Eduard Spelterini collection

Grandes Jorasses
Aerial view of France’s largest glacier below the Grandes Jorasses in the Mont Blanc area, taken from a balloon in 1909.

Eduard Schweizer (1852–1931) made around 570 flights in Europe, Africa and the Middle East under the pseudonym Eduard Spelterini and became one of the world’s best-known aviation pioneers. His greatest aeronautical achievement was the first crossing of the Alps in 1898 in a balloon called Wega.

He began taking photos from the basket in 1893 and left behind a unique collection of breathtaking aerial views – mainly of the Alps and Swiss cities, but also including Cairo, Copenhagen and Johannesburg as well as South African landscapes.

Content and scope

Around 130 Spelterini images from the period 1893–1924 are preserved in the Prints and Drawings Department (PDD). They were initially unrecognised and held as part of the Photoglob-Wehrli collection in the Federal Archives of Historic Monuments. Only in 2007 were a large number of vintage prints and related glass negatives identified.

Collection principles

The aerial photos form part of the PDD’s collection of views of towns and views from the air. They are of great interest, not least due to the period in which they were taken.

Zürich, Aussersihler Viadukt, zwischen 1893-1924
Aerial view of Zurich from a balloon showing the Aussersihl railway viaduct, 1893–1924.

Research and access

  • The documents are catalogued in detail in database maintaining the archival collections of the National Library (HelveticArchives) and can be consulted online.
  • High-resolution images are available for unrestricted use on Wikimedia Commons.
  • The vintage prints can be viewed in the PDD by prior appointment.

Material and preservation

Most of the Spelterini images in the PDD are preserved in both glass negative and print form:

  • Glass negatives in the formats 13 x 18 cm and 18 x 24 cm
  • Vintage prints in the formats 13 x 18 cm and 18 x 24 cm

Last modification 09.04.2024

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Swiss National Library
Prints and Drawings Department
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3003 Bern
Phone +41 58 462 89 71

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