Cologny (1949 – 1971)

FoundationMartin BodmerCologny (1949 – 1971)

The “Bibliotheca Bodmeriana” was inaugurated on 6 October 1951. To assist him in this undertaking, Martin had hired Miss Odile Bongard, his secretary and colleague at the Red Cross. He placed her in charge of managing the house, and in 1962 asked her to assume complete responsibility for the library and its administration, especially the task of reclassifying the collections alphabetically. The early years in Cologny were uneventful, filled with personal work. The library hosted several exhibitions, as well as individual visits by some of Martin’s acquaintances. He was likewise solicited by small groups that were also eager to tour his library. Meanwhile, the demanding work of publishing the library’s papyri (26 volumes saw print between 1954 and 1969) was carried out by Victor Martin, Michel Testuz and Rodolphe Kasser, along with Odile Bongard. On 2 October 1967, at the Palais de l’Athénée in Geneva, Martin gave a lecture that was well received, “Several significant documents from the Bodmeriana,” with two series of accompanying slides. Shortly before his death, Martin completed a book that had preoccupied him since 1948 and was to have been his spiritual testament. It contained around 300 pages, with 250 supplemental pages of diagrams, according to Jan Janssen, an assistant librarian at the time who typed up manuscript pages from autumn 1962 to May 1963, and then from September 1966 almost to the day of Martin’s death. Only an incomplete typewritten version of the book and additional handwritten sections were found under the title Chorus mysticus. In 1969, for Pope Paul VI’s visit to Geneva (at the Church of Nicholas of Flüe near Place des Nations), Martin presented His Holiness with four papyrus sheets from a codex bearing the two Epistles of Peter, together with the dedication “That the letters of Peter may return to Peter’s house.” Because Martin had traveled earlier to Rome to celebrate his 70th birthday with his family, the Holy Father had had a long private audience with him at the Vatican. For his work, Martin was awarded three honorary doctorates. He was made a member and correspondent of the Bavarian fine arts academy (in 1953) and was cofounder of the Société internationale des bibliophiles.

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