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Library looks at banned books

If you haven't had a chance yet, pop into the Squamish Library and take a look at the display of banned books. Books have been banned and burnt for over 2,000 years. Top of the list are religious tomes, such as the Bible.

If you haven't had a chance yet, pop into the Squamish Library and take a look at the display of banned books.

Books have been banned and burnt for over 2,000 years. Top of the list are religious tomes, such as the Bible. In 1199 Pope Innocent 111 banned access to the Old and New Testaments. Since then, many Popes have prohibited the translation of the Bible into native languages, rendering it inaccessible to anyone with no knowledge of Latin. In 1525, English copies of the Bible, which had been printed in Germany, were intercepted and burned by the church before they could be distributed.

One of the first recorded book and script burnings took place in China in 212 BC, with the emperor Shih Huang Ti. He had all the books in his kingdom burned, allowing only one copy of each book to remain in his royal library. These were destroyed at his death. Apparently, the poor disillusioned fellow thought that by doing this, all of history would start with him.

The burning of the great library of Alexandria around 385 AD allegedly provided enough heat to warm the city of Alexandria's baths for six months.

Books have been burned for many reasons - though not usually for heating baths - the most popular in the last century being for the "dissolution of public morals."

Among those destroyed on moral grounds were James Joyce's Ulysses, Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass (which, in the end, made so much money for him he bought a house) and Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence (what was all the fuss about?).

The largest and longest book burning ever was by the Nazis. From 1933 to 1945, over a 100 million books with "un-German" content were thrown into huge bonfires throughout the country.

The most pernicious form of banning is books of ideas. Whole societies are diminished when ideas of importance are quashed. Darwin's On the Origin of Species has been particularly in the news over the last month, as 2009 was the 200th anniversary of his birth. Copernicus' theory, displacing the Earth as the centre of the universe, Galileo's collected works featuring his discoveries of our solar system, and more recently, Einstein's Theory of Relativity have all fallen victim to the censor.

The library requires new board members. If you are interested, you'll find an application form on our website, or come in and get one. No previous experience is necessary. We're at 37907 Second Ave., right next to the Municipal Hall.