The Basel University Library is an academic information centre for the university and the surrounding region. One of its main activities is the extensive supply of information and knowledge of all the disciplines at the University of Basel. With an entire collection of approximately 4 million documents it is one of the largest libraries in Switzerland. At the same time the Basel University Library serves as the cantonal library of Basel-Stadt. Within the scope of this function it collects Basiliensia, i.e. all publications published by Basel-based publishing houses, all works of Basel-based authors and all literature on Basel itself.
As the oldest secular library of Switzerland the Basel University Library contains extensive historical holdings consisting of manuscripts, rare books, music supplies, maps and portraits – a cultural heritage that outreaches the region itself by far. The Basel University Library, documented for the first time in 1471, has 300'000 printings which were published prior to 1900, including 3.000 incunabula, 22.000 printings from the 16th century and 18.000 historical maps prior to 1800. Furthermore the Basel University Library holds approximately 60.000 manuscripts (including 1750 from the Middle Ages) and a compilation of approximately 450 bequests, mainly from scholars, writers and composers.