New display: Forbidden Access: Censoring Books and Archives

IMAGE Dialogo di Galileo Galilei (1632)]

Dialogo di Galileo Galilei (1632)

Censorship has existed across the world for as long as libraries have, and has encompassed all subjects, from literature and law to science and theology. In a few items, this display of books from the special collections at Senate House Library attempts to cover its broad sweep. Chronologically, exhibits range from Ovid’s Ars amatoria, first banned in AD 8 for its immoral teaching of the arts of seduction and extra-marital love, to Lord Denning’s What Next in the Law (1982), the first issue of which was withdrawn for a passage which appeared to suggest that some black people were unsuitable to serve as jurors. Galileo Galilei’s Dialogo (1632), banned for its defence of the Copernican theory, represents science. Puritan minister and prolific writer Richard Baxter represents theology with his Paraphrase on the New Testament (1685), convicted of libelling the Church of England. The internationality of censorship is clear, perhaps most obviously through one of Spain’s indexes of prohibited books (1790): a list in 305 pages of Latin, French, Spanish and Italian books in many subjects, in which Martin Luther rubs shoulders with Tacitus, Pierre Bayle and the English antiquary William Camden among others. Clear, too, is the innocence of some books censored, most notably Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which was banned in China’s Hunan Province on the basis that animals should not use human speech or be placed on the same level as humans.

[IMAGE Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Abenteuer im Wunderland (1869)]

Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Abenteuer im Wunderland (1869)

The display supports the conference “Forbidden Access: Censoring Books and Archives” (6-7 November 2014), a collaboration between the Institute of English Studies, the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies and Senate House Library. It is available for view on the fourth floor of Senate House Library, beside the membership area, 5-21 November.

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