He who destroyes a good Booke, kills reason it selfe

an exhibition of books which have survived Fire, the Sword, and the Censors

University of Kansas Library 1955

Foreword ] Prelims ] [ England ] Germany ] Russia ] France ] Spain ] United States ] Various Countries ] Afterword ]


HOLINSHED, RAPHAEL. Chronicles. In 1587 the Privy Council ordered some passages on the history of Ireland excised, which were published separately in 1723. The 1587 edition was the one used by Shakespeare.

SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. Richard II, London, 1597. Certain passages relating to Richard's surrender of the throne to Bolingbroke, which most critics believe constituted part of the original text, were omitted from the first quarto of 1597 and not inserted until the third quarto of 1608. Although other passages equally offensive to kingly dignity were left in place, there is little evidence for any explanation other than Elizabeth's censorship. She did complain that the "play had been acted forty times in streets and houses 'for the encouragement of disaffection'." The afternoon of February 8, 1601, the day of Essex's conspiracy against the Queen, Sir Gilly Merrick paid the Globe theater forty shillings to give some old play on the deposition and murder of Richard II. No play but Shakespeare's on this subject is known.

King Lear (First folio, 1623)* was prohibited on the stage from 1788 to 1820, perhaps in deference to George III's known insanity. Shakespeare has been expurgated for school and family use many times, the most notorious being the 1818 edition of Thomas Bowdler, M.D. (See Zola.)

RALEIGH, SIR WALTER. The History of the World, London, 1614,* was written in the Tower of London, where Raleigh languished for thirteen years, charged with treason. James I suppressed the book (despite its praise of him): "To my very loving friends the Master and Warden of the Company of Stationers. After my hartie commendacions I have received expresse direction from his Majestie that the booke latlie published by Sir Walter Raleigh, nowe prisoner in the Tower, should be suppressed and not suffered for hereafter to be sould. This is therefore to require in his Majesties' name that presently you repaire unto the printer of the said booke as also unto all other stationers and Booksellers which have any of them in their custodie, and that you doe take them, in and with all convenient speed that may bee, cause them to be brought to me or to the Lord Mayor of London—Lambeth 2nd December, 1614." It was also stated that the reason for suppression was that Raleigh was "too sawcie in censuring princes."

LEIGHTON, ALEXANDER. An appeal to the Parliament; or Sions Plea against the Prelacie.... Holland, 1628?.* For this book, which questions the divine right of the episcopacy, Leighton was persecuted by Laud and condemned to mutilation and life imprisonment. He was later released. This copy was presented to Sir Edward Dering (q.v.) and so acknowledged in the latter's hand twice, once dated Jan. 28, 1640, and again December 12. Besides the conflict in presentation dates, this is a curious instance of presentation twelve years after publication, (if the date "the year & moneth wherein Rochell was lost" is correct). However, Leighton was released in 1640 and this presentation may be some expression of gratitude to Dering. The full catalog of Leighton's punishments:

To be publicly whipped and set in the pillory
To have one side of his nose slit, one ear cut off, and one cheek branded; and to have this repeated the next week
To have S.S. (sower of sedition) branded on his cheek
To pay a fine of £10,000 (perhaps $100,000 in present purchasing power)
To suffer perpetual imprisonment in the Fleet.


PRYNNE, WILLIAM, Histrio-Mastix the Players Scourge, or Actors Tragaedie, London, 1633,* is a prodigious condemnation of the theater. Prynne, a famous theologian, lawyer and pamphleteer, had the misfortune to publish his book six weeks before a pastoral play was given at court— which was taken as offensive, despite the fact that the book had been licensed. Laud brought the book to the attention of the queen and, after trial, Lord Cottington was reported to have said:

"I do in the first place begin Censure with this Book. I condemn it to be burnt, in the most publick manner that can be. The manner in other Countries is, to be burnt by the Hang-man, though not used in England, (yet I wish it may, in respect of the strangeness and hainousness of the matter contained in it) to have a strange manner of burning; therefore I shall desire it may be so burnt by the Hand of the Hang-man."

Prynne was condemned to prison for life, a fine of £5,000, disbarment, and loss of his degree; he was then set in the pillory and lost both ears. Messengers were sent through the country to find all copies, and Prynne's library was confiscated. He was tried again in 1637, together with Bastwick and Burton, for further writings. The story of that trial is told in Prynne's A New Discovery of the Prelates Tyranny, London, 1641.* All three lost their ears, Prynne losing what he had left after the first cutting. In 1640 they were released and some punishments cancelled. Later Prynne became the prosecutor of Archbishop Laud when the latter was put to death.

