4406 entries. 94 themes. Last updated December 26, 2016.

Censorship Timeline


1200 – 1300

Pope Gregory IX Orders the Seizure and Burning of Jewish Books June 9 – June 20, 1239

In response to a denunciation of "blasphemies" in the Talmud by Nicholas Donin, a Jewish convert to Christianity, On June 9, 1239 Pope Gregory IX ordered the archbishops of France, England, Spain and Portugal to seize all Jewish books and examine them. In his letter of June 20, 1239 Gregory ordered the churchmen of Paris to burn the confiscated works if they were found to contain "objectionable" content.

Marcus, The Jew in the Medieval World. A Source Book: 315-1791, rev. ed. (1999) 163.

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Early Origins of the Star Chamber 1275

The English law, "De Scandalis Magnatum", prohibited the distribution of "any false News or Tales, whereby discord, or occasion of discord or slander may grow between the King and his People, or the Great Men of the Realm." [3 Edw. 1, ch. 34 (1275)]. Although this might at first sound like a reasonable way of protecting officials from slander, in fact, the application of 'De Scandalis' established the principle that even those who made negative comments about the King or government could be called before a select group of officials without need for any warrant or other legal proceeding even if the comments were truthful. Known as the Star Chamber [since 1422] because of the decor of the room in which they held their proceedings, this tribunal had the power to confer any punishment they pleased for the crime of 'endangering the public peace' by criticizing a monarch or other official" (http://www1.assumption.edu/ahc/1770s/ppressfree.html, accessed 01-04-2010).

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1450 – 1500

Niccolò Perotti Makes the First Call for Press Censorship 1471

Archbishop Niccolò Perotti of Spiponto was the first to suggest Vatican censorship and review of all printed works after noticing numerous errors in an edition of Pliny.

In 1471 Italian humanist and grammarian Niccolò Perotti, Archibishop of Siponto, incensed by the number of errors in Giovanni Andrea Bussi's edition of Pliny's Historia naturalis issued in Rome by Conrad Sweynheym and Arnold Pannartz, wrote to the Pope asking him to set up a board of learned correctors, such as himself, who would scrutinize, every text before it could be printed. Perotti's self-serving effort has been described as the first call for press censorship.

"The power of the press to impose a measure of uniformity was felt from the beginning to be doubled-edged. The hasty correction which a hard-pressed editor such as Giovanni Andrea Bussi was obliged to carry out, very often on the first manuscript that came to hand, permitted corrupt texts to be put into wide circulation. Even worse, an already corrupt text could become the vehicle of willful emendation on the part of the editor. It was precisely this that provoked another papal curialist, Niccolò Perotti, Archbishop of Spiponto, to attack Bussi's editing as early as 1471 and to call for centralized overseeing of texts issued at Rome. He says that he had thought the advent of printing was an inestimable boon to mankind until he set eyes on Bussi's 1470 edition of Pliny and realized the men of slight learning were now in a position to publish whatever they liked in hundreds of copies, without any sort of editorial responsibility or control. He proposes as a remedy that the pope should appoint a competent scholar (he thinks of himself) to supervise texts printed at Rome.

"Perotti himself, when Bussi ceased working for Sweynheym and Pannartz to be come the papal librarian, got the chance to turn his hand to preparing editions for the same firm in 1473: his own work found no kindlier reception with a number of fellow humanists than Bussi's had with him. His utopian scheme for control of the press came to nothing, but it did point to a troublesome aspect of the new invention" (Davies, "Humanism in Script and Print," Kraye (ed) The Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Humanism [1996] 57).

ISTC no. ip00787000 for the Sweynheym and Pannartz 1470 edition of Pliny. In November 2013 a digital facsimile of that edition was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

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"Malleus Malleficarum", Handbook for Witch-Hunters and Inquisitors April 1487

In April 1487 German Inquisitors Heinrich Kramer and Jakob Sprenger published Malleus maleficarum (The Hammer of Witches) in Speyer, Germany at the Press of Peter Drach. This was "without question the most important and most sinister work on demonology ever written.  It crystallized into a fiercely stringent code previous folklore about black magic with church dogma on heresy, and, if any one work could, opened the floodgates of the inquisitorial hysteria" (Robbins, Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology [1959] 337).

Malleus maleficarum became a best-seller, with six editions in the 15th century,  and thirty-six editions published during the witchcraft hysteria up to 1669, and it is thought that its widespread distribution, made possible by printing, contributed to the spread of the witchcraft delusion.

The work owed its authority to three factors:

1. The scholastic reputation of its two authors, the German Inquisitors Sprenger and Kramer.

2. The papal bull Summis desiderantes affectibus of December 5, 1484, which Kramer solicited from Pope Innocent VIII in order to silence the opposition to witch persecution. ISTC no. ii00101500.

3. The detailed procedures for witchcraft trials set forth in the book's third and final part, written for the benefit of civil and ecclesiastical judges. As the leading handbook for witch-hunters, and the first encyclopedia of witchcraft, the Hammer of Witches maintained a pre-eminent position of authority for nearly 200 years, providing both foundation and inspiration for all later European treatises on witch-theory and persecution.

ISTC no. ii00163000. In November 2013 a digital facsimile was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

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Pope Innocent VIII Begins Prepublication Censorship November 17, 1487

In response to the rapid spread of print technology, in November 1487 Pope Innocent VIII issued the first Papal Bull concerned with printing:Bulla S.D.N. Innocentii "Inter multiplices nostrae sollicitudinis curas" contra impressores librorum reprobatorum.

The bull was printed in Rome by Eucharius Silber, and issued after November 17, 1487. From this date the Holy Inquisition instituted prepublication censorship.

ISTC no. ii00110000 cites only two surviving copies, one in Germany and one in the United States. In November 2013 a digital facsimile was available from Universitätsbibliothek Freiburg at this link.

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1500 – 1550

Pope Alexander VI Confirms & Expands Censorship 1501

 Pope Alexander VI issued a bull granting cesorial powers over book printing to Archbishops and local authorities serving under them. (View Larger)

In 1501 highly controversial Pope Alexander VI (Roderic Llançol, later Roderic de Borja i Borja, Italian: Rodrigo Borgia) published his bull, Inter Multiplices. In this bull Alexander confirmed that an ecclesiastical imprimatur was necessary before print publication would be allowed. Archbishops, especially those of Cologne, Magdeburg, Trier, and Mainz were to prohibit, under pain of excommunication (latae sententiae), the printing of books in their provinces without their imprimatur, which was to be granted gratis. Secondly, the censorial powers of the Archbishops could be delegated to local authorities. Thirdly, the scope of the censorship was confined to questions of what is orthodoxae fidei contrarium; questions of public or private morality were apparently not included. The jurisdiction extended over corporations, universities and colleges. If necessary the civil powers could be invoked, and in order to motivate the local authorities, they were to receive half of the monetary penalties collected.  

