Emil Zbinden archive

Wood engraver Emil Zbinden spent his life observing and portraying Swiss landscapes and ways. His archive is now kept at the Prints and Drawings Department and shows the thematic and technical depth of his work.

Holzstich Arbeiter
Wood engraving “Arbeiter” by Emil Zbinden, 1978
© Samuel Zbinden

Emil Zbinden (1908–1991) from Bern dedicated his work to the life of Switzerland’s “little people”. During his career, he devoted his talent to illustrating trade union publications, political tracts and many novels edited by Büchergilde Gutenberg. His contributions revealed the precision of his observation and finesse of his visual narratives, especially for works by Jeremias Gotthelf or Carl Albert Loosli. When hiking or biking in the mountains, he also painted or drew large dams under construction as well as the workers who were staying there temporarily. In towns, he captured the appearance of the first social housing, in contrast with the timeless landscapes of rural Switzerland.

Zbinden also had contacts with many other wood engravers through the international collective Xylon. He was one of the founding members of the group’s Swiss section.

Content and scope

  • Almost all of Zbinden’s engravings including sketches and engraved plates
  • Books of drawings and sketches
  • Correspondence
  • The artist’s work clothes and tools
  • Author’s library
  • Audiovisual documentation
  • Photo albums

Research and access

  • The archive of Emil Zbinden is described and catalogued in the HelveticArchives database

  • Further information on the Emil Zbinden archives available on request
  • Consultation of originals; on site and by appointment

Last modification 29.11.2023

Top of page


Swiss National Library
Prints and Drawings Department
Hallwylstrasse 15
3003 Bern
Phone +41 58 462 89 71

Print contact

Opening hours

by appointment