DERING, SIR EDWARD. His Collection of Speeches, 1642,* was directed to be burned at 10 A.M. Feb. 4, 1642, by the House of Commons, but it took so long to gather all the copies "wherever found" the burning was put off to Feb. 7. The speeches contained bitter attacks on Laud. (See Leighton.)

MILTON, JOHN. Click here for a more detailed imageFor whatever reason, political or personal, Milton's wife left him shortly after their marriage in 1643. Milton then wrote the first of several divorce treatises: The Doctrine & Discipline of Divorce, London, 1644,* (author unidentified in first edition of 1643). A similar pamphlet, The Judgement of Martin Bucer Concerning Divorce, 1644, caused general outcry and denunciation. The Doctrine had been published without licensing in defiance of the Printing Ordinance of June 14, 1643, whereupon complaint of this was now (August, 1644) made and the matter brought before Parliament. To this we owe Milton's great Areopagitica; a Speech of Mr. John Milton For the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing, To the Parliament of England, London, 1644,* secretly printed—the printer has not been identified yet. Although the system of licensing did not immediately collapse, Milton's offence was condoned and licensing received a severe blow. Areopagitica has been cited and used as the noblest justification of free printing many times; thus Mirabeau's Sur la Liberté de la Presse, Imité de I’Anglois, de Milton, Londres, 1788,* part translation, part paraphrase of Milton directed to the French king, pleading for a free press. On page 24 Milton refers to his visit to Galileo in 1638: "There it was that I found and visited the famous Galileo [q.v.] grown old, a prisoner to the Inquisition, for thinking in Astronomy otherwise than the Franciscan and Dominican licensers thought."

JOHN LILBURNE Click here for a more detailed imagewas in trouble most of his short life; his name particularly crops up in several of the books on exhibition. After some erratic life in London, in which he printed Bastwick's Letany—this same Bastwick who was tried with Prynne (q.v.)—as well as a pamphlet by the latter, he joined Cromwell's army, rising to lieutenant-colonel; he soon moved to the side of the Levelers, the extreme democratic wing of the army, whereafter he published pamphlets against Cromwell, some of which were burned; in consequence, he landed in prison more than once, being released each time (although he was forced to flee to Holland for a time). Both Commons and Lords finally felt their corporate existence too much irritated, however, and upon the publication of The Second Part of Englands New-Chaines Discovered.... London, 1649* (secretly printed) he was placed on trial again, the book being declared treasonous by A Declaration of the Commons Assembled in Parliament, Against a Scandalous Book Entituled, The Second Part of England's New Chaines discovered,* a broadside dated March 29, 1649. His trial was reported in The Triall, of Lieut. Collonell John Lilburne,... Being as exactly pen'd and taken in short hand, as it was possible to be done in such a croud and noise.... Published by Theodorus Verax, (London, 1649).* Theodore Verax was Clement Walker, who a few weeks later was himself imprisoned for The Compleat History of Independency (q.v.).

His account of the trial is absorbing; Click here for a more detailed imagesome eight Lilburne books are cited in the charge of treason, but Lilburne defended himself with full knowledge of the law, with eloquence, humanity and refusal to be intimidated. The testimony of printer Thomas Newcombe (pp. 70-72 of The Triall) gives interesting, if not new, information on the manner of proof-reading and speed with which a simple forme could be perfected. (Second Part of Englands New Chaines lent by Houghton Library, Harvard University.)

WALKER, CLEMENT. The Compleat History of Independency. London, 1661. After publication of the first edition of the second part in 1648, the author, a Royalist somewhat critical of Cromwell, was clapped into the Tower by the Protector, where he died in 1651. The cast of some printer's loyalties in 1661 is clearly shown on pp. 58 and 59 of part two, where the names of the commissioners appointed to try Charles I are printed in red.

Click here for a more detailed image



JULY 21, 1683, was published The Judgment and Decree of the University of Oxford Past in their Convocation July 21, 1683 Against certain Pernicious Books and Damnable Doctrines Destructive to the Sacred Persons of Princes, their State and Government, and of all Humane Society. Oxford, 1683.* (Also Latin edition* of the same date.) This extreme royalist "piece of adulation and servility" (as it is labeled in the Somers tracts) condemned a number of titles and some people, such as "Quakers" or "Fifth-Monarchy Men." Although one or two references are not exact (such as which Milton title was meant), on view are some books condemned and both editions of the decree.





