Skip Navigation Links The Library of Congress >> Researchers
European Reading Room: European Division, Area Studies
  Home >> Collection Overviews >> Swiss

Overviews of the Collections

Swiss Collections at the Library of Congress

Taru Spiegel
Reference Specialist


The Library's general collections of monographs, bound periodicals, and annuals include approximately 115,000 titles from or about Switzerland. These materials cover all disciplines of the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences, with particular strengths in history, language, and literature. Because the four official languages of Switzerland are German, French, Italian, and Romansh, many of the materials are found in these languages. Approximately 50 percent of the Library's Swiss-related materials are in German, nearly 25 percent in English, and over 15 percent in French. The remaining materials are in more than a dozen other languages. The collections also include runs of approximately 4,100 serial titles from or about Switzerland, such as periodicals, bulletins, annuals, and newspapers. Because serials are multi-volume, as are some monographs, the monographic and serial collections from or about Switzerland jointly exceed 200,000 volumes. About one-third of the Swiss publications are from Zurich, but publications from Bern, Basel, and Geneva are also numerous. Because many international organizations are headquartered in Switzerland, a significant amount of material published in Switzerland relates to the concerns of those organizations rather than Switzerland per se. As of the year 2000, the Library has averaged annual receipts of approximately 600 monographic titles from Switzerland and approximately 300 Swiss-related titles published outside Switzerland.

European Reading Room

The European Reading Room provides direct access to a number of reference works on Switzerland, such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, atlases, histories, biographical directories, bibliographies, and other reference sources. The reading room makes available for onsite use numerous bibliographic databases and full-text resources, many of which contain citations or texts pertaining to Switzerland.

Items of Note in the Library of Congress General Collections

The Swiss folk hero of legend, William (Wilhelm) Tell, has inspired authors in a variety of languages: the Library holds more than 100 titles about the famed archer. Also found are several dozen works about the patron saint of Switzerland, Nikolaus von der Flüe (1417-87), as well as hundreds of works by and about the Swiss-German physician and alchemist Paracelsus (Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus Von Hohenheim, 1493-1541).

Reformation figures such as Ulrich (Huldrych) Zwingli (1484-1531) and John (Jean) Calvin (1509-64) are discussed in hundreds of tomes. The Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78) was born in Geneva and lived both in France and in Switzerland. The nearly 2,000 titles by and about him attest to the influence of his ideas. The seminal education reformer and follower of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746-1827), the historian and economist Jean-Charles-Léonard Simonde de Sismondi (1773-1842), and the founder of the Red Cross, Nobelist Jean Henri Dunant (Henry Dunant, 1828-1910), are also well represented in the collections, as is the noted linguist Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913). More than 900 works at the Library of Congress cover the oeuvre, life, and influence of the noted Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961), while 700 elucidate those of the ground-breaking developmental psychologist Jean Piaget (1896-1980). The well-known theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968) provides material for over 500 titles. The Austrian-Swiss physicist and Nobel Prize winner Wolfgang Pauli (1900-58) is also featured in the Library's collections, as are many other Swiss scientists.
William Tell's Memorial, Altdorf, Switzerland. Detroit Publishing Co., Catalogue J foreign section, Detroit, Mich. : Detroit Publishing Company, 1905.
William Tell's Memorial, Altdorf;
(click on image for more details)

In keeping with the Library's attempts to collect widely from every country's religious, political, and minority points of view, the Library's collections contain items on, e.g., Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, and Judaism in Switzerland. The Library has materials on Swiss political parties, as well as representative samples of materials relating to the minority Romansh language. Romansh is found in the Library of Congress catalog under "Raeto-Romance," with publication centering in the canton of Graubünden.

