Fossils were already collected back in the early modern age. The objects of the historic earth science collections at the Natural History Museum Basel date from the 16th to the 19th centuries.

The oldest objects come from 1565. These are originals from Conrad Gessner's 'De rerum fossilium'.

We also have important collections from the 18th century. These include originals from Daniel Bruckner's 'Curiosities of the Basel Countryside', numerous examples from Johann Ernst Immanuel Walch's 'Natural History of Fossils' with wonderful illustrations by Wolfgang Knorr and other examples of work by Johann Jakob D’Annone, Johann Gerhard Reinhard Andreae, Louis Bourguet, Abraham Gagnebin and Georg Sigmund Otto Lasius.

Peter Merian, the first and long-standing head of the Natural History Museum, also left us a number of important specimen collections from the early 19th century.