne and the lawyer Jean Wuarin. The first director of the Bibliotheca Bodmeriana was Dr Hans E. Braun.

In December 1994, Prof Charles Méla took over from Daniel Bodmer as chairman of the Board and in 1996 Prof Martin Bircher replaced Dr Hans E. Braun as director of the Bodmeriana.

On 21 November 2003, the Foundation’s new Museum was inaugurated. It had taken three years to build. Designed by the architect Mario Botta, the new museum was intended to highlight and promote the collection.

In January 2004, Prof Charles Méla took over as director, and the collector and patron Jean Bonna became the new chairman of the Foundation.

A subsidy agreement for 2012 – 2015 was signed between the Republic and Canton of Geneva and the Martin Bodmer Foundation as ‘part of a public policy to support culture in the State of Geneva’.  As a result, the Foundation now receives state subsidies from the State of Geneva and the towns of Cologny and Collonge-Bellerive. The State of Geneva and the town of Cologny are both represented on the Board of Trustees.

History of the Fondation (PDF)