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Basel Historical Museum

Objects in the collection

Basel Historical Museum has a collection comprising over 250,000 objects. A selection of these is presented here.

The scientists, scholars and collectors of the 16th century and thereafter kept Wunderkammer full of spectacular objects and works of art. Among the treasures presented are some that originally belonged to the world-famous Amerbach Cabinet.

Discover further Swiss museum collections at Museums Online.

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Chosen Exhibits

Bass viola da gamba

Joachim Tielke, Hamburg, ca. 1708 – Six strings, top spruce, sides and back maple, edges reinforced with ivory, two C-shaped sound holes, fingerboard and tailpiece adorned with tortoiseshell and ivory marquetry – L (incl. neck) 119.4 cm, L (corpus only) 68.4 cm – Inv. 1872.65.

Joachim Tielke (born 1641 in Königsberg, died 1719 in Hamburg) ranks among northern …

Flemish Virginals

(Antwerp?), 1572 – At quint or octave pitch; compass C/E-a2 (without g#2) Case made of poplar painted in tempera; softwood soundboard; keytops made of bone (white keys) and bog oak (sharps); brass and steel strings – H. 17.9 x W 92.5 x D 33 cm – Inv. 1990.426.

That this instrument, which the people of Basel used to called a Spinet, is Flemish in …

Hurdy gurdy with lute shaped body

dated 1746 – Fransois Feury, Paris – Two melody and four drone strings of gut, four steel sympathetic strings – front fir, body of maple and mahogany splints – two C shaped sound holes – keys and edge of lid faced or inlaid with ivory and ebony – overall length 64 cm – Inv.1882.27.

The signature of François Feury (Paris ca. 1711 - after 1772) is found on the inside of the …

Single action harp

Unsigned – attributed to Georges Cousineau, Paris, 1775 85 – Compass 38 strings (El g3) seven pedals (left A, G, F, E, right D, C, B) sound box pine and maple, painted black; tuning pegs, pedals and mechanism iron – strings, gut – overall height 161.5 cm, width 40 cm, depth 79.5 cm – Inv. 1956.542.

Many details of the construction, of the execution of the carved neck spiral and of the …

Lyre piano

Johann Christian Schleip, Berlin, ca. 1830 – Compass 6 octaves, FI f4 – upright English piano action with release – three knee levers for una corda, fagotto stop (FI f7) and damper lifting; case of mahogany with veneer and fillet inlay – upper frame open, filled with stretched green silk – key facings ivory (white keys) and ebony (black keys) strings brass and steel, all double – overall height 207 cm (without legs 152.8 cm), width 111.6 cm, depth 59 cm – keyboard length (F e2) 48.0 cm – Inv. 1989.31.

In 1816 Schleip moved from Gotha to Berlin, where his work is documented until 1844. The …

Post horn in Bb

Unsigned, Germany, 19th century – Coiled clockwise – four keys – brass – diameter of mouthpiece 1.0 cm, of bell 11.1 cm, of coil 16 cm – Inv. 1980.2001.

The post horn was used by the Thurn and Taxis postal service from the C16 to signal the …

Keyed trumpet in G

Alois Doke, Linz, 1823 – Coiled clockwise – five keys – brass – overall length 160 cm, mouthpiece diameter 1.1 cm, bell diameter 11.8 cm – Inv. 1980.2369.

All that is known about Alois Doke is that he became a member of the Linzer Gesellschaft …

French flageolet

Master's sign D, Nuremberg, 2nd half 17th century – Six finger holes (four at front, two at back) ivory, block of fruit tree wood – overall length 13.3 cm – Inv. 1956.361.

The master's sign "D" (stamped) is to be attributed to the 'Wildruf and Horndreher' …

Signal horn in C

Henry Distin, London, 1860 – Coiled twice anti clockwise – silver, engraved – overall length 112.5 cm, diameter of mouthpiece 1.25 cm, bell 9.8 cm – Inv. 1980.2519.

Henry Distin was born in London in 1819. With his father and his three brothers he played …


dated 1696 – Giovanni Andrea Menegoni, Venice – Compass 45 keys, C/E c3 with short bass octave – two 8' stops – case and sound board of cypresswood – key facings boxwood (white keys) and ebony (black keys) outer case in the shape of the instrument covered with leather and painted inside – height (body sides) 19 cm, width 70 cm, length 170 cm; keyboard length (c 62) 49 cm – Inv. 1879.123.

Giovanni Andrea Menegoni is documented in Venice from 1690 to 1715. Only a few instruments …


Jeremias Schlegel, Basle, second half 18th century – Boxwood, six keys, crook brass – height with crook 128.5 cm, diameter 1.4 3.6 cm – Inv. 1976.179.

Jeremias Schlegel lived in Basle from 1742 to 1792 and, like Johann Jacob Brosy, is one of …

Upright serpent (Russian bassoon) with a dragon’s head

Dubois & Couturier, Lyon, 1835–1837 – Maple; two valves, S-bend and mouthpiece made of brass; Head made of painted sheet metal; H 100 cm, dia. 3.1–5.4 cm – Inv. 1956.413.

Being made of wood with a conical bore, the upright serpent (aka Russian bassoon) looks …

Turkish crescent

Unsigned, Switzerland(?), early 19th century – Brass, iron, wood – overall length 169.2 cm, width 39.1 cm – Inv. 1980. 2058.

Variously shaped brass elements are fixed to an iron post: from the bottom upwards, a …

Chitarra battente

Giorgio Sellas, Venice, 1641 – Five double course strings – front softwood, sides and back rosewood with ivory veins – inlaid with ivory, mother of pearl and ebony – sound hole with painted rosette of parchment and paper – overall length 89 cm, length of body 46 cm – Inv. 1927.271.

Giorgio Sellas, whose original name was Georg Seelos, was born in Füssen im Allgau between …

Positive organ in table form

Unsigned, Switzerland(?), 1st half 17th century – Compass 48 keys, C c3 (without C no.) three stops: 8' regal (reconstruction), 4' stopped, octave 2'; all pipes wood – pitch al = 466 Hz; tuning heavily moderated mean tone – table top with ornamental walnut, mapleroot and oak veneer – case height 98.4 cm, width 158.5 cm, depth 114.7 cm – keyboard length (F e2) 50.2 cm – Inv. 1870.886.

The pipes lie in the case behind the keyboard. Mounted above the keys and on the side of …

Two fanfare trumpets in Eb

Jacob Steiger, Basle, 1578 – Coiled clockwise – silver coated copper – pommel, bell rim and ferrule gilt – overall length 231 cm, mouthpiece diameter 1.2 cm, bell 10.4 cm – each with its own mouthpiece – Inv. 1874.121. – Inv. 1880.206.

No other information on Jacob Steiger is available. The signature IACOB S is engraved on …

Ab Yberg table organ

Southern Germany (Augsburg?), late 16th century, rebuilt in 18th century – Compass F-a2 (without F#, G# and g#2); disposition: 4’ gedackt / principal 2’ (in the case), quint 1⅓ / cymbal, single ½’ Case: H 82.5 x W 68.5 x D 34 cm – Inv. 1927.258.

This instrument is one of only a few surviving Renaissance organs, even though it has been …

Clapper sandals (scabella)

Mauricio Kagel, Cologne, 1971 – Wooden sandals with leather straps, plywood soles, leather straps, hinges, nails – Inv. 2005.2315.-2318. – Deposit of the Paul Sacher Stiftung

The 1971 course on New Music which the composer Mauricio Kagel (died 2008) taught in …


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