JR Ritman Library
A post that has very little to do with technology, but instead a plea to prevent the dissolution of a library in Holland.
The Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica, also known as the J.R. Ritman Library, is an essential resource in the study of Hermeticism, mysticism, Western esoteric works, alchemy, Rosicrucian studies, and comparative religions, especially for those in the program in Western Esotericism in the University of Amsterdam and for scholars around the world.
My own interest in the library comes from my time spent studying for an MA in Religion and Culture, where I focused on the then emerging field of Western Esotericism. I had the pleasure of visiting the library in 2005 while attending a conference on Masonic and esoteric heritage. The library was open to the public but has now closed its doors due to the current crisis.
The reasons for the closure and possible dissolution are complex, involving the Dutch government, the Freiland Bank, J.R. Ritman and the library.
It is widely known that the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica in Amsterdam, founded by J.R. Ritman, was in great danger in the 1990s, when the ING bank took possession of the collection and threatened to sell it. Fortunately, the Dutch government intervened: the BPH was put on the list of protected Dutch heritage, and the State eventually acquired over 40% of it. The books remained at the same physical location, integrated with the rest of the collection, and the government would eventually acquire all of it. As part of this process, there were great plans for further expansion. Largely due to the financial crisis and a change of government this was taking somewhat longer than originally anticipated, but nobody doubted that the library was safe.
Last week this turned out to be incorrect. An extremely valuable medieval manuscript owned by the BPH (The Grail of Rochefoucauld) was put on sale at Sotheby’s, and this triggered a reaction from the Friesland Bank, which took possession of the library, that had apparently been brought in as collateral, in order to get back a 15 million euro loan from mr Ritman. At present the BPH is closed, and intense negotiations are going on behind closed doors. It is impossible at this moment to predict the outcome, but there is no doubt that the situation is extremely serious.
If you would like to help, please sign the petition (which currently has more than 4000 signatures) or send a letter to its organizer at the address on the webpage.