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12 September 2023 - 10 March 2024

From the pain of love to salvation

As wealthy Basel citizens, Barbara zum Luft and Niklaus Meyer zum Pfeil belonged to a new readership. The showcase exhibition features some of the works from their extensive library.

This library has preserved an early example of reading for an urban audience. The tapestry showing them as teenage lovers playing cards is also on display. Some titles, such as Melusine, are popular romance and matrimonial novels that were among the first literary bestsellers.

Narrative works on history and jurisprudence offered both collected knowledge and entertainment. A precious prayer book for private devotion served to provide for the salvation of the soul as well as the prestige of its owner.

For his library, Niklaus Meyer had to copy some works himself, because the supply of printed books - especially in German - was small in the 1470s. The public, who often read in company, also had a preference for illustrated literature. Almost all the manuscripts and prints in the collection therefore have illustrations.

Cabinet exhibition in the
Barfüsserkirche/library showcase

Opening hoursAdmission


Basel Historical Museum
Management & administration
Steinenberg 4
PO box
CH – 4001 Basel

Reception: +41 61 205 86 00

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