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A library dedicated to World Litterature


The Bodmer Foundation (French: Fondation Bodmer) is a library and museum specialised in manuscripts and precious editions. It is located in Cologny, Switzerland just outside Geneva.

Also known as Bibliotheca Bodmeriana (or Bodmer Library), it is a Swiss heritage site of national significance. The library was established by Martin Bodmer and is famous as the home of the Bodmer Papyri. Some of these papyri are among the oldest remaining copies of the New Testament. Some manuscripts are written in Greek, others in Coptic (e.g. Papyrus Bodmer III). The first of the manuscripts was purchased in 1956 (Papyrus Bodmer II — P66). It also houses a copy of the Gutenberg Bible.


BBC: Frankenstein: Freak events that gave birth to a masterpiece (19 May 2016)

The Telegraph: Beauty and the beast: How Switzerland inspired Frankenstein (5 June 2016)
Fayoum mummy portrait, 2nd century, first half CE
Encaustic painting on wood, 34 x 20 cm

Hawara (?), Egypt

The tradition of Egyptian mummy portraits from the Roman period, sometimes called Fayoum portraits, after the place in which they are most commonly found, are of indisputable interest because they bridge three artistic and cultural movements: the Egyptian, Hellenistic and Imperial Roman traditions. Such portraits are the next step in the tradition of mummy funerary masks, although the clothing and hairstyles represented are a legacy of the period of Roman occupation. These paintings were made by Egyptian and Greek artists for the dead of all social classes and are a marvelous example of cultural proliferation during the first centuries of our era, and of the debates between Christianity and the polytheism of the ancient world.

The Gospel of Saint John (P66), 2nd - 3rd century
Papyrus, Greek manuscript, 17 x 15 cm
PBodmer II

This papyrus, which contains the Gospel of Saint John, provides remarkable evidence of the origins of the modern book: as early as the first century A.D., the codex gave the new Christian community the same advantage as secretaries, lawyers and students - it was easy to consult, store and transport, and new pages could be added. Until the 19th century, the oldest known manuscript was the fourth-century Codex Vaticanus; the first fragment dating from the third century was published in 1899 as part of the Oxyrhynchus papyri. The Bodmer manuscript, which dates from the end of the second century or the very beginning of the third century, is thus one of the oldest substantial copy.

Johannes Gutenberg (1398 – 1468)
Gutenberg Bible , c. 1452 -1454
Incunabula, 40 x 28 cm
IncBodmer 259

The "Gutenberg" or "42-line" Bible was the first complete book to be printed in movable type, and remains a typographical masterpiece. The two columns of print in "textura" type and the initials and rubrics in calligraphy evoke the art of medieval manuscripts. Of the first printing of 180 copies, produced in a collaborative effort between the printer, the calligrapher, Peter Schöffer, and the financier Johannes Fust, some 40 have survived, including 18 complete copies. The only example in a Swiss collection is in Cologny: this rarity, which the Soviets found in the Czar's library and sold in 1928, was acquired by Martin Bodmer in London.

Pages 01r & 293r & 310r

The Nativity of Mary, 3rd century
Papyrus, Greek manuscript, 17.5 x 16 cm
PBodmer V

The Nativity of Mary, better known as the Protogospel of Saint James (the title given to it by its first editor in the 16th century), is an apocryphal book written in the second century. The Bodmer copy, which dates from the third century, is the oldest copy, so close to the date of composition that is key to the history of this apocryphal gospel’s development. It tells the story of Jesus’ childhood and was of great importance to the Eastern Churches; it was translated into Syrian, Coptic, Sahidic, Arabic, Aramean, Ethiopic and even Slavic. In the West, this apocryphal book was banned by Pope Innocent I in 417.