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Pope Leo X Decrees the Most Stringent Papal Censorship Before the Reformation May 4, 1515

 Pope Leo X, famous for later fighting Martin Luther's 95 theses, issued the strictest decree of papal censorship to date in 1515, with the aim of eliminating 'dangerous' texts which were causing evil to propogate 'from day to day.' (View Larger)

The most stringent censorship decree antedating the Reformation was the Papal bull Inter Solicitudines issued by Pope Leo X following the May 4, 1515 session of the Fifth Lateran Council.

"It may have been under the influence of the Reuchlin controversy (and now not directed against any particular territory or town) that Leo X ordered censorship to be applied to all translations from Hebrew, Greek, Arabic and Chaldaic into Latin, and from Latin into the verancular. The regulations were to be enforced by bishops, their delegates or the inquisitores haereticae pravitatis. The decree bemoaned the fact that readers were supplied by printers with books 'which not only fail to edify, but promote errors in faith as well as in daily life and the mores.' The Pope saw acute danger that the evil 'may grow from day to day' (as indeed it did). By 1515 the reading of 'dangerous' texts had apparently reached dimensions which, in the eyes of the established church, posed a real threat to orthodoxy. Censorship before the Reformation may seem tame compared with its subsequent development. But we should not emphasize unduly the effect of the Reformation. Without the spread of print and reading stern censorship would not have been necessary. Moreover, without this spread, the Lutheran Reformation might well have failed.

"Nobody will ever know how many texts planned and actually produced failed to survive due to confiscation. i believe that the great majority of Lutheran, Zwinglian and Calvinist writings, against which so many regulations were directed, managed to survive, largely because they were published in sizable editions and frequently republished. Even if all copies of one edition were suppressed, the text still had a fair chance to survive in another issue. Complete loss is most likely to have occurred among the works of the so-call 'Left,' the writings of the revolutionary reformers, hated with equal fervor by the Catholic hierarchy and their more conservative fellow reformers. Censorship retarded here and there the spread of ideas; whether it ever successfully extinguished any idea completely is doubtful. Censorship during the XVIth century may have helped in keeping disputed ideas with the fold of one denomination or the other. It certainly limited the publication of protestant publications in catholic, and of catholic in protestant territories; thus strengthening the barriers erected against the free flow of ideas; but controversial pamphlets were peddled far afield, and unwelcome idease spread, of course, also by word of mouth" (Hirsch, Printing, Selling and Reading 1450-1550 [1967] 90).


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Pope Leo X Responds to Luther's "95 Theses" June 15, 1520

 The title page of Pope Leo X's bull 'Exsurge Domine,' bearing the Papal coat of arms, was written to warn Martin Luther that he must recant his 95 Theses or risk excommunication. (View Larger)

With the papal bull  Exsurge Domine  on June 15, 1520 Pope Leo X warned Martin Luther that he risked excommunication unless he recanted 41 sentences drawn from his writings, including the 95 Theses, within 60 days.

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The Emperor Charles V Issues "The Law of Printing" in Response to the Excommunication of Luther May 26, 1521

Following upon Luther's excommunication, as part of the Edict of Worms Charles V issued the first major secular anti-Reformation legislation: Der römischen Kaislerlich Majestät Edikt wider Martin Luthers Bücher und Lehre, seine Anhänger, Enthalter und Nachfolger und etliche andere schmähliche Schriften. Auch Gesetz der Druckerei:

"Item. We ask you and command that 'with the sounding of the trumpet' you call the people from the four corners of the villages and cities where this edict will be published and gather them where it is customary to publish our edicts and mandates. You will then read this edict word for word and with a loud voice. We order, upon the penalties contained herein, that the contents of this edict be kept and observed in their entirety; and we forbid anyone, regardless of his authority or privilege, to dare to buy, sell, keep, read, write, or have somebody write, print or have printed, or affirm or defend the books, writings, or opinions of the said Martin Luther, or anything contained in these books and writings, whether in German, Latin, Flemish, or any other language. This applies also to all those writings condemned by our Holy Father the pope and to any other book written by Luther or any of his disciples, in whatever manner, even if there is Catholic doctrine mixed in to deceive the common people.  

"For this reason we want all of Luther's books to be universally prohibited and forbidden, and we also want them to be burned. We execute the sentence of the Holy Apostolic See, and we follow the very praiseworthy ordinance and custom of the good Christians of old who had the books of heretics like the Arians, Priscillians, Nestorians, Eutychians, and others burned and annihilated, even everything that was contained in these books, whether good or bad. This is well done, since if we are not allowed to eat meat containing just one drop of poison because of the danger of bodily infection, then we surely should leave out every doctrine (even if it is good) which has in it the poison of heresy and error, which infects and corrupts and destroys under the cover of charity everything that is good, to the great peril of the soul.  

"Therefore, we ask you who are in charge of judicial administration to have all of Luther's books and writings burned and destroyed in public, whether these writings are in German, Flemish, Latin, or in any other written language and whether they are written by himself, his disciples, or the imitators of his false and heretical doctrines, which are the source of all perversity and iniquity. Moreover, we ask you to help and assist the messengers of our Holy Pope. In their absence you will have all those books publicly burned and execute all the things mentioned above.  

"To that effect, we ask and require all our subjects of your jurisdiction to consider the penalties herein mentioned, and we also ask them to assist and obey you as they would obey us.  

"We also have to be careful that the books or the doctrines of the said Martin Luther not be written and published under other authors' names. Daily, several books full of evil doctrine and bad examples are being written and published. There are also many pictures and illustrations circulated so that the enemy of human nature, through various tricks, might capture the souls of Christians. Because of these books and unreasonable pictures, Christians fall into transgression and start doubting their own faith and customs, thus causing scandals and hatreds. From day to day, and more and more, rebellions, divisions, and dissensions are taking place in this kingdom and in all the provinces and cities of Christendom. This is much to be feared.

