Jean Bourdichon (um 1457-1521), der Evangelist Johannes auf Patmos. Französisches Stundenbuch,15. Jahrhundert. Foto/Photo: zvg/Histosrisches Museum Basel

The Comites Latentes include 212 manuscripts from the 6th to the 20th centuries. In the 1960s, Sion Segre Amar (1910-2003) started collecting manuscripts. He called his collection Comites Latentes, meaning hidden (travel) companions because he always carried some copies with him.

Since 1977, the collection has been at the Bibliothèque de Genève, where it is scientifically researched. The collection includes prayer books and religious, literary, administrative and legal texts. Most date from the Middle Ages, including 98 religious manuscripts, 47 profane literature and 67 fragments with illuminations.

Many manuscripts come from Italy or France and are written in Latin, but there are Hebrew and Greek texts and small plates with cuneiform script. After he died in 2003, his children inherited the collection and founded the Comites Latentes Società Semplice in 2018.

This organisation aims to research the collection and make it accessible to the public. The intention is to digitise the collection and make it available on the internet. The first manuscripts of the Comites Latentes have already been digitised on the initiative of the Bibliothèque de Genève and published on the e-codices portal.

The historical Museum Basel and the University Library have received this collection on loan for 15 years. In cooperation with Geneva, the research is continuing.

The Historical Museum Basel displays several works from this unique collection until 5 March 2023, among others a Hebrew prayer book in silver binding, a parchment scroll with the Bible story of the Jewish woman Esther and French-language saints’ vitae and an excerpt from the so-called Burckhardt-Wildt Apocalypse: a manuscript named after its later owner Daniel Burckhardt-Wildt (1752-1819).