Esther Ritman (1964) was asked in the summer of 1986 by her father, Joost R. Ritman, to help organise an exhibition and the library’s first international scholarly symposium on Johann Valentin Andreae. Die Manifeste der Rosenkreuzerbruderschaft 1586-1986in Amsterdam. Since that time, her life has been entwined with the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica. As member of the staff she has since 1986 been actively involved in all aspects of the BPH’s many exhibition projects, both at home and abroad, in PR activities, and in the strategic development of the library’s research and public functions.
From 2003 she has been the library’s general director and librarian, in which capacity she has committed herself to realize the founder’s most profound wish, to turn the library into an institution embedded within the community.
In the past 25 years, the BPH has grown into an internationally renowned research library, providing the basis for what Esther sees as one of the main objectives in the coming years, to form a platform of dialogue and communication in the BPH’s field of specialization. A major role will be allotted to communication options in the virtual domain. Her personal drive is to make the collection accessible to all, to share it and thereby to multiply the ‘Hermetically open’ and inexhaustible source of wisdom contained in the library.
Rixande Oosterwijk (1984), deputy director of the BPH, is a granddaughter of the founder and represents the third generation of the family to work in the library. She was a regular visitor of the library in her schooldays and worked in the BPH in the summer seasons. Having completed her training as office manager, she found she wanted to follow in her mother’s footsteps. In 2001 she took over a number of her mother’s tasks in assisting her grandfather, the family company and the library in various ways.
At present Rixande is responsible for the financial administration, personnel administration, archival records, stock control, IT, PR and communcation. As Esther’s right hand she monitors the project management of new exhibitions, guides the project collaborators and volunteers and supervises support services such as coordinating the reception role and planning tours and events. Rixande is also involved in formulating the policy of the BPH’s publishing house “In de Pelikaan”. She manages the webshop and the publishing house stock. Within the Hermetically Open project she is responsible for planning and content-managing the newsletter, social media sites and the website. Her key words are planning and organization inspired by imagination and experience!
Cis van Heertum (1958) studied English literature at Nijmegen under Professor T.A. Birrell and had the wistful pleasure of being the last of his PhD students (doctorate degree 1989). She originally joined the staff of the BPH in the autumn of 1991 after having worked as a curator in The British Library in 1990-1991.
Her main responsibilities in the library have been curatorial (modern books 1800-present, including a small but distinct collection of private press books) and editorial (running the library’s publishing house In de Pelikaan). She has worked closely with the BPH’s former librarian Carlos Gilly, editing and translating his contributions to two major bi-lingual (English and Italian) catalogues of exhibitions organized by the BPH abroad (Florence, Biblioteca Laurenziana: Marsilio Ficino and the Return of Hermes Trismegistus, 1999 and Venice, Biblioteca Marciana: Magic, Alchemy, Science 15th-18th Centuries, 2002).
Cis also curated a number of exhibitions for the BPH, including Philosophia Symbolica (2005), to mark the 550th anniversary of the birth of the eminent German humanist and Hebraist Johannes Reuchlin, and Libertas Philosophandi. Spinoza as a Guide to a Free World (2008), an exhibition organized on the occasion of Amsterdam’s election that year as Book Capital of the World. This exhibition also travelled to the Francke’sche Stiftung in Halle in 2010. Since 2012 she is a board member of the Vereniging Het Spinozahuis (www.spinozahuis.com). In her own time she works as a translator and editor, specializing in book history and art history (www.cisvanheertum.com).
José Bouman (1953) studied Dutch language and literature, specialising in medieval literature and book history. After having finished her studies she completed a postgraduate academic librarianship course. From 1984-2011 she worked full-time as curator of the BPH’s rare books and manuscripts collection, initially under director Frans Janssen, later under director Esther Oosterwijk-Ritman.
Since 2012 she has been working for the library on a freelance basis. Apart from being engaged as a curator of rare books, she is responsible for the acquisition, cataloguing and digitizing of pre-1800 books. She also gives tours of the library’s collection and prepares exhibitions.
She has mainly published on book-historical subjects, some of which are related to the collection, for instance the manuscript which served as copy-tekst for the printed edition of Jacob Böhme’s Mysterium magnum (In: Boek & letter : boekwetenschappelijke bijdragen ter gelegenheid van het afscheid van prof.dr. Frans A. Janssen als hoogleraar in de Boek- en bibliotheekgeschiedenis aan de Universiteit van Amsterdam, eds. J. Biemans, L. Kuitert & P. Verkruijsse, Amsterdam 2004; in revised form also in: Jacob Böhmes Weg in die Welt (ed. T. Harmsen), Amsterdam 2007).