The books are:

Hobbes, T. Leviathan, 1651.* The copy which belonged to the Scottish patriot Andrew Click here for a more detailed imageFletcher of Saltoun with his signature on the engraved title. Fletcher's own Defence of the Scots Settlement at Darien, 1699, was burned.
Buchanan, George. De Jure Regni.
[Hunton, Philip.] A Treatise of Monarchy.
[Johnson, Samuel.] Julian the Apostate, 1682.*
[Stirling, James.] Naphthali, or the Wrestlings of the Church of Scotland..., 1667.*
Baxter, Richard. A Holy Commonwealth, 1659.*
[Watkins, Morgan.] The Things that are Caesar's..., 1666.* (Quaker).
[Languet, Hubert.] Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos. (Sometimes attributed to T. Beza.)
Milton, John. Pro Populo Anglicano, 1652.*

This edition is the one burned by the common hangman in 1660. The Order Book, Jan. 8, 1649-50, says: "That Mr. Milton doe prepare something in answer to the book of Salmasius, and when he hath done itt bring itt to the Council." Toland says that for this reply to Salmasius' apology for Charles I, Milton received £1000, but this is not verified. If true the burning was a thousand pounds' worth of irony. (Baxter's Holy Commonwealth lent by Houghton Library, Harvard University; Languet by Princeton University.)

L’ESTRANGE, ROGER. This censor, who found no task too small in his suppression of clandestine printing, was the first literary man of importance to make a career in English journalism. For years he was the censor of the Restoration press; thousands of books bear his imprimatur, as in this copy of Scarronnides, London, 1665.* A Seasonable Memorial in Some Historical Notes upon the Liberties of the Presse and Pulpit, London, 1680,* is an example of his many pamphlets justifying rigid censorship. In the days of Roundheads and Cavaliers censorship was extreme on both sides.

LOCKE, JOHN. Click here for a more detailed imageLocke had been forced to flee to Holland in 1683 because of his theories of civil liberty. An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding, London, 1690,* was placed on the Index in 1700, where it still was in 1951; in 1701 the Latin version was forbidden at Oxford.

DEFOE, DANIEL. In 1702 the English High Church party attempted to pass a bill in the Commons against those Dissenters who attempted to establish their conformity by occasional attendance at the Established Church. During the debate Defoe published The Shortest Way With The Dissenters, London, 1702,* a satirical piece pretending to come from a High Churchman which recommends severe methods of disposing of the Dissenters. Both parties felt offended, having generally missed the satire, and on Feb. 25, 1703, the book, "being full of false and scandalous Reflections upon this Parliament, and tending to promote Seditions, [was ordered to be] burnt [by the hands of] the common Hangman tomorrow Morning...." When the satirical intent was finally understood, Defoe was fined and imprisoned. (Lent by the University of Illinois Library.)

SACHEVERELL, HENRY, the "High-Flying" Churchman. Despite the failure of the first anti-Dissenters bill (see Defoe) outcry for it did not cease. Among the most virulent pamphleteers for it was Sacheverell, whose sermon The Perils of False Brethren,* delivered Nov. 5, 1709, anniversary of Gunpowder Plot, set off riots. Sacheverell was impeached, charged with falsely asserting the Church of England was "in a Condition of great Peril," and two of his pamphlets were ordered burned next March 27. Also ordered burned was a recent reprint of the Oxford Decree of July, 1683 (q.v.) which had been cited in Sacheverell's defence.

ADDISON, JOSEPH. Remarks on several Parts of Italy, &., London, 1705,* put on the Index in 1729.

SWIFT, JONATHAN. Esquire Bickerstaff's Most Strange and Wonderful Predictions For the Year 1708, London, 1708,* was intended by Swift as a satire to destroy John Partridge, who had become rich by printing astrological almanacs. Swift predicted the death of Partridge on March 29, on which day some pranksters appeared in the latter's house announcing the coffin was ready, while bells were being rung outside in sign of the pretended death. The book and the prank ruined Partridge, who was considered dead. The story spread and Swift was informed that in Portugal his pamphlet had been ordered burned, "since such uncanny prescience could not otherwise than signify collusion with the Evil One himself."

Gulliver's Travels, London, 1726,* was denounced in every quarter and called obscene and wicked. Some passages were omitted in later editions.

