Rosicrucian quadricentennary at the BPH

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“Divine Wisdom – Divine Nature” (BPH; van Heertum & Bouman eds., 2014)

This spring marked four hundred years since the publication of the first Rosicrucian manifesto, and as I have noted earlier, this has been an opportunity for scholars to publish new editions of primary sources and new reports on scholarship into the Rosicrucian heritage. But even the briefest review of how scholarly and cultural institutions are marking the anniversary year would be incomplete without mention of the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica in Amsterdam – which still houses one of the largest and most significant collections of Rosicrucian and related material in the world. What makes BPH special is that it’s not only a repository of material, an archive, but also an institution that seeks to embody the Rosicrucian heritage today and spread its philosophical, religious, visual and material culture. This dual agenda of the scholarly, curatorial and the evangelizing, missionary, has its roots in the vision of the collection’s founder, Joost Ritman, who was taken by these traditions at a young age and has been dedicated to promoting them ever since.

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New Webinar: Marco Pasi on Gustav Meyrink & His Esoteric Novels

The latest in a long series of webinars created by the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica and the Centre for History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents in Amsterdam has just been released. This time Marco Pasi talks about the Austrian author Gustav Meyrink (/Meyer), arguably the most important contributor to early 20th century esoteric fiction. The relation between modern esotericism and fiction is one of Pasi’s specialties (check out his work on Fernando Pessoa), and as he tells in this webinar, he’s also been a Meyrink fan since his late teens. For a solid contextualisation of Meyrink’s work, and the influence of his work (including quite a few personal anecdotes), do check out this video.

You might also want to check out the introductory interview with Marco, introducing his new contributions to the Infinite Fire Webinar series.

 

 

 

Michael Maier’s Atalanta Fugiens – a Webinar with Peter Forshaw

Atalanta_Fugiens_-_Emblem_2dEver wondered what those enigmatic emblems in Michael Maier’s Atalanta Fugiens (1617) are all about? Well, you could do much worse than watching  Peter Forshaw speak about it in the latest BPH webinar. Peter places Maier in the context of 16th and 17th century alchemy, emblematics, the Rosicrucian furore, early printing culture, and the broader political contexts of both continental Europe and England at the time. He also takes the time to go through a few of the 50 emblems in the book.

For the book itself, there is a transcription of an English translation of the original Latin available at the Levity website.

A tour of the BPH with its founder, Joost Ritman

In the spirit of its new policy of openness (“Hermetically open”), the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica has posted a video on its YouTube channel that contains a 53-minute tour of the library’s collection, given by the founder Joost Ritman himself. This gives an excellent opportunity for non-Amsterdammers to have a peak at what the BPH looks like, and what the collection contains. But more than that, it gives an interesting insight into the mind of Ritman himself. As he guides online viewers through parts of his collection, we get to know quite a bit about how Ritman conceives of his collection, what it means to him, and what he has been trying to achieve with the library from the beginning. Worth checking out if you are curious about this legendary library and its founder.

Hermetically Open – BPH 2.0

The Ritman library has risen from the ashes of the calamity of 2010. The new developments look very promising and should interest many international readers – particularly because of the initiative “Hermetically Opened”. With it, the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica is being proactive about joining the digital and connected age. It’s the next best thing to having the  unique library of hermetic, alchemical, and rosicrucian literature in your own living room. Digitization projects are underway,  there are plans for a Hermetic wiki, and not least, great plans for a webinar series where scholars of esotericism and Hermeticism will speak about particular topics. All of this is available to a global public online, and you can read all about it at the  library’s new website.

The webinar series, named “Infinite Fire”, was officially launched last week, with a short talk by my colleague Dr. Peter Forshaw, a specialist in the history of alchemy. Future talks are being planned, to begin with by other experts present in Amsterdam (Wouter Hanegraaff and Marco Pasi). The idea is, however, to expand with time. So if you are a scholar working in an area related to the library’s collection, and you’re planning a trip to Amsterdam, I am sure that the BPH staff would love to hear from you. Perhaps you will do a brief interview or otherwise contribute to this collaborative, evolving “global hermetic circle”?

