Quid egeris tunc apparebit cum animam ages
Founder of the Bibliotheca Bodmeriana, Martin Bodmer (Zurich, 1899 – Geneva, 1971) was a great Swiss bibliophile and collector. He was behind both the Prix Gottfried Keller, a prestigious literary award, and the review Corona, and was a founding member of the Association internationale des bibliophiles. Over the decades he put together one of the most important private collections in the world of papyri, manuscripts, incunabula, and rare books, now conserved and exhibited in the Martin Bodmer Foundation and its accompanying museum. Three weeks before his death, he bequeathed to the foundation over 150,000 items from 80 different cultures reflecting three thousand years of human civilization on Earth. The renowned rare book dealer and collector Hans Peter Kraus dubbed Martin “the collector par excellence” and “the king of bibliophiles.”
Doctor honoris causa from the universities of Frankfurt (1949), Geneva (1958) and Bern (1967), he served as vice-president of the International Red Cross from 1947 to 1964. During the Second World War, as a member of the International Committee of the Red Cross, he was responsible for Intellectual Aid, which involved distributing books to prisoners of war in order to provide some moral relief and instruction. No less than a million and a half books were sent to prisoners during the conflict.