The whispers of history

Anyone who has imagination is lost in this place


Their ears hear a constant whisper between the shelves of the Humanist Library of Sélestat (German: Schlettstadt). No more than scraps of words seem to rise from the handwritten books and the first printed writings of the printing workshops between Mainz and Basel. Latin sentences, Greek, sometimes French and German. One thinks one hears passages from the Bible, in between the names of great philosophers. Aristotle, Seneca and ... was that Tacitus? If you close your eyes, you can see him: the humanist Beatus Rhenanus, bent low over a piece of writing, his face flickering in the light of a candle. His pen hastily scratches across the paper. He is writing a letter. Who might the recipient be? His friend and colleague Erasmus of Rotterdam, perhaps? The Humanist Library in Sélestat consists of two collections brought together in the city‘s former granary. The private collection of the famous Alsatian humanist Beatus Rhenanus is complemented by that of his former school, considered one of the most modern teaching institutions in Europe at the end of the Middle Ages.

The Sélestat library, included in Unesco‘s World Documentary Heritage Register in 2011, contains 460 manuscripts and more than 2,500 printed books from the 15th and 16th centuries. Also stuck on the shelves are 550 of the famous incunabula, which translates as something like “cradle prints.” These are the first typefaces printed with movable type and in a cradle-to- cradle process, produced between the completion of the Gutenberg Bible in 1454 and the turn of the 1500s. They are among the most precious possessions of the Humanist Library. Roland and Jürgen Mack were deeply impressed by their visit to the “Beatus Rhenanus” Humanist Library. Spontaneously, the brothers decided to donate to the restoration of the library, which preserves remarkable works of great humanists. In addition, the Mack family donated hundreds of Europa-Park tickets to the community of Schlettstadt for social projects and institutions.