The Basel industrialist Karl Geigy-Hagenbach (1866-1949) was one of the last universal autograph collectors. His collection of around 3,000 individual items brought together letters and other handwritten testimonies from as many celebrities as possible in the history of modern rulers, the church, and the humanities. Geigy-Hagenbach's collecting activities thus exemplify the fascination that handwritten documents of outstanding personalities exerted on broad educated bourgeois circles since the end of the 18th century.
Starting with prominent individual autographs from the collection, most of which are now housed in the University Library of Basel, the exhibition illuminates the history and posthumous fate of Karl Geigy-Hagenbach's "intellectual treasure trove" (Stefan Zweig). In parallel, central facets of the modern fascination with autographs come into focus. These include their commercialization through a thriving auction market, the history of autograph forgery, the phenomenon of autograph hunting, and the marginal role of women as collectors and "collectibles."
Note: This text was translated by machine translation software and not by a human translator. It may contain translation errors.