Located in central Amsterdam, the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica, also called the Ritman Library and housed inside the Embassy of the Free Mind, is a goldmine of early manuscripts and books on ancient mysticism, religion, and philosophy.
The impressive collection includes around 25,000 printed materials, including around 4,500 printed before the 1800s, many of which are first or early editions. The library was founded in 1984 by Joost R. Ritman, who was driven by an interest in spiritualism.
The collection’s primary focus is the Hermetic tradition, and more specifically, Christian-Hermeticism. But you will also find volumes on Rosicrucianism, alchemy, gnosis, esotericism and comparative religion, Sufism, Kabbalah, anthroposophy, Freemasonry, and others lurking amid its stacks. Gems include the Corpus Hermeticum, published in 1471, the first illustrated edition of Dante’s La Divina Commedia from 1481, and Cicero’s De Officiis from 1465.
The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown drew inspiration from the texts at the Ritman Library, and used the collection for research for some of his mystery novels. He found the library such a valuable cultural resource he donated over $300,000 to help digitize and preserve the collection. The core collection is expected to be available online in spring of 2017.