Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

We have Da Vinci Code's Dan Brown to thank for this online archive of the world's largest occult library

Illustration: Robert Fludd/Print Collector (Getty Images)

Say what you will about Dan Brown’s virtues as a novelist, but the Da Vinci Code author has now cemented himself as a true patron of the (forbidden) arts forevermore. By donating to Amsterdam’s Ritman Library, also known by the much cooler name of the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetic, Brown has helped make possible the global boon that is an in-progress digital archive of more than 25,000 occult texts.

Spanning a range of subjects that includes “Hermetica, Alchemy, Mysticism, Rosicrucians, Gnosis and Western Esotericism, and Comparative Religion,” The Ritman Library’s exceptionally titled Hermetically Open Project is an ongoing effort to “share the contents of the library and its field of thought online and make it more accessible to all.”

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There’s welcome scholarly benefits to this, first and foremost, but the Project also means that anyone with an internet connection can now browse a growing collection of excellent stuff like the following image of a man and woman with sun and moon for heads, riding a lion and griffin, charging each other in an illustration of 16th century thinking.

Or this 1615 illustration that shows how kabbalah was incorporated into alchemist’s practice and, for the layperson, includes a chimera that features a face with either a giant beard or a full mouth of molten vomit spewing out of it.

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The descriptions provided alongside the Instagram uploads of these images—and the summaries of the histories and beliefs behind the various categories of the collection included on the site—do a good job of showing that the Project isn’t just digitally archiving The Ritman’s massive collection, but providing context, too.

Here are a few more examples:

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According to Haute Macabre’s article on the Project, the Dan Brown donation that’s made this possible was his way of giving back to the library, which he’s visited while working on his own occult-flavored thrillers. So, next time you’re thinking about giggling over the quality of his writing or those songs he wrote back in the day...well, giggle anyway, but also remember to be thankful that he’s put some of his money to good use. And don’t forget to mention his name to whatever ethereal beings you encounter after poring over these texts for hours and entering into dimensions whose true nature are beyond the human mind’s ability to comprehend.

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[via Boing Boing]

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About the author

Reid McCarter

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Reid's a writer and editor who has appeared at GQ, Playboy, and Paste. He also co-created and writes for videogame sites Bullet Points Monthly and Digital Love Child.