"For this reason, and to kill this mortal pestilence, we ask and require that no one dare to compose, write, print, paint, sell, buy, or have printed, written, sold, or painted, from now on in whatever manner such pernicious articles so much against the holy orthodox faith and against that which the Catholic Apostolic Church has kept and observed to this day. We likewise condemn anything that speaks against the Holy Father, against the prelates of the church, and against the secular princes, the general schools and their faculties, and all other honest people, whether in positions of authority or not. And in the same manner we condemn everything that is contrary to the good moral character of the people, to the Holy Roman Church, and to the Christian public good.  

"And finally, after this edict has been published, we want all the books, writings, and pictures mentioned above to be publicly burned, including those under the name of any author that might be printed, written, or compiled in any language, wherever they may be found in our countries.  

We ask you to be diligent in apprehending and confiscating all the belongings of those who seem rebellious to the ordinances herein mentioned and to punish them according to the penalties set out by law-Divine, canon, and civil.  

"And so as to prevent poisonous false doctrines and bad examples from being spread all over Christendom, and so that the art of printing books might be used only toward good ends, we, after mature and long deliberation, order and command you by this edict that henceforth, under penalty of confiscation of goods and property, no book dealer, printer, or anybody else mention the Holy Scriptures or their interpretation without having first received the consent of the clerk of the city and the advice and consent of the faculty of theology of the university, which will approve those books and writings with their seal. As for books that do not even mention faith or the Holy Scriptures, we also want this decree applied to them, except that our consent or that of our lieutenants will be sufficient. All this will apply for the first printing of the books hereabove mentioned.  

"Item. Furthermore, we declare in this ordinance that if anyone, whatever his social status may be, dares directly or indirectly to oppose this decree--whether concerning Luther's matter, his defamatory books or their printings, or whatever has been ordered by us--these transgressors in so doing will be guilty of the crime of lèse majesté and will incur our grave indignation as well as each of the punishments mentioned above.  

"We desire that evidence be added to the copy of this decree, signed by one of our secretaries or by an apostolic notary as would be done for this original.  

"As a witness to this, and for all these things to be firm and forever established, we have put our seal on this document and have signed by our hand.  

"Given in our city of Worms on the eighth day of May in the year of our Lord one thousand five hundred twenty-one.

"Signed Charles of Germany" (http://www.crivoice.org/creededictworms.html, accessed 12-27-2009).

In this comprehensive edict Charles V took a position identical to the pope, without any attempt to compromise with Luther or his followers. It has been suggested that the proclamation was part of a bargain by which Charles V attempted to enlist the cooperation of the pope against Francis I of France.

Depending on the influence which Charles V could exert on a specific region, and the attitude of sovereigns toward Luther and other reformers, this imperial decree was enforced with varying degrees of vigor, or not at all.

Hirsch, Printing, Selling and Reading 1450-1550 (1967) 91.

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Henry VIII Establishes Pre-Publication Censorship in England November 16, 1538

On November 16, 1538 Henry VIII decreed that all new books printed in England must be approved by the Privy Council before publication. This requirement remained in effect in some form until 1694.

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Nicolaus Copernicus Begins the Copernican Revolution 1543

Just before his death, in 1543 Nicolaus Copernicus's De revolutionibus orbium coelestium was published in Nuremberg. De revolutionibus set out Copernicus's revolutionary theory of the heliocentric universe—that the earth and other planets revolve around the sun. The Copernican Revolution, however, was not completed until about one hundred years after the publication of De revolutionibus.

"Copernicus initially outlined his system in a short, untitled, anonymous manuscript that he distributed to several friends, referred to as the Commentariolus. A physician's library list dating to 1514 includes a manuscript whose description matches the Commentariolus, so Copernicus must have begun work on his new system by that time. Most historians believe that he wrote the Commentariolus after his return from Italy, possibly only after 1510. At this time, Copernicus anticipated that he could reconcile the motion of the Earth with the perceived motions of the planets easily, with fewer motions than were necessary in the Alfonsine Tables, the version of the Ptolemaic system current at the time.

"Observations of Mercury by Bernhard Walther (1430–1504) of Nuremberg, a pupil of Regiomontanus, were made available to Copernicus by Johannes Schöner, 45 observations in total, 14 of them withlongitude and latitude. Copernicus used three of them in De revolutionibus, giving only longitudes, and erroneously attributing them to Schöner. Copernicus' values differed slightly from the ones published by Schöner in 1544 in Observationes XXX annorum a I. Regiomontano et B. Walthero Norimbergae habitae, [4°, Norimb. 1544].

"Remarkably, a manuscript of De revolutionibus in Copernicus' own hand has survived. After his death, it was given to his pupil, Rheticus, who for publication had only been given a copy without annotations. Via Heidelberg, it ended up in Prague, where it was rediscovered and studied in the 19th century. Close examination of the manuscript, including the different types of paper used, helped scholars construct an approximate timetable for its composition. Apparently Copernicus began by making a few astronomical observations to provide new data to perfect his models. He may have begun writing the book while still engaged in observations. By the 1530s a substantial part of the book was complete, but Copernicus hesitated to publish.

"In 1539 Georg Joachim Rheticus, a young mathematician from Wittenberg, arrived in Frauenburg (Frombork) to study with him. Rheticus read Copernicus' manuscript and immediately wrote a non-technical summary of its main theories in the form of an open letter addressed to Schöner, his astrology teacher in Nürnberg; he published this letter as the Narratio Prima in Danzig in 1540. Rheticus' friend and mentor Achilles Gasser published a second edition of the Narratio in Basel in 1541. Due to its friendly reception, Copernicus finally agreed to publication of more of his main work—in 1542, a treatise on trigonometry, which was taken from the second book of the still unpublished De revolutionibus. Rheticus published it in Copernicus' name.

"Under strong pressure from Rheticus, and having seen that the first general reception of his work had not been unfavorable, Copernicus finally agreed to give the book to his close friend, Bishop Tiedemann Giese, to be delivered to Rheticus in Wittenbergfor printing by Johannes Petreius at Nürnberg (Nuremberg). It was published just before Copernicus' death, in 1543(Wikipedia article on De revolutionibus, accessed 11-11-2013).

Because of the unusually extended delay between the publication of the Copernican theory and its acceptance by the scientific community, for many years historians believed that the book was not widely read at the time of its first publication. However, "Owen Gingerich, a widely recognized authority on both Nicolaus Copernicus and Johannes Kepler, disproved that belief after a 35-year project to examine every surviving copy of the first two editions. Gingerich showed that nearly all the leading mathematicians and astronomers of the time owned and read De revolutionibus; however, his analysis of the marginalia shows that they almost all ignored the cosmology at the beginning of the book and were only interested in Copernicus' new equant-free models of planetary motion in the later chapters" (Wikipedia article on De revolutionibus accessed 11-20-2008).

