Are you more interested in learning about the ancient magical traditions of Hermeticism than you are the latest New York Times bestseller? Than you are in luck, because thanks to the Dutch Ritman Library and a generous donation from author and self-proclaimed occult-lover Dan Brown, you can read a massive collection of historical occult books online right now for free. That is, if you can read Dutch.
One of the world's largest collection of occult texts, the Dutch Ritman Library has over 20,000 works on philosophy, mysticism, religion, alchemy, astrology, and magic that are between 100 and 600 years old. Now, some of them are finally be available online. As a part of the Hermetically Open Project, the library is working to digitize its massive collection. Currently, there are already 1,617 of the 4,600 core texts available online. The only problem? The current offerings are only in Dutch and Latin, but additional texts in French, German, and English will be added as the project goes on.
Digitizing a collection this large is a massive and expensive undertaking that requires a lot of time, effort, expertise, and most importantly, money. Dan Brown, the bestselling author of The Da Vinci Code, co-financed the project with a donation of €300,000 (around $374,265) in 2016. A passionate fan of the occult who actually visited the Ritman Library while writing The Lost Symbol and Inferno, Brown specifically requested the funds be used to help get more Hermetic texts online where anyone can read them. In addition to Brown's generous donation, Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds, a foundation that supports the preservation of art and culture in the Netherlands, contributed an additional €15,000 (around $18,713) to the important project.
Although the entire collection is not yet available online, curious readers and occult-lovers can browse the official "Guide to the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica" online to see what unique texts the library has to offer. Among the rare texts are volumes on alchemy, "the science of change and is concerned with the question of processes, in nature and in man," mysticism and magic, Hermetica, or the works related to ancient philosopher Hermes Trismegistus, and so much more. Several important works have already been digitized and put online, including texts about Nicholas Flamel, the famous alchemist of Harry Potter fame, but the process has been anything but stress-free.
Since January, readers from all over the world have been thrilled at the opportunity to access the Ritman Library's unbelievable collection from the comfort of their own computers, but many have already pointed out their disappointment in the website's presentation. Several unhappy patrons even took to The Ritman Library Facebook page to air out their grievances, which included complaints about the language restriction (the interface is Dutch only right now), the confusing navigation, and restricted accessibility. The library, however, is taking each criticism in stride. "Thanks for your feedback and suggestions, much appreciated," a response on Facebook reads. "We have only recently uploaded these files, and couldn't wait to share them with you all already. So we are still improving the whole presentation and will keep you posted about any updates!"
Despite its flaws, the new digitization project is still a very exciting development for book-lovers all around the world. Thanks to the interest of technologically savvy readers, the hard work of dedicated librarians, and the generous donations from bibliophiles like Dan Brown, anyone interested in the occult, ancient philosophy, mysticism, magic, or the inspiration behind books like The Da Vinci Code can explore their passions, for free, from anywhere.
Whether you're looking for an ancient guide to turning matter into gold or searching for a historical copy of the Koran, you can find it online now. Check out the full collection here.