The Hector Hodler Library

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History of the Library

Originally, the Biblioteko Hector Hodler was the book collection of the Swiss Esperanto Society (Svisa Esperanto-Societo) founded in 1902. Several years later, it was purchased by Hector Hodler of Geneva, the son of well-known Swiss painter Ferdinand Hodler. In 1913, the administrator of the Universal Esperanto Association (Universala Esperanto-Asocio, UEA) in Geneva, Hans Jakob, took charge of the collection. Following the death of Hodler in March 1920 the books became the property of the UEA in accordance with his will. At that time the collection consisted of three to four thousand bibliographic items. Although in the following decades the administrative headquarters of the UEA was transferred first to England and then to the Netherlands, the Library remained in Geneva until 1962. During this period the Center for Research and Documentation on World Language Problems (CRD) was founded by a number of interlinguistics scholars associated with the UEA. When the UEA and the CRD acquired a new headquarters in Rotterdam, it was decided that the library material would be transferred from Geneva to Rotterdam, where it would be available for the use of both organizations.

Significance of the Library

The Library is among the three most important collections in the world specializing in literature in and about the international planned language Esperanto and about the wider field of interlinguistics. Comparable are the International Esperanto Museum (Internacia Esperanto-Muzeo) in Vienna (linked to the Austrian National Library) and the library of the Esperanto Association of Great Britain (Esperanto-Asocio de Britio) in London. Among these three, the Hodler Library stands out not only for its attempt to be exhaustive but also because the UEA and the CRD have taken on the responsibility of assuring the continuity and usefulness of this high quality collection. The Library has been and continues to be a documentation resource used in the course of the editing of the UEA’s official journal (Esperanto magazine), for other work carried out by its Central Office staff, and for international research on interlinguistics. No other library in the world receives practically every new publication in or about Esperanto.


The Library consists of around 15,000 books and pamphlets, including bound volumes of journals. In addition, it has a great number of unbound journals, chiefly complete volumes. It also houses manuscripts, correspondence, photos, audio discs and cassettes, videotapes, printed music, tourist items (prospectuses, maps, postcards), posters, insignia, and postage stamps.

Oldest works

More than 90% of the material in the Library relates to Esperanto and was consequently published since 1887. However, it also has works which appeared before that year and which relate to other planned language projects or to language creation in general. The oldest valuable works are:

Wilkins, John. Mercury, or the Secret and Swift Messenger : Shewing How a Man with Privacy and Speed communicate his Thoughts to a Friend at any distance. London, 1694.

Des Lord Monboddo Werk von dem Ursprung und Fortgange der Sprache / übersetzt von C.A. Schmid ; mit einer Vorrede des Herrn Generalsuperintendenten Herder. Riga, 1784-85.

Michaeler, C. De origine linguae tum primaria, tum et speciali commentatio. Wien, 1788.

Vater, J.S. Pasigraphie und Antipasigraphie, oder Über die neueste Erfindung einer allgemeinen Schriftsprache für alle Völker … Weisxenfels und Leipzig, 1799.

Letellier, C.L.A. Cours complet de langue universelle. Caen, 1852. 2 vol.

Sotos Ochando, Bonifacio. Projet d’une langue universelle. Paris, 1855.

Renaud, G. Appel aux souverains du globe : une pensée sur la langue universelle. Lyon, 1862.

Also noteworthy is the collection of textbooks and dictionaries of Volapük, the planned language project which enjoyed a brief vogue prior to the appearance of Esperanto .

From the pioneer period

Zamenhof published Russian, Polish, French and German editions of the so-called Unua libro, the introduction to his international language, in 1887 in Warsaw. All of these are in the Library, as are other early works including the first textbooks in Yiddish, English, Latvian, Danish, Italian, Spanish, and Czech. The collection also has pioneering translations of belles-lettres such as La Negxa blovado by Pushkin (1888) and La Gefratoj by Goethe (1889), both translated by Antoni Grabowski. The serial Adresaro de la personoj kiuj ellernis la lingvon “Esperanto” (1889- ) is also here (although incomplete). Another item of interest is the first Esperanto textbook for Lithuanians, which was written by A. Dambrauskas (1890), printed in Tilsit, Germany, and, due to Czarist censorship, had to be smuggled into Lithuania.