Up until the second decade of the seventeenth century the Church ignored the revolutionary implications of Copernicus's heliocentric theory of the solar system, partly because his system was useful for calendrical purposes, partly because of Andreas Osiander's anonymous and unauthorized preface "Ad lectorem" (long thought to be by Copernicus himself) presenting the heliocentric system as no more than a convenient calculating device, and partly because Copernicus himself "was annoyingly vague concerning whether or not he believed in the reality of his system" (Gingerich, p. 49).  However, Kepler's insistence in his Astronomia nova (1609) on the possible physical reality of Copernicus's system and his revelation of Osiander as the true author of "Ad lectorem," coupled with Galileo's public support of Copernicanism and his attacks on the Aristotelian-Catholic view of the heavens (beginning with his Letter on sunspots [1613]), alerted the ecclesiastical establishment to the dangers to its own authority inherent in the new system.  In 1616 the Church placed De revolutionibus on the Index librorum prohibitorum "until suitably corrected," and, for the only time in its history, spelled out the expected alterations to be made in the text.  This belated attempt at censorship was a failure, however: the census of copies published by Owen Gingerich shows that only one copy in twelve contains the prescribed changes, and that copies in France, Spain and Protestant Europe largely escaped correction.

In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the 1543 first edition of De revolutionibus was available from the Rare Book Room at this link.

Gingerich, "The Censorship of Copernicus's De revolutionibus," Annali dell'Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza di Firenze, Fasicolo2 (1981).

Gingerich, An Annotated Census of Copernicus' De Revolutionibus (Nuremberg, 1543 and Basel, 1566). (2002). This 400-page work will remain a landmark in the history of bibliography. Its Preface begins as follows on p. [vii]:

"You have before you something almost unique in the annals of bibliography: an attempt to described the provenance, annotations, and condition of all surviving sixteenth-century copeis of a major Renaissance text. This census lists 277 copies of the first edition of Nicolaus Copernicus' pioneering masterpiece, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium libri sex (Nuremberg, 1543), and 324 copies of the second edition (Basel, 1566). Its compilation has taken three decades, the worldwide cooperation of librarians, dealers, and collectors, and literally hundreds of thousands of miles of travel."

[Incidentally, for those interested in the most esoteric bibliographical minutiae, there are two issues of Gingerich's bibliography. The first, printed on thicker paper, contains a typographical error on the upper cover, substituting the word "en" for "and" in "(Nuremberg, 1543 and Basel, 1566)". In the second issue printed on thinner paper this rather prominent but small error was corrected.]

 Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 516.

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Henry VIII Restricts the Reading of the Bible May 12, 1543

Under Henry VIII the Parliament of England passed (34 & 35 Henry VIII, c. 1) The Act for the Advancement of True Religion, which restricted the reading of the Bible to clerics, noblemen, the gentry and richer merchants. Women of the gentry and nobility were only allowed to read the Bible in private. 

The Act  forbid the reading of the Bible in English by "women, artificers, apprentices, journeymen, serving-men of the rank of yeoman and under, husbandmen and laborers".

"The Act allowed moral plays to be performed if they promoted virtue and condemned vice but such plays were forbidden to contradict the interpretation of Scripture as set forth by the King.

"The Act claims that 'malicious minds have, intending to subvert the true exposition of Scripture, have taken upon them, by printed ballads, rhymes, etc., subtilly and craftily to instruct His Highness' people, and specially the youth of this his realm, untruly. For reformation whereof, His Majesty considereth it most requisite to purge his realm of all such books, ballads, rhymes, and songs, as be pestiferous and noisome'. However, the Act also commanded that 'all books printed before the year 1540, entituled Statutes, Chronicles, Canterbury Tales, Chaucer's books, Gower's books, and stories of men's lives, shall not be comprehended in the prohibition of this Act' (Wikipedia article on Act for the Advancement of True Religion, accessed 12-27-2009).

That there was need for such an act indicates that reading was relatively widespread in England at the time.

Hirsch, Printing, Selling and Reading 1450-1550 (1967) 94.

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1550 – 1600

Michael Servetus: Medical Discovery, Heresy, and Martyrdom 1553

Engraved portrait of Michael Servetus.

Engraved Portrait of John Calvin, 16th century.

In 1563 Spanish theologian, physician, cartographer, and humanist Michael Servetus (Miguel Servet, Miguel Serveto), having exchanged unfriendly correspondence with John Calvin concerning theological disputes, published secretly in Vienne, France, his book entitled Christianismi restitutio.

This work on the reform of Christianity developed a nontrinitarian Christology which Calvin and the Catholic church considered heretical.  On pp. 168-73 the book also contained the first printed description of the lesser or pulmonary circulation of the blood. The lesser circulation had previously been discovered by Ibn-Al-Nafis in his commentary on the anatomy of the Canon of Avicenna published in manuscript in 1268, but this was not rediscovered until the 20th century. (Re Ibn-Al-Nafis see J. Norman (ed) Morton's Medical Bibliography 5th ed. [1991] no. 753.)

"On 16 February 1553, Servetus, while in Vienne, was denounced as a heretic by Guillaume Trie, a rich merchant who had taken refuge in Geneva and was a very good friend of Calvin, in a letter sent to a cousin, Antoine Arneys, living in Lyon. On behalf of the French inquisitor Matthieu Ory, Servetus as well as Arnollet, the printer of Christianismi Restitutio, were questioned, but they denied all charges and were released for lack of evidence. Arneys was asked by Ory to write back to Trie, demanding proof. On March 26, 1553, the letters sent by Servetus to Calvin and some manuscript pages of Christianismi Restitutio were forwarded to Lyon by Trie. On April 4, 1553 Servetus was arrested by the Roman Catholic authorities, and imprisoned in Vienne. He escaped from prison three days later. On June 17, he was convicted of heresy by the French inquisition, 'thanks to the 17 letters sent by Jehan Calvin, preacher in Geneva, 'and sentenced to be burned with his books. An effigy and his books were burned in his absence" (Wikipedia article on Michael Servetus, accessed 02-05-2009).

