Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica

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Former building of the Ritman Library

Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica or The Ritman Library is a private Dutch library founded by Joost Ritman. The Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica brings together manuscripts and printed works in the field of Hermeticism, more specifically the 'Christian-Hermetic' tradition. It is located in the center of Amsterdam.

The library[edit]

Corpus Hermeticum: first Latin edition, by Marsilio Ficino, 1471 CE.

The Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica was founded in 1957 by Joost Ritman, opened to the public in 1984, and is not linked to any public organisation or library.[1] The Bibliotheca co-operates with international libraries and organizations, such as the Russian Rudomino Library for Foreign Literature in Moscow, the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel, the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence, and the Biblioteca Marciana in Venice.

To date, the library holds more than 23,000 volumes on hermetica, Rosicrucianism, alchemy, mysticism, gnosis, esotericism and comparative religion, and has great scientific and artistic value. Other areas of the collection are Sufism, Kabbalah, anthroposophy, Freemasonry, Judaica and the Grail.[2] There are around 4,500 manuscripts and books printed before 1800 CE, and around 17,000 books (primary and secondary sources) printed after 1800 CE.[3] Among the treasures of the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica are the Corpus Hermeticum published in 1471, the first illustrated edition of Dante's La Divina Commedia from 1481, and Cicero's De Officiis printed in 1465.


The founder of the library, Joost R. Ritman (1941), is an active Amsterdam businessman with a deep interest in spirituality. He began collecting rare books at a young age, after his mother had presented him with a copy of a seventeenth-century edition of “The Aurora”, a work by Jacob Böhme, one of the authors who are a lasting source of inspiration to him. When he conceived the plan to turn his private collection of books into a library, his vision was to bring together under one roof manuscripts and printed works in the field of the Hermetic tradition, and to show the interrelatedness between the various collecting areas and their relevance for the present day. [4] Following a difficult year in the shadow of the financial crisis and cuts, The Ritman Library reopened its doors on December 16th 2011. [5]


The library is currently focussing on reshaping the once privately funded library into a self-sustaining and public institution, and on preparing the move to the Huis met de Hoofden (House with the Heads) in Amsterdam. The originally private library therefore acquired the status of a Public Benefit Institution (ANBI).[6] With the rehousing to the Keizersgracht 123, a new era begins in which the library will be passed on to a new generation and made accessible to a broader audience.[7]

Digitizing the collection[edit]

In June 2016 it was announced that author Dan Brown, who did research in the library for some of his books, will donate €300,000. This money will be used to digitize the library's core collection of 4,600 early printed books and 300 older manuscripts. These will be available online in spring 2017. The Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds is donating Euro 15,000.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ritman Library, The (2011). Hermetically open: Guide to the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica (2nd ed.). Amsterdam: In de Pelikaan. p. 44.
  2. ^
  3. ^ The Ritman Library Website. Retrieved: 01-19-2012
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ NRC Handelsblad. Dan Brown donates to Amsterdam library. 16 June 2016.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°22′27″N 4°52′56″E / 52.3743°N 4.8822°E / 52.3743; 4.8822