Hans Holbein der J. (1497-1543), Bonifacius Amerbach, 1519. Kunstmuseum Basel, Amerbach-Kabinett. Foto/Photo: TES.

Amerbacher Music Library

Basel was a centre of humanism in the late 15th and 16th centuries. The printing and paper industry flourished thanks to the university’s foundation in 1460.

The printer Johannes von Amerbach (1440-1513) settled in Basel in 1484. Erasmus of Rotterdam (1467-1536) was a friend of the family.

His youngest son Bonifacius Amerbach (1495-1562) gained access to the circles of well-known personalities thanks to his father’s fame. He won the friendship of Erasmus and became his heir and executor of his will after his death in 1536.

He was famous as a scholar, professor, advisor and musician. The so-called cabinet Amerbach, with his father’s and his art collections, comprised about 16,000 objects and was Basel’s first “museum” in 1661.

This collection is displayed in various city museums (Kunstmuseum, Historischer Museum Basel, Antikenmuseum Basel and Sammlung Ludwig, Musikmuseum and the University Library).

The documents prove that music, in particular, played an important role. He was a musical all-rounder who mastered several instruments.

He owned and played various keyboard instruments, including organs and wind instruments, and was a composer.

Bonifacius and his son Basilius (1533-1591) left behind the Amerbacher Music Library (Amerbacher Musikbibliothek).

Besides the earliest surviving treatise on recorder playing (1510), this library contains music books, songbooks, tablatures for keyboard and numerous printed musical treatises from the Renaissance.

(Source: Fiona Kizzie Lee, ReRenaissance, Basel 2021).