New hope for the Ritman Library?

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.

Books could be saved, but likely not on display for visitors in the near future.

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”.

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This blog post by Egil Asprem was first published on Heterodoxology. It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thanks for the update, Egil. Is the remaining portion of the collection expected to consist mainly of more recent publications?
    I will keep holding my breath, hoping for a settlement that will preserve the accessibility of the collection.

    • As I understand it, it is almost everything that Friesland Bank took that is coming back – excluding ca. 300 highly valuable manuscripts and incunables. The rest returns – including “post-incunable” printed works.

  2. […] being “decommissioned,” remember when the Ritman Library closed down? It looks like the collection of esoteric writings may be moving back to its home in Amsterdam. The good news? Instead of being sold-off piecemeal, the collection of nearly 20,000 esoteric works […]

  3. […] and the other half went to the National Library at the Hague. Later, most of the books that went to Friesland Bank were returned, but there was much speculation as to the titles of around 300 printed books missing from the […]

  4. […] previously announced, much of Mr. Ritman’s collection of hermetica and rosicruciana is returning to Amsterdam. After […]

  5. […] unclear at this point how the library will function once the doors are open again. In the summer I reported that most of the books seized by Friesland bank were being moved back to the BPH location in Amsterdam. This most likely […]


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