Collection supervisor

About the collection

The collection currently includes around 450 private archives from the 16th to 20th century. Contained within this are bequests made by individuals as well as archives from several corporate bodies and a few family archives. From an early stage, the University Library Basel has not only been collecting published books but also unprinted works or written letters. Shelving initially followed the principle of pertinence, i.e. by subject area (theology, jurisprudence, etc.), or by material type (letters). The bequests and private archives have been categorised under their own call numbers (principle of provenance) only since the 20th century. The collection primarily contains bequests from members of the University of Basel. In addition to the academic holdings, the areas of literature and music form the other two main focuses of the Basel-related collection.

The bequests and private archives are accessible to different extents through various catalogues. You best can start your search in the and thereafter consult further relevant finding aids.

The holdings are also documented in swissbib and in swissbib Basel Bern.

Searching for a collection and its structural order

You can find an overview of the development and structural order of the accessible bequests and private archives under:

You can find bequests or parts thereof with the call number NL, but also with the call numbers kr and kk (musical bequests), the “Archiv” call number (corporate bodies, associations and families), as well as occasionally among the manuscript call numbers.


A part of the bequests and private archives is indexed in the HAN-catalogue to the level of series or dossiers. However, only a few of the bequests are indexed to the level of individual documents.

Other bequests and private archives are only indexed to the level of the collection as a whole in the HAN-catalogue. However, there are finding aids which are available as a PDF in the HAN-catalogue inventory. The finding aids are also accessible in paper form in the Special reading room. Please contact the person in charge at the Special reading room for further information.

The indexing is constantly being improved. Hence you can also find collections which are registered as individual series or files in the HAN-catalogue. Collections which have not yet been processed are not listed in the HAN-catalogue.


Martin Steinmann: Die Handschriften der Universitätsbibliothek Basel: Übersicht über die Bestände und deren Erschliessung. Basel: Verlag der Bibliothek, 1987, 2., nachgeführte Aufl. (Katalog). (in German)

Daniel Suter: Gelehrtennachlässe aus 550 Jahren: Begleitpublikation zur Ausstellung «Sammeln, sichten, sichtbar machen. Gelehrtennachlässe aus 550 Jahren». Basel: Universitätsbibliothek, 2010 (Katalog). (in German)

Academic history

Since the founding of the University in 1460 and the beginnings of book printing in the 15th century, Basel has been a city of sciences. Many learned men and (since the 20th century) women have worked here. Their bequests are traditionally collected by the University Library Basel. The oldest collection is the bequest of theologist Johannes Heynlin von Stein (circa. 1430-1496). Further important bequests come from, for example, Johann Jakob Bachofen (1815-1887), Jacob Burckhardt (1818-1897), Franz Overbeck (1837-1905), Elsa Mahler (1882-1970), Edgar Salin (1892-1974) or Lucius Burckhardt (1925-2003).

Basel – City of music

The city of Basel is a place of music and was the first city in Switzerland to have a music academy (1905). Important musicians and musicologists worked in Basel and left bequests, which are accessible at the University Library Basel today. The collection currently includes more than 70 private archives. To name a few, there are the bequests of Friedrich Theodor Fröhlich (1803-1836), Hans Huber (1852-1921), Hermann Suter (1870-1926), Felix Weingartner (1863-1942), Ernst Levy (1895-1981), Benno Ammann (1904-1986) or Jacques Wildberger (1922-2006).

Literary life

Bequests from Basel writers are among the focal points of the private archives collection at the University Library Basel. To name a few, there are the bequests of Cécile Ines Loos (1883-1959), Rainer Brambach (1917-1983), Fritz René Allemann (1910-1996) or Guido Bachmann (1940-2003). The collection is complemented by the archives of non-Basel authors such as Johann Heinrich Jung-Stilling (1740-1817), Romain Rolland (1866-1944), Marina Ivanovna Cvetaeva (1892-1941) or Hans Henny Jahnn (1894-1959).

You can generally order archive documents directly from the HAN-catalogue. Depending on the amount, orders are usually ready to pick up after several working days. Wherever there are use restrictions, the „Bestellen“-button in the HAN-catalogue is not available. Please contact us in advance if you have any questions about such documents from the archives:, Tel. +41 61 207 29 93.

If you wish to see archive documents which are not registered in HAN-catalogue, please contact us in advance:, Tel. +41 61 207 29 93.

Use restrictions

Unless no other agreement has been entered upon taking over, the University Library Basel complies with the provisions of Basel laws relating to archiving (see “Archivgesetz Basel-Stadt”, in German) for the access to its bequests and private archives.

Use restrictions are provided as summaries in the HAN-catalogue. Users are responsible for the compliance with the restrictions, which result from copyright and protection of personality rights laws.