Christmas card from Molly & El, Meridee, Eli, Fred, & Derry [Noyes] to Charles and Ray Eames, Prints and Photographs Division
Christmas card from "Molly & El, Meridee, Eli, Fred, & Derry [Noyes]" to Charles and Ray Eames
(click on image for more details)
Highlighting Swiss architecture and art are about 600 works relating to the Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier (Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, 1887-1965), as well as architects Mario Botta (1943- ), Jacques Herzog (1950- ), and Peter Zumthor (1943- ). The painter Paul Klee (1879-1940) and sculptor Alberto Giacometti (1901-66) are covered by more than 400 and 200 works, respectively. Other Swiss artists whose works are described in the Library's collections include Henry Fuseli (1741-1825), Jean Tinguely (1925-91), and Angelica Kauffman (1741-1807). Well over 200 works cover various aspects of Dadaism, an early 20th-century art movement founded in Zürich. In literature, more than 800 titles cover the oeuvre of German-Swiss Nobelist Hermann Hesse (1877-1962). Other German-language Swiss authors whose works are found in the Library of Congress include Nobelist Carl Spitteler (1845-1924), the historian Jacob Burckhardt (1818-97), Gottfried Keller (1819-90), Conrad Ferdinand Meyer (1825-98), Robert Walser (1878-1956), Max Frisch (1911-91), Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1921-90), Erika Burkart (1922-2010), Helen Meier (1929- ), Thomas Hürlimann (1950- ), and Peter Stamm (1963- ). The Swiss Family Robinson, by Johann Rudolf Wyss (1782-1830) and Heidi by Johanna Spyri (1827-1901), are well-known Swiss children's classics. The Library holds versions of The Swiss Family Robinson ranging from 1834 to 2009, and more than a hundred versions of Heidi in a number of languages and formats, from 1899 up to recent years. The noted French-Swiss author, Germaine de Staël (1766-1817), is a perennially fascinating figure with several hundred works in the Library's collections by and about her. French-language Swiss authors include Charles Ferdinand Ramuz (1878-1947), Count Guy de Pourtalès (1881-1941), Blaise Cendrars (1887-1961), Denis de Rougemont (1906-85), Anne Perrier (1922- ), and Yves Laplace (1958- ).

Italian Swiss authors include the well-represented Francesco Chiesa (1871-1973). The holdings also feature a 1972 facsimile copy of An Account of the Romansh Language (1776) by Joseph Planta, as well as several bibliographies of Romansh literature and a selection of works by Romansh authors.

American Folklife Center

The American Folklife Center (AFC) houses a substantial collection of Swiss vocal and instrumental music, and interviews with Swiss Americans, e.g., in the University of Wisconsin Folk Music Recording Project, the Laura Boulton Collection, and the Center for Applied Linguistics Collection. An AFC online finding aid is available at

Law Library

The Law Library Reading Room holds approximately 13,000 titles published in Switzerland or pertaining to Swiss law. While the Law Library has current country legal sources on its website [], the collections hold both current and retrospective materials reflecting, for instance, the Swiss federal system, with commentaries on both the federal and cantonal constitutions. Examples include Erprobt und entwicklungsfähig: Zehn Jahre neue Bundesverfassung, 2009 and Petit commentaire de la Constitution fédérale de la Confédération suisse du 18 avril 1999, 2003. Materials pertaining to Swiss cantonal constitutions include Entwurf einer Kantons-Verfassung für den Kanton Zürich, so wie er von der Kantons-Tagstazung desselben den 27. august 1801. angenommen worden, um der allgemeinen helvetischen Tagsatzung vorgelegt zu werden, 1801 and Constitution annotée de la République et Canton de Neuchâtel, 2005.

The Library of Congress has a remarkable collection of rare legal materials from Switzerland, including a number of incunabula such as decrees of the Council of Basel (1431-49), comprising papal letters and other documents issued "sub bulla Concilii," and an edition of Gratian's canon law Decretum, published in Basel in 1482. Other rare Swiss legal materials includeLi statuti di Valtelina: riformati nella Cità di Coira nell'anno del signore M.D.XLVIII nel mese di genaro ..., 1549 (the Statutes of Valtellina in Coira, Graubünden); Tou anatolikou nomimou vivlia, a first edition translation of Byzantine legal texts by the Huguenot jurist, Ennemond de Bonnefoy, 1573; and Commentarius de magistratibus pop. Rom.: ex varijs authoribus collectus: ad Reipub. Rom. statum cognoscendum apprimè vtilis & necessarius, by Claudius Prevotius, 1579.

