Few people are aware of the fact that the SNL holds a very large bible collection. Perhaps there are other bible collections of this type in Switzerland, which are older or more precious, but what distinguishes the Lüthi collection from the others is the diversity of the languages covered by this collection. It contains some 5000 specimens in 450 languages, published in formats varying in size from the biggest in-folio to the microscopic publication.
It was the passion of an employee of the SNL, Karl J. Lüthi, which led to the creation of this collection. During many decades, he was able to devote himself to his field of endeavour: book publishing, particularly bible publication. In 1931, this experienced collector donated the fruit of his tireless labour to the SNL and throughout the following years he continued to add new acquisitions to his collection.
Lüthi first started collecting bibles in 1900 when he bought 25 bibles (one of which was a Piscator from 1683/84) from his landlady in Bern. Through the years, with little money but with considerable knowledge and perhaps a bit of luck, he built up the collection to its present state. In his quest, he undoubtedly received help from antiquarians, book dealers, friends and acquaintances in Switzerland and abroad. Many bibles in this collection have their own stories, stories that Lüthi relates in his opuscule entitled Die Bibel auf meinem Lebenswerk (Bern, 1932). Lüthi also published other works in which he deals with the many problems associated with the transmission of the Scriptures.
According to Lüthi, the collection has an important mission to fulfil: to keep alive and strong the memory of the bible in the Swiss collective soul, to support the work of theologians and to serve mankind. Since its creation, thousands have consulted this collection and have benefited from it to further their own endeavours.