BPH in the Press
Dutch Articles: Dan Brown donates to Amsterdam libraryJune 16, 2016
SOURCE: NRC.NL by Claudia Kammer (english translation)
Thriller writer Dan Brown drew inspiration for several of his books there. The Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica is now rewarded with a gift of 300,000 Euros.
Amsterdam, 16 June 2016 at 10:40
The American author Dan Brown donates 300,000 Euros to the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica in Amsterdam. The writer is a great admirer of the library with its wealth of mystical, philosophical, religious and esoteric books dating from the 15th century to the present, which was founded by retired businessman Joost Ritman. Brown visited several times to draw inspiration for his novels The Lost Symbol and Inferno.
A treasure of ‘ancient wisdom’
The library will use the money to completely digitize its core collection of 4,600 early printed books and 300 older manuscripts. The texts will be accessible online to all as of the spring of 2017. „Dan Brown found a treasure of ‘ancient wisdom’ in our library”, says director Esther Ritman, the founder’s daughter. „We do not want to keep that treasure hidden from view, but share it with the entire world.” The Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds has also pledged a contribution of 15,000 Euros.
The library on Bloemstraat has been closed to the public since 5 April, as it is set to move to the famous House with the Heads. The building was purchased by Joost Ritman and will be undergoing major renovation from July. The house on 123, Keizersgracht dates from 1622 and was home to the De Geer merchant family in the seventeenth century. Their house became a cradle of creative and original ideas in the fields of science, philosophy, culture and commerce. Comenius was one of the people who regularly visited to exchange ideas.
Embassy of the Free Mind
A few years ago The Ritman Library was threatened to its core due to a conflict between Joost Ritman and Friesland Bank. „Fortunately those issues are now behind us”, says Esther Ritman. In the meantime her father has transferred his life work to a non-profit foundation, The Worldheart.
This foundation aims to turn the monumental house on the canal into an ‘Embassy of the Free Mind’. „Past and present merge”, says the director of the library. „In the seventeenth century, the House with the Heads already boasted a library with works that we, too, have in our holdings.” The house is to become a vibrant meeting-place, as it was four centuries ago. Esther Ritman: „We are at present still primarily a place for scholars and writers. In the new premises we intend to engage a wider public in conversation. We will do this on the basis of the contents of our library, and will thus be connecting with an urgent topic nowadays: the freedom of expression and the freedom of religion.”
In addition to symposiums and presentations, small-scale events can be organized on two of the floors of the building, such as living room concerts and weddings. The library will thus have more options to generate income itself.
„We are applying for Museum Accreditation”, says Esther Ritman. „The House with the Heads, which includes a 17th-century period room, is in itself a place worth visiting. In addition we will continue to develop projects. At this moment, while we are closed for renovation, we have a travelling exhibition on the visual language related to the Rosicrucian Manifestoes that is scheduled to go to several countries.”
In addition to the core collection with its often finely illustrated works, the library holds some 20,000 more recent books on such fields as Hermetica, Alchemy, Grail, Gnosis and Western Esotericism, Freemasonry, Rosicrucians, Kabbalah, Theosophy and Mysticism. They will be stored in the stacks of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam for a year. It is still unknown when exactly the library will be ‘coming home’ in the House with the Heads. The Embassy of the Free Mind, however, intends to schedule activities already during the period of renovation.