The tragic and grave circumstances surrounding the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica hit the news at the end of the week. The Dutch newspaper Trouw had a two-page report Thursday, while the news site Nu.nl published a shorter article on the situation. Follow the Money, a Dutch platform for financial-economic journalism currently has the most thorough information, over three articles (here, here and here – the latter mentions our petition). The Epoch Times has a piece on the Rochefoucauld Grail, the extremely valuable medieval manuscript on king Arthur which sparked the controversy between Mr. Ritman and Friesland Bank. Meanwhile, several blogs have picked up on the news as well, and kindly helped spread the petition. The Wild Hunt has a thorough account, as does Grenswetenschap (Dutch), while Cosmogono’s Weblog has kindly translated the petition text into Spanish.
Through blogs, facebook, twitter, emails, and forums, the petition has thus been distributed widely over the last few days, passing 2.500 signatories Saturday afternoon.
Signatures on a piece of (electronic) paper won’t magically turn the situation by themselves. But it is important to add pressure on those who can make decisions – first of all Friesland Bank and the Dutch government – by getting the story out into the public. The petition may create an additional card to be played in the negotiations. It already displays a great solidarity from scholars world wide, who argue for the unique value of the library.
Below are some reactions from the last two days:
Prof. Dr. Jean-Pierre Brach on Nov 25, 2010:
“As the current holder of the Chair of History of Esoteric Currents in Modern and Contemporary Europe at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (Paris, Sorbonne), I may state without any hesitation that the preservation of the BPH Library in Amsterdam must be considered an essential priority by all parties involved, including the Dutch Government and the Friesland Bank. Both as a research institution and as an invaluable collection of artistic and scholarly material, the BPH must be saved and its team allowed to sustain on the long term their major contribution to the heritage, understanding and transmission of European culture as a whole.”
Prof. Dr. Lawrence M. Principe (historian of science, John Hopkins University) on Nov 24, 2010:
“The BPH is a priceless resource for scholarship, history, and culture; it holds a key part of the patrimony of Western civilization and as such must be preserved intact for future generations.”
Dr. Massimo Introvigne (famous Italian sociologist of religion) on Nov 24, 2010
“An international treasury for all scholars.”
Antoine Faivre on Nov 24, 2010
May the official authorities responsible for the preservation of the treasures of your country realize the importance of the situation! Indeed, the disappearance, or even the dismenberment, of the BPH — a cultural ‘cathedral’ — would be be a scientific catastrophy… worldwide. Antoine Faivre Professor emeritus
Dr. Boaz Huss on Nov 25, 2010
“I was shocked and dismayed to hear about the possible dissolution of the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica (Ritman Library). The Ritman library is a unique and indispensable resource for scholars of Hermetic Philosophy and many related subjects (including history of Kabbalah, my era of expertise). My scholarly work has benefited very much from the collection in the past – I have conducted research in the library in my previous visits to Amsterdam, and I am planning another visit to the library in the near future, in the framework of a research project funded by the Israeli Science Foundation. If the Ritman library would close this would be a devastating blow to international scholarship in hermetic studies in general, and to my own scholarly work in particular. I urge the Dutch government and the Friesland bank to do their utmost to ensure that the collection will be saved and will remain available for the international scholarly community. Sincerely Prof. Boaz Huss, Chair The Goldstein-Goren Department of Jewish Thought Ben-Gurion University of the Negev”
Eileen Barker (famous English sociologist) on Nov 25, 2010
I sincerely hope this valuable resource for scholarship is preserved
Mark Sedgwick, Professor, University of Arhus, Denmark:
The Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica is a unique institution, of great value both to scholarship and, indirectly, to the reputation of the Netherlands among scholars worldwide.
Prof. Dr. Wilhelm Schmidt-Biggemann (historian of philosophy, Freie Universität Berlin) on Nov 26, 2010
Die Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica hat eine weltweite Bedeutung und ist ein Aushängeschild für das Interesse der Niederlande an der Geschichte religiöser Toleranz und religiöser Vielfalt. Es wäre für die philosophie- religionsgeschichtliche Forschung eine Katastrophe, wenn sie auseinandergerissen und verkauft würde. W. Schmidt-Biggemann
Gavin Flood (professor religious studies, Oxford) on Nov 26, 2010
It would be a great sadness for scholarship and the future of the study of medieval and early modern philosophy were the Ritman library to be sold simply because of debt. This library is a great resource to Humanities scholarship and should be preserved in its integrity for future generations. Yours sincerely, Gavin Flood Professor of Hindu Studies and Comparative Religion Theology Faculty, University of Oxford
Prof. Dr. Susan L. Aberth (art historian) on Nov 25, 2010
As a professor of Art History in New York I feel that saving this library is of grave importance for the continuance of international scholarship. Your country and city is so fortunate to house such an invaluable treasure and instead of dissolving it you should do everything in your power to save it. Scholars and professors from around the world find Esotericism to be an increasingly important field of academic study with a bright future ahead of it.
Two final remarks bear more directly on current situations in the field of esotericism research and related areas. The director of the Alchemy Museum in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic, Michael Pober, writes the following:
As the Director of the Alchemy Museum in Kutna Hora – which is also experiencing difficult times at the moment – and being well acquainted with Mr Ritman and with the work of the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica I am deeply perturbed by the apparent threat to the very existence of this unique library. if it were to be dissolved it would never be possible to re-establish a comparable collection. I call on all those who have any power and influence in the matter to do their utmost to preserve this collection intact so that it can continue to be a resource for scholars and all those who are interested in the Alchemical Arts.
Prof. Dr. Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, who directs the second full study program for Western esotericism in Exeter, UK, also points to the great international value of the BPH, which has drawn so many scholars and students to Amsterdam:
Director, Exeter Centre for the Study of Esotericism (EXESESO), University of Exeter All scholars in our field know of the vital importance the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica has played in the collection, conservation, and dissemination of esoteric literature, much of it in rare and first editions from the fifteenth century to the present. Its helpful and highly qualified staff, its publications, exhibitions, and open-shelf library collections have fostered related scholarship to an unprecedented extent in Europe and more widely in the international community since 1957. Both our colleagues and our students have benefited from many visits to the Library over recent years. It has been a major presence in our discovery of these subjects, research and academic careers. Its disappearance would be an irreparable loss to the world of learning. The possible disposal of its unique collection of rare books and manuscripts to collectors worldwide would not only damage international scholarship in Hermetic studies but would also be detrimental to Dutch national heritage, itself closely linked to these subjects, and to the attraction of the city of Amsterdam and its University department devoted to this subject. I heartily enjoin the Dutch government and the Friesland Bank to do their utmost to ensure that the collection will be saved.