Dan Brown’s Inferno, A Journey to Dante’s Hell

Yesterday Dan Brown’s latest novel was launched worldwide: Inferno, a title alluding to Dante’s La Divina Commedia. The Ritman Library was there when the Dutch translation was presented to an expectant public, early in the morning at seven a.m. in the beautiful surroundings of the Royal Waiting room at Amsterdam’s Central Station. Until that time, an absolute embargo had been imposed on the book and not a single passage was allowed to become known. The translators of Inferno were literally locked up in a basement in London, without computers and without access to the worldwide web. Naturally this only led to more excitement about Brown’s latest novel and we are curious to find out whether it’s true what the publishers assert: that Inferno surpasses the Da Vinci Code in many respects.

Four presentations were offered to the public this morning: by Theo Hakkert, columnist and art editor for De Twentsche Courant Tubantia newspaper, one of the few people to have interviewed Dan Brown, by Theo Veenhof, translator and editor of Inferno, by Karin Braamhorst, art historian and by José Bouman, curator of The Ritman Library (watch the presentation at the bottom of this blog).

Not every Dan Brown afficionado is aware of the fact that the books which served him as an inspiration for his gripping narratives on the Grail, Mary Magdalene, masonic rituals, secret symbols etc. can be found in The Ritman Library.

Ritman Library curator Jose Bouman , watch the presentation below

During the book launch Ritman Library Curator José Bouman ‘revealed’ that many keys unlocking the riddles and secrets in Brown’s novels, including The Da Vinci Code, The Lost Symbol and of course Inferno are waiting for us in the library.

In Inferno Brown used elements from Dante’s Divina Commedia. Although we were unaware until this very morning how much of ‘Dante’ had gone into Dan Brown’s latest novel, it was obvious that there had to be a link with Hell (Inferno) in view of the title and the famous quotation on the cover:

‘Lasciate ogni speranza voi chi’entrate: abandon all hope, you who enter here’

Naturally there is also a parallel with Dante’s city: Florence, represented on the cover by an illustration of the Ponte Vecchio, the world-famous bridge which has been home to the goldsmiths of the city for centuries. The Ritman Library was invited to join this morning’s launch because the library had provided visual material from its own holdings for the trailer of Inferno, as shown in the credits at the end. José Bouman showed more relevant images by presenting some of the fine hand-coloured illustrations from Dante’s Inferno in an edition published in Florence in 1564 and also one of the first – unillustrated – pocket editions of 1502. She also talked about Cosimo de Medici, the first member of the Medici dynasty in the Renaissance to play a vital role in the city as a mecenas who supported many artists financially. He commissioned Marsilio Ficino, for instance, to translate a Greek codex of the Corpus Hermeticum. Ficino had earlier already translated Plato’s works for Cosimo. The Corpus Hermeticum lies at the heart of the Hermetic tradition and is attributed to the Egyptian sage Hermes Trismegistus, the ’Pater Philosophorum’, whose works originate from Hellenistic Egypt and date from the early centuries CE.

Hermes Trismegistus is definitely not unknown to Brown. In Inferno Robert Langdon, the protagonist of Brown’s novels, is confronted with a quotation from the Tabula Smaragdina or The Emerald Tablet, the enigmatic alchemical text attributed to Hermes.
Inferno is available in every bookshop from today. We hope that Dan Brown’s readers will return safely from their own personal trip through Brown’s Inferno and will be inspired to continue their quest in the ‘Hermetic universe’ and explore the tradition of the Grail, lost symbols or the wisdom of Hermes Trismegistus. The Ritman Library is inviting everyone eager to examine Dan Brown’s sources to pay a visit to the library on 15, Bloemstraat in the heart of Amsterdam’s bustling Jordaan district.

Watch the prezi presentation of José Bouman:


Watch the trailer of Dan Brown’s Inferno:

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