AYLIFFE, JOHN. Click here for a more detailed imageThe Antient and Present State of the University of Oxford, London, 1714, Vol. I,* (all printed) offended the Vice-Chancellor and other Oxford officers on account of its alleged aspersions and misrepresentations; the book was consigned to the hangman and Ayliffe was expelled from New College and fined. In 1716 he published The Case of Dr. Ayliffe, at Oxford* in his defence. The Antient and Present State was published by the "unspeakable Curll."

FIELDING, HENRY. Although Pasquin A Dramatick Satire on the Times, London, 1736,* was a great public success, the Lord Chamberlain refused license to any other Fielding plays, presumably because they criticized political corruption under Walpole. Fielding then wrote his great novels.

THE WHISPERER, London, 1700-1772. Publishers and authors found it expedient in the eighteenth century to disguise names. The commonest device was to print only the first and last letters of a name. Such a device was designedly obvious, every reader knowing who was meant immediately. This issue of The Whisperer, No. III March 3, 1770,* against some ministers of George III, uses such devices. The persons named can be identified without much trouble. The Whisperer was also suppressed.



HELY-HUTCHINSON, Click here for a more detailed imageJOHN. The Commercial Restraints of Ireland Considered.... Dublin, 1779,* seems to have been the last book burned by the common hangman in England. It was extremely rare shortly after printing and it is reported that M. P. Flood, on the floor of the House, offered one thousand pounds for a copy. The book charges that England was responsible for the general decay of Irish trade and that "the monster depots of the Trade of Liverpool, Bristol, and even London, were created by a series of legislative blockades of the ports of Cork, Waterford, Limerick, and last, though not least, Galway."

A copy was priced at £15 at Sotheby's April, 1854, and one some time after at Puttick and Simpson's, allegedly the first copy sold at auction in England, made £16, 10 sh. See Notes and Queries, X (1854) 244. Uncut copy.

PAINE, THOMAS. Rights of Man; part the Second, London, 1792.* Although, strictly speaking, this is not a case of censorship, it illustrates official reaction to and punishment of criticism. The government railed at some "wicked and seditious" pamphlet without naming it. On the very same day the king's attorney brought suit against Paine, which leads to the inference the work meant was the Rights of Man, Part Two. Paine escaped to France, but the trial furnished occasion for the famous speech of his lawyer, Sir Thomas Erskine, on free speech and liberty in the light of English history. On exhibit are Paine's pamphlet and two shorthand accounts of the trial—Gurney's and Hodgson's. Also shown is a contemporary pamphlet by the famous London publisher Daniel Isaac Eaton complaining that "the venal prostituted Daily Papers in the pay of our virtuous Heaven-born Minister, of which number is the TIMES, having refused repeatedly to insert my Publications, and having, for once, declared an honest truth, that they were ordered so to do—at the same time Booksellers in the country, as well as in town, being struck with terror at the prospect of the punishment held out to all who may offend against the wise Administration, by our very just, merciful, and upright Judges of the land, having refused executing the orders they have received for my Publications [I will execute any order.]" The works of Paine are then offered for sale.

[FROUDE, JAMES A.] Shadows of the Clouds, by Zeta, London, 1847,* Froude's early novel, was bought up and destroyed by his father.

THE BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER of the Church of England, 1852, although compiled by Prince Albert and Bunsen, was suppressed when it was discovered "it did not contain the slightest reference to Christ as God."

ELIOT, GEORGE. Adam Bede, a great popular success, was labeled "the vile outpouring of a lewd woman's mind," and withdrawn from some circulating libraries in England although it was stocked in quantities at Mudie's.

Throughout the nineteenth century most readers in England borrowed new novels from the circulating libraries. Thus, any book banned from these libraries suffered impaired circulation, despite the later cheap editions for sale. Click here for a more detailed imageTess of the D'Urbervilles and George Moore's A Modern Lover were so banned, among others. Moore's next novel, A Mummer's Wife, came out in one volume in 1885, published by Vizetelly—the beginning of the successful campaign to break the library monopoly on new books.

ZOLA, EMILE. Zola's books have been condemned in many countries, but the fate of La Terre is most notorious. At its first publication in France, 1886, it was attacked by five other authors (possibly at the instigation of Daudet and Edmond de Goncourt) and by Anatole France. It survived these blows. But in 1888 Henry Vizetelly published an English translation in London and was immediately set upon by a dozen preservers of public morality. Vizetelly was fined £100 and imprisoned, with the result that no complete English version of the book was available until 1954. Vizetelly prepared and had published Extracts Principally from English Classics: showing that the legal suppression of M. Zola's novels would logically involve the Bowdlerizing of some of the greatest works in English literature, London, 1888.* The extracts run from Shakespeare to Swinburne. Macaulay once noted "No spectacle so ridiculous as the British public in one of its periodical fits of morality."

