Last week I went to the Bodmer Museum. It's not a very well-known museum, nor is it very large. You can go through the whole place, at a fairly leisurely rate, in about two hours. But, oh, what a place. Not many people visit this little Geneva gem.
This was my second visit, and this time too I felt like Howard Carter peering into that small opening in Egypt. I too feel like saying simply, almost childishly, "I see wonderful things." For I know that I will forever think of that marvellous mansion with its magnificient view of Lac Leman, only to be transported into the wonderful things housed within it.
But these are not treasures made up of gold and jewels. These are the treasures of mankind, of humanity, of that which is the best of us, whether it be science, art, literature or the leaps of imagination that typify human progress. Bodmer (it helps to be born a multi-millionaire if you too decide to do this) had a dream, to collect together the creativity and wealth born out of the human mind, the collective human consciousness. So he did. He collected amazing things. And after his death, his foundation (the Fondation Bodmer) continues to keep his dream alive, to keep his quest an ongoing one.
This is just a glimpse of what you can see if you visit this museum: Two scrolls of the Egyptian Books of the Dead, a Gutenberg Bible (one of only fourteen or so in the world), the Book of Judas from the Dead Sea Scrolls, hand-written music sheets by Wagner and Mozart, hand-written manuscripts by James Joyce and Wordsworth, a giant scroll (many feet long) from the court of Queen Elizabeth I itemizing the New Years gifts received by her court. There are innumberable first editions (Balzac, Wordsworth, Joseph Heller, Joyce, Proust, Dante, etc. etc.). There are hand-written notebooks and books (with margin notes) by Isaac Newton and Einstein.
I saw some people taking pictures but I am not sure they were allowed. Still, my resolve was tested, when I came across one particular first edition. So they have the Books of the Dead, or the Kalpa Sutra, or a Botticelli painting of Dante. They pale in comparision to my George....aaah, yes Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. So I broke all my museum going rules. But, hey unlike others I used no flash, and damn it, the picture's not that great. Here it is.
Next time you're in Geneva, you must visit this wonderful little museum. You might not sigh over Byron but I promise you will leave at once humbled and hopeful about the future of humanity.