Peter talks about / devours some of his favourite books from the BPH collection below:

Very promising developments indeed. Do check it out.

Hermetically opened

Before Christmas, esoterica and hermetica aficionados in Holland and abroad got a nice present: The Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica opened again, after facing complete destruction for a year. Unfortunately I was hindered from attending the opening on December 16 due to teaching obligations, so I have no first-hand experiences to share this time. Apparently the library in Bloemstraat, Amsterdam, was packed full of people, and the new incarnation of the Ritman library got off to a good start. For now, the Ritman family is running the library on their own, keeping the doors open all weekdays as before. There is also a splendidly looking new website. While browsing it, make sure to read Wouter Hanegraaff’s opening lecture, published in the website’s new blog section.

Welcome back!

Published in: on December 30, 2011 at 4:54 pm  Comments (1)  
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Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica opens again!

Rumour has circulated in Amsterdam for a while that Mr. Joost Ritman somehow has managed to re-acquire a sizable portion of his old collection, and has been planning to open the library again. Today, almost exactly one year after the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica was shut down, the story has become official. In the mail I found an invitation to the opening of a new exhibition – Oneindig Vuur (“Infinite Fire”) –  on December 16, 2011, hosted by the Ritman library, in its original rooms in Bloemstraat 13-19, Amsterdam.

For those who will be in Amsterdam in three weeks, the doors open at 13:30. There will be an opening lecture at 14:00, by Wouter Hanegraaff, entitled “Per aspera ad fontes” (“Through hardships to the sources”).

It remains 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 forms the background for the new exhibit that will be put on display in a few weeks. However, as noted previously, the library had to see its staff go during the crisis, and it is very unclear how it will be possible to keep the library open to the public on a daily basis as before. The leaflet I received this morning states that 23.000 manuscripts and printed works are currently in the possession of the new foundation, governed by the Ritman family. It also mentions several grandiose plans and ambitions for the future of the library, including the use of innovative technology, digitization, and online communication.

If this means that the library is going to be more of a virtual than a physical resource in the future remains to be seen. Meanwhile, a new website is being built, and we have to wait for the opening to see how this story is going to proceed.

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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.

Ex-BPH books on auction in Rome

Ex-BPH incunables for sale in Rome.

In June I wrote that some of the more expensive books and incunables that belonged to the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica (Ritman Library), which was dissolved almost a year ago, surfaced at an auction in London. As Brooke Palieri at the 8vo blog noted then, the auctioned material included the 1st edition of Marsilio Ficino’s translation of Corpus Hermeticum, which used to be one of the gems of the Ritman collection. 

Now it appears that other items are very soon (October 11) to be auctioned in Rome, by Bloomsbury Auctions. The BPH items on sale seem to include later 15th century editions of the Hermetic texts, alongside first editions of Iamblichus, Plotinus (in Ficino’s translation – may go for up to € 25,000), early editions of Pico’s works, and much more. Scroll around on the page, and if you have a few (or many) thousand euros to spare this is the chance to get some rare and exotic esoteric books.

Again, this piece of news comes from Brooke Palmieri and the 8vo blog. Big thanks.

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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.

Buying back the Corpus Hermeticum?

Corpus Hermeticum first edition, previoulsy in the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica, seen for sale in London. (Picture is of another copy).

As previously announced, much of Mr. Ritman’s collection of hermetica and rosicruciana is returning to Amsterdam. After settling some of the debt with Friesland Bank, everything except the ca. 300 most valuable items were returned to the collector of what used to be the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica.

Yesterday, Brooke S. Palmieri at the bibliophile blog 8vo  reported to have seen several of the BPH incunables at the Olympia Book Fair in London, where they were on display at the stand of Shapero Rare Books. According to Palmieri, among the books displayed was the previously mentioned gem of the BPH, Ficino’s 1471 first edition of (the Latin translation of) the Corpus Hermeticum. I have not been able to find the book in Shapero’s online catalog, and do not know whether any of the old BPH books were traded during the fair. Any news on this would be much appreciated.

Read the story at 8vo.

 

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

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.

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