Numerous accounts of Servetus' execution state that he was burned along with the entire edition of his book. Even if that was not the case virtually the entire printing of 1000 copies was destroyed, as only three copies of the original edition survive— Richard Mead's copy in the Bibliothèque nationale de France, a copy in the Austrian National Library, Vienna, and a copy lacking the title page and the first 16pp., said to be John Calvin's personal copy, in the library of William Hunter at the University Library, Edinburgh.   (J. Norman (ed). Morton's Medical Bibliography 5th ed. [1991] no. 754.)

♦ Though Servetus escaped execution with his books, he was arrested in Geneva a few months later after having attended one of Calvin's sermons, and was sent to trial. On October 24, 1553 Servetus was sentenced to death by burning for denying the Trinity and infant baptism. When Calvin requested that Servetus be executed by decapitation rather than fire, Farel, in a letter of September 8, chided Calvin for undue leniency, and the Geneva Council refused his request. On October 27 Servetus was burned at the stake just outside Geneva with what was believed to be the last copy of his Christianisimi restitutio chained to his leg. Historians record his last words as: "Jesus, Son of the Eternal God, have mercy on me" (Adapted from the Wikipedia article on Michael Servetus).

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The Spanish Inquistion Publishes its First List of Censored Works 1554

In 1554 the Sacred Congregation of the Inquisition issued from Valladolid, Spain its first list of prohibited works— a list of censored Bible editions arranged aphabetically by place of printing: Censura Generalis contra errores, quib[us] recentes haeretici sacram scripturam asperserunt, edita a supremo senatu Inquisitionis adversus hereticam pravitatem & apostiasiam in Hispania, & aliis regnis & dominis Cesarea Magestatis constituto.

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development (1984) no. 19.

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The Sacred Congregation of the Inquisition Begins Publication of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum 1559

Using print technology that it hoped to control, in 1559 the Sacred Congregation of the Inquisition, in charge of censorship for the Catholic Church, began publication in Rome of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (List of Prohibited Books). This was updated through 32 editions, the last of which appeared in 1948.

“The various editions also contain the rules of the Church relating to the reading, selling and censorship of books. The aim of the list was to prevent the reading of immoral books or works containing theological errors and to prevent the corruption of the faithful. The list was not simply a reactive work. Catholic authors had the possibility to defend their writings and could prepare a new edition with the necessary corrections or elisions either to avoid or to limit a ban . . . . Pre-publication censorship was encouraged.”

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Charles IX Forbids Any French Printer from Printing Without Permission, Under Penalty of Being Hanged or Strangled September 10, 1563

By Letters Patent of the thirteen year old Charles IX of France at Mantes, September 10, 1563 it was forbidden for any French printer to print without permission, under penalty of being hanged or strangled.

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The Star Chamber Court Consolidates and Amplifies the Regulation of Printing in England June 23, 1586

On June 23, 1586 the Star Chamber court in London issued a decree consolidating and amplifying the regulation of printing in England.

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1600 – 1650

"Corante. . . ," the First Printed News Sheet or Newspaper Published in English 1621

Corante: or, Newes from Italy, Germany, Hungarie, Spaine and France was published by the printer Nathaniel Butter in London. The earliest of the seven surviving copies is dated September 24, 1621, but it is thought that this single page news sheet began publication earlier in 1621.

Corante was the first private newspaper published in English. As a result of a 1586 edict from the Star Chamber, it carried no news about England.

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"News from Most Parts of Christendom," Forerunner of the Printed English Newspaper May 23, 1622

On May 23, 1622 Nathaniel Butter of London published the first edition of a periodical variously called News from Most Parts of Christendom or Weekly News from Italy, Germany, Hungaria, Bohemia, the Palatinate, France and the Low Countries. "From its miscellaneous contents and periodicity of production, it is regarded as the true forerunner of the English newspaper." Because the Stuart regime discouraged domestic reporting, it contained no news about England.

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Introduction of Book Burning by the Hangman 1634

The British government began to employ the hangman in book burnings.

"By 1640 his presence had become a familiar aspect of a scene of street theatre designed to frighten onlookers. The locations selected for these ritual mock executions by fire were invariably large open public spaces in the Cities of London and Westminster and the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge; Cheapside, Smithfield, Paul’s churchyard and the Old Exchange in London, the New Palace at Westminster and the Market Place in Southwark. In a country where the bodies of heretics were no longer consigned to the flames but the Pope and other prominent Catholics were still burned in effigy, these book burnings were akin to a Protestant Auto da Fé by proxy.

"Burning books was an effective way of destroying particular printed texts, but not of eradicating them. The Roman Inquisition burned thousands of copies of Trattato Utilissimo Del Beneficio Di Giesu Christo Crocifisso (1541), yet it remains extant. In the same way it appears that at least one example survives of every book, pamphlet, broadsheet and newsbook ordered to be burned in England between 1640 and 1660. Indeed, there is evidence that book burning sometimes stimulated demand for condemned works by arousing the curiosity of collectors. As Daniel Defoe was to remark, he had heard a bookseller in the reign of James II say that 'if he would have a book sell, he would have it burnt by the hands of the common hangman' " (A. Hessayon, "Incendiary texts: book burning in England, c.1640 – c.1660", Cromohs, 12 (2007): 1-25; accessed 11-23-2008).

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A Decree of the Star Chamber Concerning Printing July 11, 1637 July 11, 1637

During the reign of Charles I, the English Star Chamber court that sat at the Palace of Westminster issued a decree on July 11, 1637, making it a general offense to print, import, or sell "any seditious, scismaticall, or offensive Bookes or Pamphlets." The decree was published as a pamphlet from London by Robert Barker, "Printer to the King's most Excellent Maiestie: And by the Assignes of John Bill, entitled A Decree of Starre-Chamber, Concerning Printing, Made the eleuenth day of July last past. 1637.

The decree also forbade anything to be printed which had not first been licensed and entered in the Stationers' Register, a record book maintained by the Stationers' Company of London. The company had been given a royal charter in 1557 to regulate the various professions associated with the publishing industry, including printers, bookbinders, booksellers, and publishers in England. The Register itself allowed publishers to document their right to produce a particular printed work, and constituted an early form of copyright law. The Company's charter gave it the right to seize illicit editions and bar the publication of unlicensed books. The decree also stated that nothing could be reprinted without being re-licensed.  

The decree further stated that in all cases the full signed imprimatur was to be printed; the names of the printer and the author were to be printed as well. The decree also limited the number of master printers to twenty, and specifyied the number of presses, journeymen, and apprentices each could have. The decree also made it an offense to work for an unlicensed printer, or to operate an unlicensed press. 

