Découvrez les bibliothèques de la Ville de Genève
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Corneille de Jode, "Speculum orbis terrae", Anvers, 1593, in-fol. BGE, Fa 164.

The rare books collections include the following:

Historical Genevensia (works published or printed in Geneva since 1478, along with works whose principal or secondary author, or even subject matter, is Genevan).
– A wide selection of rare editions from the main domains of knowledge.
Works that are remarkable for the quality of their binding or illustrations, their provenance, or handwritten annotations.
– Nearly 500 incunabula.
– The most important collection in the world of rare editions of Rousseau, which is complemented by the library of the Société Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The society’s library is located in the Délices.
– An important collection of rare editions of Voltaire, in addition to the many volumes making up the library of the Délices.
– Some 50 000 brochures dating from the 17th through the 19th century.
– The complete series of a number of rare periodicals (Bibliothèque britannique, Bibliothèque italique, Journal des savants, Journal de Trévoux).
Thematic collections, that is, collections organized around a specific subject (rare old Bibles, Rodolphe Töpffer).
Collections assembled by others (the collections of the bibliophile Pierre Favre and the bookbinder Charles Meunier, the library of the Company of Pastors, the collection of Ariana, a group of some 1000 rare auction catalogues of objets d’art).
– The Library of La Grange.
– A digital collection of women’s literature dating from the 17th through the 19th century  (Corvey Collection).


The Bibliothèque conserves some 400 rare editions of the complete Bible, over 200 of the Old Testament alone, and as many of the New Testament.

This includes Hebrew and Latin Bibles, New Testaments in Greek, and the multilingual Bibles of Alcalá (1514-1517), Antwerp (1569-1572), Elias Hutter (1599) and London (1657).

Versions of the Bible in all the main languages currently spoken in Europe are also part of the collection.

The French translations of the Bible reflect all the competing doctrines, including the Lempereur Bible (1530), translated by Lefèvre d’Etaples; the Olivétan Bible (1535); the Bible à l’Épée    (1540); the Castellio Bible (1555); the different editions of the Genevan pastors’ Bible; and finally the editions of Des Marets père and fils (1669), David Martin (1707), and Ostervald (1744).


The Meunier collection

Between 1916 and 1923, in memory of his friendship with the Genevan magistrate, lawyer, and bibliophile Frédéric Raisin (1851-1923), the Parisian bookbinder Charles Meunier (1866-1946) donated to the Bibliothèque a collection of 846 volumes that he had bound himself. Meunier, who had studied under Marius Michel (1846-1925), produced numerous bindings done in hand-embossed leather or mosaic leather with Art Nouveau-inspired floral motifs. The tooling on these bindings, called parlantes or emblématiques, reflects (“tells of,” as the first French term suggests) the contents of the volumes they decorate. A good many of the library’s copies are unique thanks to the presence of a dedication, or handwriting, or the succeeding proofs of prints pulled by modern masters like Carlos Schwabe (1866-1926).

The Favre collection

The architect and bibliophile Pierre Favre (1897-1986) bequeathed his rare book collection to the Bibliothèque. The collection comprises some 1600 titles, focusing above all on history, literature, geography, and architecture. Extremely rare booklets from the 16th and 17th centuries stand alongside Elzévir editions, travel accounts, descriptions of cities, treatises on mycology, dress catalogues from the period, and albums by Rodolphe Töpffer, the forerunner of today’s comic book authors. Many of these volumes also boast sumptuous bindings.

The Suzannet collection

Count Alain de Suzannet (1882-1950) left his collection of over 200 original editions of Rodolphe Töpffer’s works to the Bibliothèque, along with the manuscripts of several Voyages, autograph letters, drawings and watercolors. The printed books are choice copies, often displaying a dedication by the author and period binding.

A bibliophile from the Vendée and great-grandson of Constant de Suzannet, a comrade in arms of the royalist leader François de Charette during the French Revolution, Alain de Suzannet spent the last quarter of his life in Lausanne in a house christened La Petite-Chardière in memory of La Chardière, the family château near Chavagnes (Vendée). He had also put together an important collection featuring editions of Dickens, Maupassant, Mérimée, and Daudet.


Alain de Suzannet, Notes généalogiques et biographiques sur la famille Suzannet, Lausanne: Imprimerie centrale, 1943.

Alain de Suzannet, Catalogue des manuscrits, livres imprimés et lettres autographes composant la Bibliothèque de la petite Chardière : œuvres de Rodolphe Töpffer, Lausanne: Imprimerie centrale, 1943.

The Ariana collection

A collector of objets d’art and books, an author, translator, publisher of science books, creator of the Bibliothèque universelle, and patron of the publisher Jules-Guillaume Fick (1808-1877), Gustave Revilliod (1817-1890) left to the city of Geneva the park in Varembé, home to the Musée Ariana, which he had built and named in memory of his mother. In 1948 his encyclopedic library of 10,000 volumes was divided between the Bibliothèque and the present-day Bibliothèque d’art et d’archéologie. This collection mainly comprises literature, history, and geography, and includes some 300 Bibles in a range of languages.

The Corvey collection

Victor Amadeus, the last landgrave of Hesse-Rheinfels-Rotenburg (1779-1834), and his wife Elise of Hohenlohe (1790-1830) amassed in the château de Corvey, their estate in Westphalia, a library of over 74,000 volumes of literature in French (20,000 volumes), English, and German. In the RERO-DOC digital library, the Bibliothèque offers 470 titles of women’s literature dating from the 17th to the 19th century.

The Company of Pastors’ library

The Compagnie des pasteurs de Genève (or Company of Pastors of Geneva) was founded by the Ecclesiastical Ordinances of 1541. Made up of pastors and professors from the Academy, the Company monitored the orthodoxy of its members while keeping a watchful eye on morality in politics. The organization played a role in the censorship of printed matter in the city, and proposed candidates for the ministry and teaching posts. The Company was also responsible for the continuing practice of the faith, education, and the Hôpital général (or General hospital), the city’s public charity at the time. The Company of Pastors’ library was placed with the Bibliothèque in 1958. In 2010, this simple deposit was transformed into a donation. The collection contains 2627 titles in theology.

Catalogue of the library that belonged to the Company of Pastors.

The rare books collection by the numbers

(Source: Répertoire des fonds anciens imprimés de Suisse: the counts run up to the year 1900.)

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