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 ]


SCHEDEL, HARTMAN. Nuremberg Chronicle, Nuremberg, 1493.* Click here for a more detailed imageOne of the false stories that dies hard is the story about Pope Joan, the female pope who is alleged to have succeeded Leo IV in 855. Although we now know the story to be without foundation (it first appeared some 500 years after the supposed event) it was often printed in medieval times. Copies of the Nuremberg Chronicle, a striking illustrated history of the world printed in 1493, are often found with the relevant passages blacked out. In this copy, presented to the University of Kansas some years ago by Otto Vollbehr, the famous collector of incunabula, the passage is lined through, as is the portrait of Joan. In the margin a late sixteenth century hand identifies the story as apocryphal, adding the disbelief of the glossator.


Click here for a more detailed imageERASMUS, DESIDERIUS. Moriae Encomium, 1512, was prohibited in the Universities of Paris, Louvain, Oxford and Cambridge. Most of his works suffered expurgation throughout the sixteenth century. This copy of the Parabolae, Strassburg, 1525,* has been expurgated in accordance with the order and the expurgator has so written on the title page. The Sotomayor Index of 1667 on display devotes 56 double-column folio pages to methods of expurgating Erasmus.








MELA, POMPONIUS. De Orbis Situ Libri Tres ... Paris, 1530.* Click here for a more detailed imageThis copy has suffered mutilation parallel to that of Crinitus (q.v.). The edition has commentary by Joachim Vadianus, among others. Everywhere his name occurs, or anything written by him, it has been blacked out or covered with pasted slips. On the title page the censor has written "Joachim Vadianus Auctor damnatus," with further assurance that this copy is safely expurgated.

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ROBERT ESTIENNE, Click here for a more detailed imageone of the finest printer-scholars of the French Renaissance, printed a number of Bibles after 1528, collating some fresh mss. and printing the best commentaries. These editions fell afoul the Sorbonne theologians, who condemned and tried to suppress them. After twenty years of criticism and censorship Stephanus replied in Ad Censuras Theologorum Parisiensium, Paris, 1552,* which is displayed together with the French translation of the same year. On exhibit are the folio Stephanus Bible of 1556; the Bible printed by Steelsius, Antwerp, 1542, which is modeled after the Stephanus; (the engravings in this edition are believed to be after designs by Holbein); and the folio Bible of Goinus, Antwerp, 1540, a reprint of the Stephanus of 1532 and almost as beautiful and also suppressed. (Steelsius lent by Union Theological Seminary.)

TYNDAL. Although most of the Continent had possessed printed vernacular Bibles long since, the first English Bible, in Tyndal's translation, had to be printed at Cologne in 1525. Only fragments of that edition survive, having been almost perfectly suppressed and destroyed. In 1536, at the same time Tyndal was executed, a folio edition of the New Testament came out in London in English—the first one. On display is a copy of the 1552 edition. (Lent by Mr. Frank Glenn of Kansas City.)

[MEGILLOTH ESTHER] The Book of Esther, Paris, 1555. Among the new interests of the humanists of the sixteenth century was the study of Hebrew. Johann Reuchlin, a Catholic and the best Hebraist of his day, who had studied with Pico della Mirandola and regarded Hebrew not only as a philological study but also as an additional key to the understanding of the Vulgate, was summoned before Maximilian I in 1510 to give his opinion on the proposed suppression of Hebrew books. Reuchlin succeeded in delaying such suppression, but eventually the suppressors, led by Pfefferkorn, got many suppressed and Reuchlin was placed on trial for heresy in defending the study of Cabala. Exempted were Hebrew Bibles, of which this book of Esther is part. In 1509, some citizens of Mainz appeared at the door of the house of the famous satirist and patriot, Ulric von Hutten, and demanded he surrender his books to the flames. "If you burn my books," he replied, "I'll burn your town."

BIBLE. ENGLISH. REVISED STANDARD VERSION.* December 1, 1952, the Associated Press reported that the Rev. Martin Luther Hux, a Baptist minister of Rocky Mount, N.C., ripped a page out of this new edition and burned it outside his church in front of the assembled congregation.

THE KORAN. In 1542 the entire edition printed by Oporinus was confiscated by the Basel authorities, but the edition was released after intervention by Luther. In 1790 it was removed from the Index; it was reported restricted to students of history in Russia, 1926.