In 1884 The Grolier Club issued a deluxe limited edition reprint of this decree as their first publication, printed by the De Vinne Press, New York. Eric Holzenberg, Publications of the Grolier Club 1884-2009 IN: For Jean Grolier and His Friends, No. P1,

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Abolition of the Star Chamber Court Stimulates Publishing 1640

Abolition of the Star Chamber court in 1640 removed the machinery of censorship in England. This resulted in an outpouring of publications on topics which previously had been suppressed. In 1642 two thousand titles were published in England, and three thousand five hundred were published in 1643— "more titles in a single year than at any time before the eighteenth century" (A. Hessayon, "Incendiary texts: book burning in England, c.1640 – c.1660", Cromohs, 12 [2007] 1-25).

(This entry was last revised on 05-03-2014.) 

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Sixty Printed Books and Three Newsbooks Are Ordered to be Burned 1640 – 1660

Excluding corrupt translations of the Bible imported from the United Provinces, Catholic primers, missals and a liturgical devotion to the Virgin Mary, sixty identified printed books, pamphlets and broadsheets, and three newsbooks were ordered to be burned by civil, military and ecclesiastical authorities in England between 1640 and 1660.

"In addition, Parliament ordered a number of letters, notably those maligning its military commanders, to be burned. Capuchin vestments and utensils belonging to the alters and chapel of Somerset house and ‘superstitious’ pictorial representations of God the Father, Christ the Son, the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary were also ordered to be burned.  English book burning reached its height in 1642 when 13 books and pamphlets were consigned to the flames. Yet with the exception of a significant peak of 9 titles in 1646, during the remainder of the period no more than 5 books and pamphlets were ordered to be burned in a single year. Indeed, as significant as the occurrence of authorised book burning is its absence in 1649, 1653, 1657, 1658 and 1659." (Hessayon, "Incendiary texts: book burning in England, c.1640 – c.1660", Cromohs, 12 (2007) 1-25.  http://www.cromohs.unifi.it/12_2007/hessayon_incendtexts.html, accessed 01-04-2010).

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The British Government Attempts to Re-Establish Censorship June 16, 1643

Having abolished the Star Chamber court which had provided the mechanism for censorship in England, on June 16, 1643 the British government attempted to re-establish censorship through a Licensing Order passed on this date which would require the licensing of publications before printing.

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John Milton Issues Aereopagitica: "For Books are Not Absolutely Dead Things; but Doe Contain a Potencie of Life . . . ." 1644

In response to the British Government's attempt to re-establish censorship through the Licensing Order passed in 1643, in 1644 English poet, polemicist, civil servant and man of letters John Milton issued Areopagitica: A Speech for the Liberty of Unlicense'd Printing, to the Parliament of England, arguing against the order for licensing books, and defending the freedom of the press.

"I deny not, but that it is of greatest concernment in the Church and Commonwealth, to have a vigilant eye how Bookes demean themselves, as well as men, and thereafter to confine, imprison, and do sharpest justice on them as malefactors: For Books are not absolutely dead things, but doe contain a potencie of life in them to be as active as that soule was whole progeny they are; nay they do preserve as in a violl the purest efficacie and extraction of that living intellect that bred them. I know they are as lively, and as vigorously productive, as those fabulous Dragons teeth; and being sown up and down, may chance to spring up armed men. Yet on the other hand, unlesse warinesse be us'd, as good almost kill a Man as kill a good Book; who kills a Man kills a reasonable creature, Gods Image; but hee who destroyes a good Booke, kills reason it selfe, kills the Image of God, as it were in the eye. Many a man lives a burden to the Earth, but a good Book is the pretious life-blood of a master spirit, imbalm'd and treasur'd up on purpose to a life beyond life" (Milton, Areopagitica).

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1650 – 1700

Jacques Raveneau Issues the First Book on the Detection of Forged Documents 1665 – 1666

In 1665 and 1666 French forensic writing expert Jacques Raveneau published the first book on the detection of forged documents:Traité des inscriptions en faux et reconnoissances d'escritures & signatures par comparison & autrement. In the Bibliothèque nationale de France there is a copy published by Raveneau and dated 1665 (B. N., F. 42404). All other copies cited in OCLC when I searched in January 2016 were of the second, or permitted issue, issued in Paris by Thomas Jolly in 1666. According to Anne Sauvy, Livres saisis à Paris entre 1678 and 1701 (1972) No. 19, the 1665 edition bears a privilege dated July 1665. In that copy is a note indicating that this privilege was obtained improperly. Presumably Raveneau had to delay publication until he obtained an accepted privilege; the privilege in the 1666 edition is dated April 8, 1666. The edition includes a florid dedication to French magistrate Guillaume Ier de Lamoignon, marquis de Basville, who was first president of the Parliament of Paris. The dedication is prominently featured on the title page.

In spite of the political influence of the dedicatee, authorities suppressed publication of the 1666 edition, believing that the information it contained was as useful to forgers as it was to those who attempted to detect forgeries. Sauvy indicates that Raveneau may have been imprisoned for publishing this work. Whatever the case, its suppression in Paris did not prevent its publication elsewhere. An edition was published in Luxembourg, 1673, and another edition was issued in Paris, in 1691 by Jean Guignard.

(This entry was last revised on 01-08-2016.) 

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Laws of Book Production and the Book Trade 1675

In 1675 lecturer on law in Halle and Jena, Ahasaver Fritsch published in Jena Tractatus de typographis, bibliopolis chartariis et bibliopegis (Treatise on Book Printers, Booksellers, Paper Manufacturers and Bookbinders). This treatise on the book trade focused on specifically on statutes, ordinances, liberties, disputes, censorship and inspection of printing offices and bookshops.