Local History and Genealogy

The U.S. Census of 2000 records more than 900,000 Americans of Swiss ancestry. The Library's Local History & Genealogy Reading Room has materials relating to Swiss genealogy and Swiss Americans, such as Lewis Bunker Rohrbach's Guide to Swiss Genealogical Research. Sources are also found in German and French, for instance, Bibliographie für Familienforscher: Verzeichnis geschichtlicher Handbücher, gedruckter Quellen und Hilfsmittel = Table des manuels d'histoire, des sources et des ouvrages auxiliaires pour généalogistes by Mario von Moos, and the seven-volume Dictionnaire historique & biographique de la Suisse.

The history of the earliest Swiss in North America may be found in works such as Lists of Swiss Emigrants in the Eighteenth Century to the American Colonies by Albert Bernhardt Faust, or Prominent Americans of Swiss Origin by the Swiss-American Historical Society under subject keywords "Swiss --United States." Other titles of interest in this category are Severin Adelrich Steinach's self-published Geschichte und leben der Schweizer kolonien in den Vereinigten Staaten von Nord-Amerika, unter mitwirkung des Nord-amerikanischen Grütli-bundes, New York, 1889, and The Swiss in the United States, a Compilation Prepared for the Swiss-American Historical Society as the Second Volume of its Publications, Madison, Wisconsin, Swiss-American Historical Society, 1940. The subject heading "Swiss Americans" yields various regional qualifiers useful for researching local history in states with significant Swiss-American populations such as California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana. Swiss place names such as Berne or Geneva in the United States often indicate a presence of Swiss immigrants. Other pertinent subject headings might include "Switzerland--Genealogy," "Switzerland--History," "Names, Personal--Switzerland," or "Switzerland--Emigration and Immigration."

The reference collection and catalogs in the Local History & Genealogy Reading Room are intended primarily to facilitate research in the United States. Foreign genealogy or local history research should begin with the Library's online catalog, and with resources in the European and the Main Reading Rooms.

For searching family names at specific locations, the Library has residential and organizational telephone directories from Switzerland, especially for the period from the 1930s through the late 1990s. An index to the Library's holdings of directories from Switzerland and Liechtenstein may be found at


The Manuscript Reading Room collects Americana, including materials pertaining to U.S. relations of any nature with other countries. The division has custody of the papers of many American diplomats such as Francis Bowler Keene and Robert Frazer, and journalists such as Frederic William Wile, Carl W. Ackerman, Clarence K. Streit, and H. L. Mencken, all of whom had contact with Switzerland. Persons of Swiss ancestry include the Piccard family of balloonists, scientist Freddy Homburger, and civil engineer Samuel Brugger. In the field of psychoanalysis, the Library houses papers from Swiss psychoanalysts C.G. Jung, Ludwig Binswanger, and Philipp Sarasin. Also of interest are Swiss emigration records (1705-49) from the State Archives in Bern, and Swiss emigration records (1749) from the State Archives in Basel.

Geography and Maps

The Geography & Map Reading Room provides access to millions of maps, atlases, and other cartographic materials, including thousands of maps relating to Switzerland. These comprise general, specialized, city, and other maps, many going back hundreds of years. Various cantonal maps indicate developments in Swiss history, e.g., Nicolas Tassin's Description de tovs les cantons, 1635 and Tobias Mayer's Helvetia Tredecim Statibus Liberis, quos cantones vocant, composita: una cum foe deratis & subjectis provinciis, ex probatissimis subsidiis, 1751.

