Burning Books

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About the Book

For over 2000 years, book burners have laid their torches to millions of books condemned as heretical, blasphemous, immoral, obscene, subversive or seditious. Books have been reduced to ashes in church yards, college yards, school furnaces, public squares and city streets. The goals of the book burners have been to extirpate history, to intimidate and stamp out opposition, to create solidarity, and to cleanse society of controversial ideas. Too often, book burning foreshadows violence against those who originated or shared the ideas.
This work provides a detailed account of actual book burning worldwide over the past 2000 years. The book burners are identified, along with the works they set aflame. The study examines the metaphoric language that “justified” the destruction; characterizing the books as “tares,” “pestilence,” “plagues,” “cancers,” and “poison” is central to the control the burners hope to exercise. Also considered is the primeval pull of the book burning ritual, which in its simplicity leads to the destruction of ideas and the uniformity of thought associated with totalitarianism.

About the Author(s)

The late Haig Bosmajian, professor emeritus in the Department of Communication at the University of Washington, Seattle, lived in Seattle.

Bibliographic Details

Haig Bosmajian
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 239
Bibliographic Info: 5 photos, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2012 [2006]
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7156-0
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface      1
Introduction      3

1. The Magic of Books and Fire      19
2. Burning Blasphemous–Heretical Books
Antiquity Through the Fifteenth Century      33
The Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries–A Significant Increase in Book Burnings      65
The Eighteenth Through Twentieth Centuries–Burning Fewer Heretical Works      115
3. Burning Seditious–Subversive Books
Antiquity Through the Eighteenth Century      140
The Nineteenth Through Twenty-first Centuries–Burning More Seditious–Subversive Books      160
4. Burning Obscene–Immoral Books
Antiquity Through the Seventeenth Century      181
The Eighteenth Through Twentieth Centuries–Burning More Classic “Obscene” Books      191

Conclusion      206
Bibliography      213
Index      227

Book Reviews & Awards

“comprehensive…a great resource…excellent…recommend[ed]”—C&RL News; “acquisition is an obligation all public and academic libraries must seriously consider”—Library Journal; “chilling accounts”—American Libraries.