The Esperanto movement received great impetus from the French who introduced modern methods of publicity and recruitment in the late 1890s. In 1901 the publishing firm Hachette began to publish a large number of books in Esperanto, among them (issued in the Kolekto aprobita de d-ro Zamenhof) several landmark translations by Zamenhof: The Bible, Hamleto by Shakespeare, Goethe’s Ifigenio, Gogol’s La Revizoro, and Marta by Eliza Orzeszko. The Library has all of Hachette’s publications.

Original and translated works

In parallel with the spread of Esperanto, the books published at the beginning of this century and particularly after the First World War are characterized by increasing diversity. There are not only many textbooks, dictionaries and studies on Esperanto in some 60 languages, but also a relatively complete collection of original works in the language (belles-lettres and non-fiction) and of translations, mainly belles-lettres. Noteworthy among the latter are anthologies attempting to provide a representative overview of the prose and poetry of a particular people for an international audience. To date this genre includes. among others, English, Belgian, Bulgarian, Catalan, Czechoslovakian, Chinese, Danish, Estonian, German, Hungarian, Japanese, Lithuanian, Polish, Scottish, Swedish, and Swiss anthologies.

Besides the Hachette collection, the Library possesses a complete set of works from two other great Esperanto publishing houses: 80 titles from Literatura Mondo (Budapest), which appeared between 1931 and the Second World War, and 87 titles published by J. Régulo (La Laguna) under the Stafeto imprint from 1952 to 1980.


The volumes of the periodicals (La) Esperantisto (Nürnberg, 1889-1895), Lingvo internacia (Uppsala [and elsewhere], 1885-1914), L’Espérantiste (Epernay [and elsewhere], 1898-1908) and La Revuo (Paris, 1906-1914) constitute a historically valuable set of documents within the Library’s holdings. Also complete are the collections of Esperanto (1905- ), Esperanto triumfonta (1920-1925) / Heroldo de Esperanto (1925- ) and the important workers’ journal Sennaciulo (1924- ). In addition, there are a great many national Esperantist publications, for example, Holanda pioniro (1902-1921), Belga sonorilo (1902- ), Ondo de Esperanto (Moscow, 1909-1917), La Revuo orienta (Tokyo, 1919- ). Several well preserved issues of Chinese periodicals are very rare; the earliest dates from 1913. The 44 issues of the review Popola fronto (Valencia, 1936-30) are documents from the Spanish Civil War.

Other particularly valuable possessions:

  • close to a hundred original letters and postcards of Zamenhof;
  • a large collection of letters written by other well-known Esperanto pioneers from the years 1904 to 1914 (donated by J. Régulo and J. Amouroux);
  • letters and manuscripts of Hector Hodler and Edmond Privat which are important for the study of pacifism during and immediately after the First World War;
  • correspondence between the Hungarian Kálmán Kalocsay (1891-1976) and the Frenchman Gaston Waringhien (1901-91), two outstanding Esperanto scholars who worked in close collaboration;
  • an almost complete set of documents dealing with the work of the Esperanto Academy (Akademio de Esperanto);
  • a collection of works translated from Esperanto, among them Fine mi komprenas la radion! (1925/26) by E. Aisberg which was translated into more than 20 languages;
  • an almost complete collection of the books and periodicals published by Soviet Esperantists before the Stalinist persecution;
  • a copy of a secret report (in Japanese) from the Japanese Ministry of Justice concerning the Esperanto labour movement (1939).From the collection of unpublished manuscripts, the following are noteworthy: translations of Cervantes Don Quixote and Erasmus In Praise of Folly by the Dutchman Hindrik Jan Bulthuis (1865-1945), whose original novels in Esperanto are well known; and a number of translations from Russian literature by D. Staritsky, a Russian émigré living in the Netherlands.


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