A more current title is Schweiz, Strassenatlas = Suisse, atlas routier, 2008. Researchers should contact the Geography & Map Reading Room regarding maps - including dozens of pre-1800 ones - that may not yet be in the Library's online catalog.
Tobias Mayer's Helvetia Tredecim Statibus Liberis,
Tobias Meyer, Helvetia Tredecim Statibus Liberis . . . (1751)
(click on image for more details)

To view maps that have been digitized by the Library of Congress, see the Online Map Collections.


The Microform Reading Room has hundreds of titles, of a wide variety, relating to Switzerland and Swiss Americans, such as various issues of Corriere del Ticino and the Swiss American Review. The history of the Swiss in America is highlighted in, e.g., The Landis Family of Lancaster County: A Comprehensive History of the Landis Folk from the Martyrs' Era to the Arrival of the First Swiss Settlers, Giving Their Numerous Lineal Descendants: Also, an Accurate Record of Members in the Rebellion: With a Sketch of the Start and Subsequent Growth of Landisville and Landis Valley: And a Complete Dictionary of Living Landis Adults, 1888, and History and Genealogy of the Burgner Family, in the United States of America, as Descended from Peter Brugner, a Swiss Emigrant of 1734, 1890, as well as Jean Pierre Purry's (1718-31) Memorial Presented to His Grace My Lord the Duke of Newcastle, Chamberlain of His Majesty King George, &c., and Secretary of State: Upon the Present Condition of CAROLINA, and the Means of its Amelioration, 1880.

Performing Arts

Swiss performing arts are represented by well over 1,400 works, printed music (such as scores and sheet music), as well as a large collection of sound recordings. The composers Othmar Schoeck (1886-1957), Frank Martin (1890-1974), and Arthur Honegger (1892-1955, of Swiss parentage) are well represented in the Performing Arts Reading Room, as is the conductor Ernest Ansermet (1883-1969), the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, and the Montreux Jazz Festival. Not all Music Division materials are listed in the online catalog, so interested researchers should check the various card catalogs in the division for access to the full collections.

Recorded Sound

The Recorded Sound Reference Center of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division holds more than 1,800 titles related to Switzerland, ranging from Chanson veveysanne, yodeling, and the New Jolly Swiss Boys from Wisconsin, to music conducted by Ernest Ansermet.

In addition to the Library's Online Catalog, the Recorded Sound Reference Center maintains a database of many more sound recordings, both musical and non-musical, called the Sound Online Inventory and Catalog (SONIC). Titles with the word "Swiss" accessible through SONIC often merely reflect the fact that Switzerland was well-known enough by Americans to allow for various liberties in the use of the country's name, e.g., "I Miss My Swiss (My Swiss Miss Misses Me)," "Swiss Mountain Polka," "Moonlight in Switzerland," "Swiss on Rye," "On a Little Country Road in Switzerland," "Swiss Maiden Waltz," "My Miss by the Swiss Chalet," "In a Swiss Chalet," "I'd Like To Be a Cow in Switzerland," "Switzerland in Arizona," and "Looking for a Swiss Boy." In a more serious vein are, e.g., a Swiss Independence Day broadcast, 1938; Switzerland's Salute to the New York World's Fair, 1939, and a 1983 National Press Club luncheon address by the chairman of the Swiss National Bank.

Prints and Photographs

The Prints & Photographs Reading Room collections number more than 13 million images. These include photographs, fine and popular prints and drawings, posters, and architectural and engineering drawings. While international in scope, the collections are especially plentiful in U.S.-related materials. For photographs and other images relating to Switzerland, see the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog. Particularly rich is the late-19th-century collection of photomechanical prints representing views of Switzerland.