HOMER. Plato suggested expurgation of Homer for young readers (being against poetry in the schools anyway); and a suppression was attempted in Rome ca. 35 A.D. because Homer represented Greek ideas of city democracy.

APULEIUS, LUCIUS. The Metamorphosis, or Golden Ass ... tr. by Thomas Taylor. London, R. Triphook and A. T. Rodd, 1822.* This tale from the 2nd century, A.D., of the young Lucius transformed into an ass for his vices has often been expurgated. This edition has an additional 4 leaves, lacking in some copies, supplying the passages suppressed in the body of the book. Also displayed is a Latin edition printed by the press of Aldus in 1521. There was a ban on importation of this book into the U.S. until 1931, although a Modern Library edition sold freely from 1928.

GOTTESCHALCUS [or GOTTSCHALK]. This 9th century German monk, a believer in the doctrine of predestination both as to condemnation and to salvation, was an outstanding early recorded victim of suppression. Defending his ideas, he was twice beaten, at Mainz and Rheims, degraded, forced to burn his declarations of faith, and was shut up in the monastery of Hautvilliers from 849 until his death, about 867. He died without recanting. Of his works, there remain only the declarations and some poems, plus a few fragments preserved by enemies as well as friends. They are here printed in Migne, Patrologia Latina, v. 121. Inadvertent preservation of writings by censoring or suppressing authorities is one of the few identifiable contributions of censorship to knowledge. Thus, among many other cases, Origen's treatise Contra Celsum is almost the sole source for writings of Celsus.

DANTE ALIGHIERI. De Monarchia was burned in Lombardy, 1318, and banned in Rome, 1559. In 1581 The Divine Comedy was ordered corrected before circulation in Portugal. The works of Dante were burned by Savonarola, who was burned in his turn together with his books.

SERVETUS, MICHAEL, Villanovanus. Ptolemy's Geography. Facsimile of title-page from Servetus' first edition of 1535. A chance remark in this edition carried over from another translator, Lorenz Friese, that the Promised or Praised Land (Gelobte) scarcely deserved to be "praised," was seized upon opportunely by Jean Calvin to justify the burning of Servetus. When the condemned heretic stood at the stake, "around his waist were tied a large bundle of manuscript and a thick octavo printed book" (Osler). Of the eight hundred or a thousand copies printed of the burned first edition of Christianismi Restitutio, 1553, only three have survived: perfect copies at Vienna and Paris and an imperfect one at Edinburgh.

AGRIPPA VON NETTESHEIM, HEINRICH CORNELIUS. . . . Opera. Click here for a more detailed imageLugduni, per Beringos Fratres, n.d. [fictitious imprint for Strassburg, E. Zetzner, 1630?] Agrippa was charged with heresy and had to flee from France to the Netherlands in 1509. His sarcastic attack on learned pretensions, De Incertitudine et Vanitate Scientiarum et Artium (1530) was banned and the author imprisoned for similar scholastic satires. For De Occulta Philosophia, the Inquisition brought charges in 1533 of magic and conjury. Both of these works are included in the edition shown, which hid the printers of an unsafe author behind a fictitious imprint.

GALILEI, GALILEO. Dialogo ... sopra i due Massimi Sistemi del Mondo Tolemaico, e Copernico. Florence, 1632.* This work, one of the great turning points in human thought, was the cause of Galileo's conflict with law and tradition. He was forced to recant and deny his belief in the Copernican system. This copy, lent by the Linda Hall Library of Science and Technology in Kansas City, Mo., belonged to Andrew Fletcher, as does the exhibited copy of Hobbes' Leviathan, both being signed by him.


CALVIN, JEAN. The Institution of Christian Religion. London, A. Griffin, for I. Norton, and R. Whitaker, 1634. In France the Sorbonne banned Civil and Canonical Law in 1542. Queen Mary proclaimed in 1555 "that no manner of persons presume to bring into this realm any mss., books, papers, by John Calvin ... containing false doctrine against the Catholic faith." This edition was published after the ban was rescinded. By 1564, the Index had listed all of Calvin's works as heretical and prohibited. That Calvin himself was not innocent of book-burning is apparent from his vindictive condemnation of Michael Servetus in 1553 (q.v.).

