About the library

The Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica and the House with the Heads are inseparably linked with Amsterdam and its history of tolerance, freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

The library is a treasure house and a knowledge centre of the tradition of Christian-Hermetic Gnosis in Europe. As a ‘House of Living Books’ it tells the many-faceted, eventful and still largely unknown story of this spiritual tradition, in which self-knowledge and knowledge of nature provide the key to achieve knowledge of God.The Ritman Library made an international name for itself as a scholarly research library with its research institute, publishing house, its collection of some 25,000 titles and its wide range of activities.Hermes Trismegistus, Father of the Philosophers, is the primal source for this knowledge about the unity of all things: ‘He who contemplates himself with his mind, knows himself, and knows the All; the All is in man’. Each book tells this story in a different way, but together they express unity in diversity.


The core collection of 5,000 books and 300 manuscripts dating from the 15th-18th centuries is being digitized and is already partly accessible online worldwide. The digitization of the collection has been made possible by bestseller author Dan Brown and the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds. 

Reading room

In the supervised reading room researchers will be able to consult manuscripts and printed books prior to 1900 in conjunction with the latest scholarly insights provided by recent publications. Visitors will be able to browse and read the 20,000 works on the open shelves, or study in an atmosphere of concentrated knowledge and wisdom. The library programme will include reading groups and other activities.