Hawker of Historical Hokum Funds Digital Home for Hermetic Hardcopy
January 26, 2018 7:18 AM   Subscribe

The author of "The Davinci Code" is funding the digitization of 3500 historical documents on Hermeticism.

Dan Brown, purveyor of half-assed dilutions of material that Umberto Eco has already done better and that Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea have already taken the piss out of, is donating €300,000 to the Ritman Library in Amsterdam for the digitization of 3500 manuscripts on "pre-1900 texts on alchemy, astrology, magic, and theosophy".

The scanned material will be accessible at Hermetically Open", but until then a guide to collection is available for free here. Or, if you're in Amsterdam, you could just stop by the collection's new physical home.
posted by Ipsifendus (27 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
As much as I think that the DVC is rubbish literature, I heard an interview with Dan Brown on the radio and was very impressed by him. He spoke about his athiesm, and what motivates him to write about religious subjects. He seems to have a healthy curiosity about theology.
posted by Steakfrites at 7:24 AM on January 26, 2018 [4 favorites]


Congratulations on the title of this post.
posted by adamvasco at 7:59 AM on January 26, 2018 [10 favorites]


Huh.
posted by Four Ds at 8:19 AM on January 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Once upon a time I was a presenter at a library conference where Dan Brown was the keynote, and I ended up somehow sitting next to him at dinner. I found him to be an extremely thoughtful, funny, polite guy who was as surprised anyone that he'd found a formula that enabled him to hit it big. We had a lovely conversation about a sort of behind-the-scenes tour he'd taken at the Vatican Library and his fervent wish that more of the manuscript holdings from the Vatican were open for study. I'm glad to see he's working on finding ways to help scholars get access to material.
posted by anastasiav at 8:41 AM on January 26, 2018 [18 favorites]


Hey. As a student of Hermeticism, I thank the tasteless bookbuyers of triteness for this gift for the rest of us. All those piles of Dan Brown books I see at library book sales means I will have access to texts I wouldn't have had. Thank you, Mr Brown.
posted by njohnson23 at 8:55 AM on January 26, 2018 [12 favorites]




Nice, let’s get Dan Brown vs. the Hobby Lobby cretins in a battle for The Truth!
posted by stinkfoot at 9:08 AM on January 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


Some people put way too much effort doing background research for their Ars Magica game.
posted by happyroach at 9:17 AM on January 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


As much as I think that the DVC is rubbish literature, I heard an interview with Dan Brown on the radio and was very impressed by him. He spoke about his athiesm, and what motivates him to write about religious subjects. He seems to have a healthy curiosity about theology.

I heard that interview! I was left astounded that someone so thoughtful and intelligent could write such utter dreck and still sleep at night. (On his piles and piles of money, I'm sure.)
posted by BrashTech at 9:37 AM on January 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


I used to be that guy that said my favorite bands were sellouts when they got major label deals. Now I just think good for them. Make some money, live comfortably, be happy.
Good for you Dan Brown.
posted by evilDoug at 10:00 AM on January 26, 2018 [8 favorites]


I find this sort of thing a curious reflection of separating the art from the artist (see somebody like Captain Beefheart, who was by many accounts a pretty bad person). If somebody does dreadful work I don't have to loathe them as a person, although I'll happily still loathe the work.
posted by solarion at 10:14 AM on January 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Sigh. Now I have to like Dan Brown, thanks to this thread.
posted by aclevername at 12:17 PM on January 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


What a lot of "is this something I would have to be lowbrow to understand?" classism in this thread, and in the framing of the post. Listen, I don't care for his books either, but when someone does something really cool, like making historical documents more widely available, do we have to have the whole post be about how much we dislike another thing they did? Like, if his "past misdeeds" were terrible crimes, I might get it. But "writing books that I thought were dumb, and that were enjoyed by people whom I think are dumb" is not a crime.
posted by agentofselection at 12:17 PM on January 26, 2018 [8 favorites]


I object to Brown's writing not because it's "lowbrow", but because it's simply bad.
posted by Ipsifendus at 12:31 PM on January 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