Béatrice Augrandjean (1993) did a Masters Comparative Literature at the University of Amsterdam, after having studied Liberal Arts & Sciences in Utrecht. She became enchanted with the treasures in The Ritman Library at the age of 12 when she discovered the library’s illuminated books of hours. From February to April 2013 she worked as an intern in the library on various projects, collaborating with the rest of the team on the exhibition ‘Peter the Great: A Curious Tsar’. She was also responsible for the exhibition PR and mailings, preparing posts for the website and Facebook page, like the Pearls of Wisdom, and library events. As of September 2013 she is employed in the library twice a week to work on the Hermetically Open project and since the opening of the Embassy of the Free Mind she is a full-time employee. She is still working on the social media, newsletters, and communications in general, but you can also find her giving you a guided tour or answering your emails. In her free time she likes to write poetry. She hopes people will share the warmth of the spark that enlightens within them far and wide after visiting the Embassy of the Free Mind.
In 2006 Rob Oosterwijk (1961) and his company Multimediation was asked by The Ritman Library to design a new website. Since that time, Multimediation has been in charge of maintaining and updating the site. Multimediation is also responsible for all multimedia design work for the BPH, including print, video and audio presentations and ebook design.
Natalie Koch (1966) studied Musicology at Utrecht University. She worked as a music journalist, writing programme notes for concerts and CD’s and articles for various magazines, and as an editor of a music magazine. In 2006 she made her debut as a novelist. So far she has written five novels, all published by Querido.
She first became interested in hermetism and alchemy when she was doing research for the first part of her trilogy ‘De verborgen universiteit’. She started as a volunteer with The Ritman Library in 2016, writing content on topics like ‘hermetic music’ and the harmony of the spheres for The Ritman Library Facebook page. In 2018 she joined the Embassy of the Free Mind team as a staff member. She organises the monthly lunch concert series with students of the Conservatorium van Amsterdam and looks forward to collaborating on all kinds of new initiatives at the Embassy of the Free Mind. She also loves writing for the EFM’s social media and website and telling visitors about the wonderful treasures they’ll find in the EFM.
Peter Forshaw (1963) shares: “I am delighted to have been appointed Head of the Ritman Research Institute and to be the next link in the investigation of the Geheime Figuren der Rosenkreuzer (Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians). The project started decades ago with the awe-inspiring Carlos Gilly and continued in the extremely capable hands of Theodor Harmsen. Now that I am running the project, I very much feel like the proverbial dwarf on the shoulders of giants. I am still researching and teaching full-time at the Centre for History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents at the University of Amsterdam, where I have been based since I arrived in Amsterdam in 2009. It gives me great pleasure to offer lectures and seminars to BA, MA, and Research Master students about esoteric subjects such as alchemy, magic and cabala. I will also continue to research, write and present papers at international conferences, but am excited about the new possibilities available at the Embassy of the Free Mind. We shall, of course, prepare a scholarly critical edition of the Geheime Figuren, on the basis of early modern publications and manuscripts. I have always admired the high-quality catalogues that the Ritman Library has prepared for previous exhibitions, in particular Marsilio Ficino and the Return of Hermes Trismegistus (2001), Magic, Alchemy and Science 15th-18th Centuries: The Influence of Hermes Trismegistus (2002) and the recent Divine Wisdom, Divine Nature (2016). I was lucky to be invited to contribute to the latter catalogue and am impressed that the current exhibition is travelling through many countries, with the catalogue already translated into six languages! This is definitely my ambition for the Geheime Figuren, which is such a fascinating collection of esoteric images that draw their inspiration from previous centuries. I look forward to help with organising a travelling exhibition, in conjunction with special lectures, workshops, or conferences, to meeting many interesting scholars and admirers of occult and hermetic thought from diverse backgrounds and ages. Here in Amsterdam, I hope to get my students and volunteers involved with preparing webinars, giving talks, providing input for exhibitions, plus the necessary transcriptions of manuscripts and early publications, work on images, as well as collaborations with artists, musicians, writers, film-makers, and other creative people. We are coming up with so many ideas, but I need to remind myself that this is a long-term project. ‘Festina lente’, as the alchemists say, ‘Make haste slowly’.”