Image of Jean Henri Dunant, Swiss author and philanthropist, founder of the Red Cross society
Jean Henri Dunant (1828-1910) Swiss author
and philanthropist, founder of the Red Cross society
(click on image for more details)
Swiss Red Cross poster "To Reunite Families"
International Committee of the Red Cross Poster:
"Reunite Families"
(click on image for more details)

Rare Books

As a general rule, works published before 1801 are found in the Rare Book & Special Collections Reading Room; later publications usually are in the general collections. The Rare Book & Special Collections Reading Room has custody of hundreds of volumes relating to Switzerland. A number of rare incunabula were published in Basel and Geneva prior to 1501, e.g., the story of the water sprite, Melusina, Von einer Frouwen genant Melusina, Basel, Bernhard Richel, ca. 1476; the devotional Precordiale sacerdotum deuote celebrare cupientium vtile et consolatorium, Basel, Johann Amerbach, 1489; the "Ship of Fools," Das Narrenschiff, Basel, Johann Bergmann, de Olpe, 1494; and the book of medicine Macer Floridus de viribus herba[rum], famosissimus medicus et medico[rum] speculum, Geneva, Printer of the 1495 Fasciculus temporum, ca. 1500.

The Swiss publishing industry flourished early and attracted foreign authors, as well as proponents of controversial ideas, e.g., An answer to a great nomber of blasphemous cauillations written by an Anabaptist, and aduersarie to Gods eternal predestination / and confuted by John Knox, minister of Gods Worde in Scotland ..., Geneva, Iohn Crespin, 1560; or Voltaire's Laligue [La ligue]; ou, Henry le Grand. Poëme epique, Genève, J. Mokpap, 1723. Among the many treasures by Jean-Jacques Rousseau are manuscript music notations in his own hand, a plant that he himself dried and pressed from the time that he undertook botanical studies, and several early American imprints bearing his writings, e.g., A dissertation on political economy: to which is added, A treatise on the social compact, or, The principles of politic law (First American edition, compiled from the works of the author. Albany: Printed and sold by Barber & Southwick, 1797).

Other works of interest include Henri Estienne's treatise on linguistics, Traicte de la conformité du language françois auec le Grec, Genève, 1565; Lambert Daneau's treatise on whether dancing is permissible for Christians, Traite des danses, auquel est amplement resolue la question, asauoir s'il est permis aux chrestiens de danser, Genève, 1579; Jacob Spon's Histoire de Genève, rectifiée et augmentée par d'amples notes, Genève, Fabri & Barrillot, 1730; Jean Jallabert's medical experiments with electricity, Experiences sur l'electricité, avec quelques conjectures sur la cause de ses effets, Genève, Barrillot & Fils, 1748; Gabriel Cramer's Introduction à l'analyse des lignes courbes algébriques, Geneva, Frères Cramer, 1750; and Jean Senebier's work on photosynthesis, Expériences sur l'action de la lumière solaire dans la végétation, Genève, Chez Barde, Manget & compagnie, 1788.

Newspapers and Periodicals

The Library's collections include runs of nearly 4,100 retrospective or current newspapers, magazines, journals, bulletins, annuals, and other serials from or about Switzerland.

The Swiss-American newspaper Amerikanische Schweizer Zeitung, subsequently The Swiss American Review, from New York, is well-represented, as is the periodical, The Swiss American. Runs of Swiss newspapers in the Newspaper & Current Periodical Reading Room include the Basler Zeitung, Le Temps, and the Neue Zurcher Zeitung. A holdings list of the Library's Swiss newspapers, approximately 75 titles, should be available online in 2013.

American Memory

Many Library of Congress collections have been digitized and are available online in American Memory, which can be searched simultaneously for digitized materials that relate to Switzerland and Swiss Americans, whether maps, music, photographs, early diplomatic relations, etc. A collection of books and serials from the upper Midwest contains material about Swiss Americans. American Memory also contains oral histories of Swiss-American life.

Ask a Librarian

Written questions may be submitted to the Library by using the online Ask a Librarian interface.

Related Pages on the Library of Congress site:
  Top of Page Top of Page
  Home >> Collection Overviews >> Swiss
  The Library of Congress >> Researchers
  February 23, 2017
Legal | External Link Disclaimer

Contact Us:  
Ask a Librarian