"Fritsch is one of the first writers on the subject to explicitly define an author's exclusive right to permit new editions of his work. The first publisher, however, has a right of priority to the publication of the new edition, provided that he offers the author terms which are as good as those promised by competing publishers (p.47). In Fritsch's view, however, the author's right is not meant to produce profit, but only honour. Quoting the Jena law professor Johannes Gryphiander (1580-1652), he states on page 37f.: 'The works of authors are sold to book printers and book sellers for a certain price, but in such a way, though, that the latter have the profit, whereas the honour goes to the former.' Fritsch' s views on authors' rights to new editions and his notion that the author may expect to gain honour but not profit, are probably based on his own experiences and hopes as an author and lecturer. However, when he presents a detailed justification of book privileges, Fritsch proves himself to be a judicious political theorist: privileges do not fall into the general category of monopolies which are to be rejected. He gives three reasons for arguing thus: (i) the demands of natural justness ('natürliche Billigkeit'), whereby the first publishers have to be protected, so that they may recoup their investment; (ii) publishers are encouraged ('angefrischet') by the award of privileges to have valuable new books printed at their expense; (iii) privileges are granted only for a limited term, so that they cannot seriously harm the public in any way. These three aspects sound quite modern: a special protection is justified on the grounds of the natural right not to suffer unjust damages and to recoup what one has invested. Furthermore, such special protection is justified as the means of providing an incentive for further publishing ventures. Nevertheless, such exemptions from the general rejection of monopolies are only to be allowed for a strictly limited term" (Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer, www.copyrighthistory.org, referring to the anonymous German translation of 1750).

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The First Book Review Journal: an Early Long-Distance Intellectual Community and Social Network 1684 – 1718

In 1684 French philosopher Pierre Bayle initiated publication of Nouvelles de la république des lettres (News from the Republic of Letters). This journal, edited and largely written by Bayle from March 1684 through February 1687, was the first known book review journal. Though written in French, the work was published in Amsterdam to avoid censorship. After Bayle stepped down as editor the journal was continued 

". . . by Daniel de LarroqueJean Barrin and Jean Le Clerc through April 1689. Publication was suspended from then until January 1699 when it was resumed under the editorship of Jacques Bernard. He continued it through December 1710; it was then suspended until January 1716, when he resumed and continued until the final issue in June 1718" (Wikipedia article on Nouvelles de la république des lettres, accessed 11-06-2013).

Bayle's Nouvelles de la république des lettres is considered the first work to translate the Latin expression Respublica literaria into a modern language. The periodical had an association with the "Republic of Letters", a long-distance intellectual community and social network in the late 17th and 18th century in Europe and America.

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The End of Pre-Publication Censorship Stimulates Newspapers and Other Publishing 1695

In 1695 lapse of the Printing Act in England ended pre-publication censorship in that country, stimulating the growth of newspapers and other publications.

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1750 – 1800

Diderot & d'Alembert's Encyclopédie, the Central Enterprise of the French Enlightenment 1751 – 1780

Between 1751 and 1780 French philosopher, art critic, and writer Denis Diderot and French mathematician, mechanician, physicist and philosopher Jean le Rond d'Alembert edited and wrote portions of the Encyclopédie ou dictionnaire des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une société‚ de gens de lettres in 17 folio volumes of text plus 11 folio volumes (i.e., 10 volumes in 11) of plates. The first 7 volumes were published in Paris, but volumes 8 to 17 had to be published under a false Neuchâtel imprint. The main work appeared between 1751 and 1772. A supplement of 4 volumes plus one plate volume was published in Paris and Amsterdam from 1776 to 1777. The Table analytique et raisonnée for the set was published in 2 folio volumes in Paris and Amsterdam in 1780. Altogether there were 35 volumes, with 71,818 articles, and 3,129 plates.

The central enterprise of the French Enlightenment, the Encyclopédie embodied that movement's liberal, anti-clerical and scientific spirit, its preoccupation with man as a creature of nature, and its conception of culture and society as mutable products of the evolutionary processes of history. As such, the work challenged the twin authorities of the French monarchy and the Catholic Church, both of which derived their power from the traditional belief in a divinely ordained, unchanging order. Well aware of the dangers of affronting such powerful authorities, the philosophes who contributed to the Encyclopédie relied heavily on irony and subterfuge in their attacks on the established order, but the epistemological basis of these attacks was clearly stated in the Encyclopédie's "Discourse préliminaire," written by d'Alembert, who, "although he formally acknowledged the authority of the church, . . . made it clear that knowledge came from the senses and not from Rome or Revelation" (Darnton, The Business of Enlightenment: A Publishing History of the Encyclopédie 1775-1800 [1979] 7).

"The Encyclopédie was an innovative encyclopedia in several respects. Among other things, it was the first encyclopedia to include contributions from many named contributors, and it was the first general encyclopedia to lavish attention on the mechanical arts. Still, the Encyclopédie is famous above all for representing the thought of the Enlightenment. According to Denis Diderot in the article 'Encyclopédie,' the Encyclopédie's aim was 'to change the way people think.' "(Wikipedia article on Encyclopédie, accessed 01-26-2010).

The first seven volumes of the Encyclopédie were produced in relative safety, due in part to the support of powerful protectors, notably Madame de Pompadour, but official tolerance came to an end in 1759, when the Encyclopédie was condemned by the Parlement of Paris and placed on the Index librorum prohibitorum by Pope Clement XIII. Diderot was forced to complete the remaining ten volumes in secret and to publish them under a false Neuchâtel imprint.  "In truth, secular authorities did not want to disrupt the commercial enterprise, which employed hundreds of people. To appease the church and other enemies of the project, the authorities had officially banned the enterprise, but they turned a blind eye to its continued existence" (Wikipedia).

A high percentage of the Encyclopédie's 71,818 articles were written by Diderot and d'Alembert themselves, with another large portion, about 400 articles, written by the Baron d'Holbach. Other famous contributors included Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Voltaire. The most prolific contributor was the French scholar Louis de Jaucourt who wrote 17,266 articles, or about 8 per day between 1759 and 1765.   Altogether 140 people contributed articles to the project.

The Encyclopédie was a considerable commercial success, resulting in a print run of 4250 copies (Wikipedia), much larger than the typical print run of most publications at the time.

The discussion and exposition of printing in the Encyclopédie is among the most significant of the 18th century. Of this Giles Barber wrote in French Letterpress Printing (1969)9-10:

"The Encyclopédie provides one of the best general explanations of printing of the century, being both detailed and accurate. The main article is well supported by a host of minor ones including numerous definitions of terms and processes and by an excellent and evocative series of plates showing general workshop scenes as well as details of presses and other equipment. The authorship of all these articles is not, as yet ascertained. In their Preface the editors say: 'On juge bien que sur ce qui concerne l'Imprimerie et la Librairie, les memes tous les secours qui'il nos était possible de désirer'. In addition two of the publishers are credited with particular articles, David l'ainé with 'catalogue" (based on a manuscript by the abbé Girard bequeathed to Le Breton) and Le Breton himself with 'encre noire'. The technical part of the long and important article on 'imprimerie' is ascribed to the prote in Le Breton's shop, who we learn from the article 'prote', also ascribed to him, was one Brullé. J.B.M. Paillon, the famous engraver, wrote a number of minor articles on engraving ('dentelle, dorure sur parchemen, fleuron') and provided notes for others. Pierre Simon Fournier, the type founder, is similarly thanked in the Préface for providing background notes on his trade. "Papeterie' is by L. J. Goussier, one of the regular contributors, assisted by 'M. Prevost de Langlée près de Montargis'.

