“An extraordinary idea of the human adventure”

Bernard Gagnebin, letter to Martin Bodmer, 1971

The collections in just a few words:

Our collections comprise over 150,000 items.

To find our way in the vast collection of human writing, we must, as Martin Bodmer invites us to do, stick to “the essential, which is all that counts, that is, the element that has remained living, one way or another, throughout the ages. Every creation of human genius that has managed to get beyond the sphere and period of its origins — that is what is essential and that is what ‘Weltliteratur’ is!”

“There was nonetheless in Martin Bodmer’s letters and remarks references to purchases of a kind that troubled me,” Breslauer confessed. “I mean his growing interest in the oldest traces of art or even life on earth.” Was pushing his library back to our origins or extending it to all human creations really connected with literature as such? “Did he want to create a kind of museum of man?” Published in Image in 1970, Martin Bodmer’s article “shows an interest that is a far cry from his work in 1947, world literature being but one part of a much vaster historical storyline.”


For more of the story:

About the Collection   |   Historique de la Collection (french)
Les chronique(s) d’une bibliothèque (french)  |   On the margins