The point is that the story was "Dan Brown pays for a cool thing for the public" and you framed the post as "Dan Brown is a bad writer who writes bad books". That seems not to lead to a discussion of the value of making historical works public. I participate in hobbies where having obscure materials made available is an enormous help, and I love that Mr. Brown did this. I hope this trend of digitizing old documents and making them public continues as far as possible.
posted by agentofselection at 1:02 PM on January 26, 2018 [5 favorites]


Hermetic writing is a hugely important part of cultural history that tends to get dismissed for some reason, despite it being all about issues of major importance to people trying to exist in a hostile world. This was also the case with an enormous range of magical texts from Classical antiquity, and thus generations of Classicists just ignored things like hugely important things about the actual mobility of women, struggles between what looks like imperial civil servants who were slaves and the individuals whose slaves they clearly helped escape, how the powerless sought justice, and so forth.

Good on Dan Brown. And to echo Pliny the Elder: there is no book so bad but that something good cannot be got out of it.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 1:43 PM on January 26, 2018 [4 favorites]


This is fantastic. The only bits of Hermeticism I know are from reading Yates's book about Giordano Bruno back in college. (Which I loved, even if she does have a bad habit of leaving untranslated German, French and Latin in her book. I suppose anyone truly educated would of course be able to read all those languages.) I thought that the Corpus Hermeticum was from the 3rd-4th century, only becoming popular during the Renaissance. Is the date on it the date that copy was created then, or is my memory that faulty? (From what I remember, it was supposed to be very pre-Christian but obviously was not.)

Either way, I expect these to be truly beautiful to look at, even if, like most esoteric religions, everything else is going to fly over my head. (I've been trying to understand certain parts of esoteric Buddhism and it tends to make me think that there's a reason this stuff wasn't published widely and it's not to protect powerful secrets. It's just that no one would care and people would get bored and wander away.)
posted by Hactar at 1:43 PM on January 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Re the title: "digital" -> "hex" for hexadecimal, but other connotations happily accepted
posted by victotronics at 1:46 PM on January 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


A potential twist: as books are digitised, the algorithms used to process the scans are increasingly sophisticated. By the time they get around to dusty tomes of demonology, the algorithms will include neural networks sufficiently complex to invoke and serve as hosts to demons.
posted by acb at 5:46 PM on January 26, 2018 [7 favorites]


I liked the Da Vinci Code! I made my mom buy it from Costco for me.

I don't know anything about hermetics, but I am glad that these documents will be more widely available.
posted by batter_my_heart at 1:44 AM on January 27, 2018


I thought that the Corpus Hermeticum was from the 3rd-4th century, only becoming popular during the Renaissance.

It was customary for authors of this kind of material to claim that it was in fact of ancient origin, discovered in Egypt, etc.
posted by thelonius at 2:22 AM on January 27, 2018


Ah, you are correct:

The Hermetica are a body of mystical texts written in late antiquity, but believed during the Renaissance (when they became well known) to be much older. Their supposed author, a mythical figure named Hermes Trismegistus, was thought to be a contemporary of Moses. The Hermetic philosophy was regarded as an ancient theology, parallel to the revealed wisdom of the Bible, supporting Biblical revelation and culminating in the Platonic philosophical tradition. This new translation is the only English version based on reliable texts, and Professor Copenhaver's introduction and notes make this accessible and up-to-date edition an indispensable resource to scholars.
posted by thelonius at 2:35 AM on January 27, 2018


As long as we are on the topic, the Internet Sacred Text Archive. is "... the largest freely available archive of online books about religion, mythology, folklore and the esoteric on the Internet"
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 6:40 AM on January 27, 2018




The only problem is that in every translation there's a tweedy professor who suddenly pops up, solves the puzzle, beats the villain, and gets the girl.
posted by yhbc at 5:12 AM on January 28, 2018


A potential twist: as books are digitised, the algorithms used to process the scans are increasingly sophisticated. By the time they get around to dusty tomes of demonology, the algorithms will include neural networks sufficiently complex to invoke and serve as hosts to demons.

don't tell cstross.
posted by leotrotsky at 5:18 AM on January 28, 2018 [3 favorites]


don't tell cstross

That was almost exactly my thought as well.
posted by Ipsifendus at 7:39 AM on January 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


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