Conrad Gessner's Private Library


The Swiss physician and polymath Conrad Gessner (1516-1565) was one of the most prominent scientists of the early modern period and wrote numerous important works. During the last two decades were discovered nearly 400 titles from his private library. They give an interesting insight into his interests and his sources. The present book contains not only an introduction and a catalogue of these books, but also inventories of the lost works as well as the still extant and lost manuscripts possessed by Gessner. They open the door to Gessner's study and to the intellectual world of a fascinating Renaissance scholar.
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Biographical Note

Urs B. Leu, Dr. phil. (1990) in History, University of Zurich, is Director of the Rare Book Department of the Zentralbibliothek Zürich. He has published numerous publications on Conrad Gessner and the Swiss reformation including Heinrich Bullingers Privatbibliothek (TVZ, 2004).

Raffael Keller, M.A. (1998) in Chinese and Japanese Studies, Humboldt University Berlin, is scientific librarian in the Rare Book Department of the Zentralbibliothek Zürich. He has published on Chinese literature and contributed to the Oxford Companion to the Book (forthcoming).

Sandra Weidmann, librarian in the Rare Book Department of the Zentralbibliothek Zürich published together with Urs B. Leu Heinrich Bullingers Privatbibliothek (TVZ, 2004).

Review Quotes

" Conrad Gessner's Private Library is a wonderful reference tool for all those who wish to know more about the role of books in early modern intellectual life, as well as for those who want to study one of the most prominent figures of early modern science. It shows us around, tantalizing our curiosity about a man and his books, and opens doors for better research, offering nothing definitive, but food for thought." – Candice Delisle, in: Isis 100/4 (2009), pp. 910-911
"Mit dem Katalog der Privatbibliothek Konrad Gessners wird ein witerer Baustein zur Rekonstruktion der Buch-, Bibliotheks- und Gelehrtengeschichte Zürichs bereitgestellt. [...] Ingesamt gibt die Publukation ein ebenso wertvolles wie hoch willkommenes Hilfmittel ab und wird in der Gessner-Forschung - welche Aspekte des vielfältigen Schaffens der Universalgelehrten auch immer im Vordergrund stehen werden - rasch zu einem Standardwerk avancieren." – Christian Moser, in: Zwingliana 37 (2010), pp. 199-200

Table of contents


1. Libraries in 16th-Century Zürich
2. The History of Gessner’s Library
3. The Contents of the Library
4. Catalogue
5. List A: Lost Books
6. List B: Lost and Extant Manuscripts

Index of persons (to Chapters 1 to 3)
Indexes to the Catalogue


All those interested in intellectual history, history of science, history of medecine, history of the reformation, library science and Renaissance Studies.


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