Click here for a more detailed imageINDEX LIBRORUM PROHIBITORUM. "The Index of prohibited books, commonly spoken of as the Index,—is a specific list of books which ecclesiastical authority prohibits Catholics from reading. ... The first Roman Index appeared in 1559, under Paul IV, long after civil authority had instituted censorship and lists of prohibited writings .... As a rule the books contained in this authoritative list were written by Catholics . . . To read books that have been put on the Index or otherwise prohibited by the Holy See, one must obtain either a general or a particular permission from the competent ecclesiastical authority ...."Walter Drum, S.J., in Encyclopedia Americana, 14 (1948) 751-2. Displayed are two regional Indexes, one published at Lisbon, 1597, by Peter Craesbeeck, the other at Madrid, 1790, by Antonio de Sancha. The latter was published by authority of both church and state.



Click here for a more detailed imageSANCHEZ, THOMAS. De Sancto Matrimonii, Lyons, 1669. Censorship often leads to self-contradictory ironies. This work is a famous manual on the forms and conduct of marriages within the Catholic church. The work deals most seriously with all the personal relations—including the sexual—involved in marriage from the Catholic view. In order to make this clear it discusses sexual relations in marriage so explicitly, however, that the book has been suppressed and censored at times by authorities of the same beliefs as those who published it in the first place. It is even used by some people as a source of pornographic excitement.






KORB, JOHANN GEORG. Diarium itineris in Moscoviam.... Click here for a more detailed imageViennae, L. Voigt [1700].* This very interesting diary of the Imperial embassy to Moscow contains the eye-witness illustrated report of Korb, secretary to this mission, on the trial and execution of the stryeltsi or musketeers, who had revolted while Peter the Great was on his European tour. Making an example of the mutineers to the anti-western elements, the czar took a bloody vengeance (Sept.-Oct. 1698). Irritated by the account, Peter complained to Vienna and all unsold copies were destroyed. This copy is from the library of Prince Liechtenstein.



HEIBERG, PETER ANDREAS. In the periodical of a Danish liberal society to which Heiberg belonged, he published, in 1798, two articles, of which one was the immediate cause of his being exiled. In it he demanded that the national budget be made a matter of public knowledge. For this, and because of his earlier affronts to men in power, Heiberg was brought to trial. Heiberg, who was his own lawyer, reported on the progress of the trial in a series of pamphlets entitled "Reading for the Public." While the trial was going on, a new law governing the press was passed, September 27, 1799. Heiberg was subsequently found guilty of having broken the law—which therewith was understood to have retroactive effect. On Christmas Eve, 1799, he was banished from Denmark and the Duchies (of Slesvig and Holstein). Heiberg left Denmark in February, 1800, never to return. Proceeding to Paris, he obtained a position in the French foreign ministry, where he worked until 1817, when he was pensioned by the French government. After his retirement, Heiberg wrote several political and economic tracts of which Enevoldsmagtens Indførelse i Danmark (The introduction of absolutism into Denmark) was one. Because censorship again obtained in Denmark, Heiberg had his later works published in Norway (which had declared its independence from Denmark in 1814). The Hamlet quotation on the title page of this work makes the point: "Something is rotten in the State of Denmark."— By P. M. Mitchell.

STRINDBERG, AUGUST. Married. New York, Boni and Liveright, [1917]. The stories in this collection, first published in two parts, 1884 and 1886, under the Swedish title Giftas, aroused indignation not only for their woman-hating tendency but because of references to religion in the first tale, Dygdens lön (Virtue's reward, present here as Asra). Strindberg was prosecuted for assailing the sacrament of the communion. Strindberg returned from Geneva to face the charges, defended himself and won an acquittal. Another work of the author to overcome censorship was Mäster Olof, which was refused permission by theatrical authorities to be staged from 1872 to 1878, despite repeated revision.

ANDERSEN, HANS CHRISTIAN. Andersen's Fairy Tales. When the Æventyr or Wonder Stories were first published in 1835, they were banned in Russia under the severe restrictions of Nicholas I. In 1849, the ban was lifted. Again in the 1930s, they found disfavor in Russia, this time because they tended to glorify princes and princesses. In 1954, an Illinois library stamped the fairy tales of the Danish author "For Adult Readers" to make it "impossible for children to obtain smut."

CARROLL, LEWIS. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was banned in Hunan province of China in 1911 on the ground that "animals should not use human language, and that it was disastrous to put animals and human beings on the same level."

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

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