GARNETT, EDWARD. The Breaking Point, London, 1907,* was censored because the English censor considered the subject—the "tragic emotions of an unwed girl about to become a mother" immoral. Printing was allowed, but not stage performance.

ELLIS, HAVELOCK. Studies in the Psychology of Sex had a difficult career beginning with the trial of an agent who happened to have a copy of Vol. I in his shop (he himself did not publish the book) on the charge of "intending to vitiate and corrupt the morals of the liege subjects of our said Lady the Queen [Victoria], and to raise and create in them lustful desires, and to bring the said liege subjects into a state of wickedness, lewdness and debauchery,..." Vol. II was burned; and also once barred from the British Museum. For some mysterious reason the German version was formerly barred from the U.S. but not the English.

CHRISTOPHER MURRAY GRIEVE writes under the name Hugh MacDiarmid. In 1934 several poems were eliminated from his published volume Stony Limits and Other Poems. On display is a proof copy of that book and also the author's typed version of the suppressed poems which he had published for private circulation, both with MS. notes.

LAWRENCE, D. H. Various works of Lawrence have suffered suppression and censorship. The unexpurgated Lady Chatterly's Lover cannot be sold in the U. S. In 1922 Women in Love was seized by the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, but the case was dismissed. In 1929 his Collected Paintings was barred by the customs. In England, 1915, 1,011 copies of The Rainbow were ordered destroyed. Of Lady Chatterly's Lover, which cannot legally be sold in many countries today, G. B. Shaw wrote: "Lady Chatterly should be on the shelves of every college for budding girls. They should be forced to read it on pain of being refused a marriage license." Recently it was reported in the Cleveland Plain Dealer that two English teachers in Reagan High School, Houston, Texas, were discharged because they read in class selections from Lawrence's Studies in Classic American Literature.

JOYCE, JAMES. Dubliners, London, 1914.* Click here for a more detailed imageClick here for a more detailed imageJoyce's troubles with the publishing of his works began before Ulysses. After several publishers had planned, then abandoned an edition of Dubliners, the work was printed in 1,000 copies by John Falconer in Dublin. This entire edition—less one copy—was burned by the printer because of some "objectionable" passages. It was finally published and distributed in 1914 by Grant Richards.

Shortly after the burning, Joyce, on his way to Trieste from Dublin, stopped for a time in the station at Flushing, Holland; while sitting there he wrote Gas from a Burner, September, 1912.* Few copies of this broadside are known, and, at the bottom of this one, Joyce has written: "This pasquinade was written in the railway station waiting room at Flushing, Holland, on the way to Trieste from Dublin after the malicious burning of the 1st edition of Dubliners (1000 copies less one in my possession) by the printer, Messrs John Falconer, Upper Sackville Street Dublin in July 1912." (From the Spoerri Collection now at University of Kansas Library.)

SHAW, GEORGE BERNARD. In 1905 the New York Public Library withdrew Man and Superman for a time; the same year Anthony Comstock attempted to halt the N. Y. production of Mrs. Warren's Profession, which had been suppressed in London. Although the play was allowed to proceed it was attacked in the press and closed soon. In 1933 The Adventures of the Black Girl in her Search for God was banned from the Cambridge, England, public library. Very latest news from France is that the Comédie Française has banned Mrs. Warren’s Profession, which deals with a prostitute, on grounds it is immoral and that the subject of the "world's oldest profession was very bad and boring."

HANLEY, JAMES. Boy, a novel about a boy who runs away to sea, contracts syphilis and is murdered by the ship's captain, was in print for three years in England when the publishers were haled into court in 1934 and fined a large sum for publishing an obscene novel. E. M. Forster discussed this case before the International Congress of Authors, June 21, 1935, saying: "The book in question ... had been discussed, praised, blamed and generally accepted as a serious and painful piece of work, whose moral, if it had one, was definitely on the side of chastity and virtue." In the U. S. the book was labeled indecent by the Gathings committee (not unanimously).

ALDINGTON, RICHARD. It is alleged that when his book on Lawrence of Arabia was first announced for publication in England, some influential friends of Lawrence were able to stop it. Whereupon a French translation, Lawrence L'Imposteur, was published in Paris, 1954.* Now, however, the English edition has been published. The book charges, among others, that Lawrence lied about his experiences and that more well-known literary men helped with The Seven Pillars of Wisdom than Lawrence ever acknowledged.

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