This morning the Dutch newspaper Trouw brought some promising news about the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica, or Ritman Library, which was closed last November. Due to a large debt and an ensuing conflict between Mr. Joost Ritman, Friesland Bank, and the Dutch State, the collection was dissolved at the end of last year, with one part going to the National Library in the Hague, and another confiscated by the bank.
Now it appears that most of the books which Friesland Bank seized are being moved back to the library in Amsterdam. It was long feared that this part of the collection would be auctioned piece by piece to settle Ritman’s debt with the bank. This seems now not to be happening after all.
At least not to most of the books: Approximately 300 printed books and manuscripts, including the extremely valuable incunables (that is, books printed in Europe before 1501), are rumoured not to return. As Wouter Hanegraaff stated to Trouw, this is very unfortunate, but far from an insurmountable problem. The rest of the collection is still of enormous value to researchers. The biggest loss to the integrity of the collection is thus that Ficino’s 1471 edition of the Corpus Hermeticum will be among the missing items – one of the real gems of the collection.
While this seems to give some new hope to the famous and important collection in Amsterdam, we do not see the end of the line yet. It is unclear what the Dutch State will do with its part, which is still in the Hague. Also, the library already had to let its staff go, and claims not to have the funds to hire at the moment. It thus seems very unlikely that the library will open again to the public in the near future. According to an official statement, Ritman himself is currently “deliberating”.
This blog post by Egil Asprem was first published on Heterodoxology. It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.