University Library of Bern UB

Map collections

Details on the Ryhiner map collection

The Ryhiner map collection is one of the collective atlases, compiled in the 17th and 18th centuries by collectors, mostly according to systematic but often also, according to random criteria. It gave rise to many small and a number of large collections. With more than 16,000 maps, plans and topographical views in 501 volumes, the Ryhiner collection is one of the largest. Only part of most comparable collections have been handed down, if they have not been lost altogether. The significance of the Ryhiner collection lies, not least, in the fact that it is almost fully available in its original form and has an index section (map bibliography and map catalog) that is handwritten by Ryhiner.

The Bernese statesman and geographer Johann Friedrich von Ryhiner was born on January 1, 1732. He went through the usual channels in pursuit of a public career in Bern's state system. His marriage to Rosina Sophie von Mülinen created a connection with one of the most respected families. The couple had no children. Alongside his activities in the Grand Council, as Councilor of Commerce and in the Minor Council, he used his geographical and legal knowledge to put together work on the management of Bern's state. One result of this was his "Regional book" As foundation steward, he initiated the new library building in 1784, the current library being located on Münstergasse. With the demise of the ancien régime, Ryhiner was pushed to retire from politics. He devoted the rest of his life, until his death on January 20, 1803, to cartography. He saw maps as a means of developing geographical studies and set about the task of establishing an appropriate research instrument in Bern.

The map collection remained in the family for two generations, until Friedrich Ludwig von Effinger bequeathed it to what was then the City Library. Verifiable gratitude was extended for the bequest in 1867. After the library had disposed of duplicates in 1867, those volumes that contained maps, plans and views of Switzerland were destroyed at the start of the 20th century. The pages were ripped out of context, reclassified and mixed up with other maps from other origins. When the Münstergasse Library was remodeled in the 1960s, the index sections handwritten by Ryhiner were found in the attic. They formed the theoretical basis for the current index for the collection (cataloging, conservation, microfilming, digitalization) under the leadership of Thomas Klöti, from 1992 to 2007.

Details in: Thomas Klöti: Johann Friedrich von Ryhiner, 1732-1803. Berner Staatsmann, Geograph, Kartenbibliograph und Verkehrspolitiker. Bern: Geographische Gesellschaft, 1994. pdf