We've written about a lot of library digitization projects, but one of the more interesting collections to bring their books to the public is Amsterdam's Ritman Library. Its collection of esoteric, religious, and philosophical manuscripts is based on the private collection of 20th-century businessman Joost Ritman, whose family made their fortune selling plastic tableware to airlines. And now, a good portion of the library's core collection is online thanks to The Da Vinci Code author, Dan Brown.
In reality, the Ritman Library has been aiming to digitize its collection since beginning its Hermetically Open project in 2012. A play on the library's status as a hub of printed materials in the field of Hermeticism, it was the start of an effort to bring these precious materials to a wider audience. Luckily for the library, they had a fan in Brown, who had visited the Ritman on several occasions while writing The Lost Symbol and Inferno. In June 2016, Brown announced that he would be donating €300,000 ($368,000) to the library in an effort to help them digitize their core collection of 4,600 pre-1900 texts on alchemy, religion, and magic.
And now, the first results of the donation are online, with the Ritman Library announcing that 1,617 occult manuscripts are ready to be explored. While the library admits that the interface is still new and will be improved for searchability and manuscript downloads, it's still an exciting step for those interested in Hermeticism. And while there's no language filter just yet—many of the books are in Latin, Dutch, German, or French—typing in an English speaking place of publication will yield some results in English.
More books will surely be added shortly and the first release follows closely after the opening of the Embassy of the Free Mind, Dan Brown's new center that “aims to promote ‘free thinking' through culture, art, science, and spirituality.” The Ritman Library's collection is now housed at the center, making it an international hub for those interested in mysticism and philosophy.