"Of the chief editors we know that d'Alembert wrote 'bibliomanie' and that Diderot's editorial asterisk, indicating his responsibility for either part or all of the article, occurs before 'bibliothécaire', caractère de'imprimerie (doubtless basically written by Fournier), chassis, corps, correcteur' and a few other minor subjects. But the chief editor as far as printing was concerned was undoubtedly the Protestant chevalier Louis de Jaucourt. Among his more important contributions were parts of 'imprimerie' covering 'histoire des inventions modernes' and 'imprimerie de Contantinople', the historical part of 'papier' and the articles on 'privilege d'impression' and 'relieur' as well as a large number of short ones.  It has also bee suggested the printer Claude François Simon wrote many of the printing articles but no internal confirmation of this has been found."

♦ Charles C. Gillespie reproduced 485 of the most notable plates in the Encyclopédie with informative and entertaining commentary in A Diderot Pictorial Encylopedia of Trades and Industry (2 vols. 1959). These included all or most of the plates concerning book production (papermaking, printing, copperplate engraving, bookbinding, leather production).

♦ Lough, Essays on the Encyclopédie of Diderot and d'Alembert (1968) provided an authoritative bibliographical study and identified the authors of a significant percentage of the unsigned articles. 

♦ There are numerous versions of the Encyclopédie online. The ARTFL Encyclopédie Database from the University of Chicago contains "20.8 million words, 400,000 unique forms, 18,000 pages of text, 17 volumes of articles, and 11 volumes of plate legends."

♦ For an English translation there is the Encyclopedia of Diderot and d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project at the University of Michigan. When I checked in 2013 significant portions of the Encyclopédie had been tranlsated.

♦ In February 2014 the full text of the first edition of the Encyclopédie was available from the French Wikipedia at this link. As I searched through the text Google Chrome provided a machine translation.

Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man (1967) no. 200.  Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 637.

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Voltaire Issues "Candide, ou l'Optimism" Anonymously and Secretively 1759

In 1759 French philosophe François-Marie Arouet, who wrote under the pen name Voltaire, pseudonymously published the satirical novella Candide, ou l'Optimisme, traduit de l‟Allemand de Mr. le Docteur Ralph secretly in Geneva, Switzerland. The work was first printed at the press of printer and bookseller Gabriel Cramer. Probably within days, editions were also published in Paris, Amsterdam, London and Brussels.

Immediately after its secretive publication, the book was widely banned because it contained religious blasphemy, political sedition and intellectual hostility hidden under a thin veil of naïveté. Attempts at censorship undoubtedly backfired, and promoted sales. Twenty different editions of the work dated 1759 have been identified. Of those, four with 299 pages, are considered the earliest. It is estimated that 20,000 to 30,000 copies of the work were sold during its first year, making it a resounding bestseller.

"The bibliographical history of this book has been exasperatingly complex and confused, and, until recently, virtually insoluble. The cumulative analyses of Ira Wade, Giles Barber, and Stephen Weissman, however, finally succeeded in resolving the matter conclusively. The 1759 Cramer edition containing 299-pages, with the points detailed below, has been given priority: the misprint 'que ce ce fut' on p. 103, line 4 (corrected in later editions to 'que ce fut'); the incorrect adjective 'precisement' on p. 125, line 4 (corrected in later editions to 'precipitamment'); with Voltaire‟s revisions on p. 31, where an unnecessary paragraph break was eliminated, and p. 41, where several short sentences about the Lisbon earthquake were rewritten. Finally, as in all of the few known copies of the Geneva printing, Chapter XXV (signature L) does not contain the paragraph critical of contemporary German poets, which Voltaire decided to drop while the book was being printed. Ten copies of the first issue are known, of which seven were bound without the final leaves N7, a blank, and N8, instructions to the binder concerning the cancellation of two pairs of leaves (B4 and B9 and D6 and D7)" (James J. Jaffe, list prepared for the New York Antiquarian Book Fair April 11, 2011, no. 124). 

The true first state is very rare, though it is likely that a few more than ten copies exist.

Barber 299G. Bengesco 14 34. Morize 59a. Wade 1. Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man (1967) No. 204. For the influence of Candide in the history of economics see Reinert, How Rich Countries Got Rich . . . and Why Poor Countries Stay Poor (2008) XIX-XXII.

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The Siku Quanshu: Probably the Most Ambitious Editorial Enterprise before the Wikipedia 1773 – 1782

The Siku Quanshu, variously translated as the Imperial Collection of Four, Emperor's Four Treasuries, Complete Library in Four Branches of Literature, or Complete Library of the Four Treasuries, and issued from 1773 to 1782, was the largest collection of books in Chinese history and, before the Wikipedia, probably the most ambitious editorial enterprise in the history of the world.

"During the height of the Qing Dynasty, the Qianlong Emperor commissioned the Siku quanshu, to demonstrate that the Qing could surpass the Ming Dynasty's 1403 Yongle Encyclopedia, which was the world's largest encyclopedia at the time.

"The editorial board included 361 scholars, with Ji Yun (紀昀) and Lu Xixiong (陸錫熊) as chief editors. They began compilation in 1773 and completed it in 1782. The editors collected and annotated over 10,000 manuscripts from the imperial collections and other libraries, destroyed some 3,000 titles, or works, that were considered to be anti-Manchu, and selected 3,461 titles, or works, for inclusion into the Siku quanshu. They were bound in 36,381 volumes (册) with more than 79,000 chapters (卷), comprising about 2.3 million pages, and approximately 800 million Chinese characters.

"Scribes copied every word by hand. 'The copyists (of whom there were 3,826) were not paid in cash but rewarded with official posts after they had transcribed a given number of words within a set time.' Four copies for the emperor were placed in specially constructed libraries in the Forbidden City, Old Summer Palace, Shenyang, and Wenjin Chamber, Chengde. Three additional copies for the public were deposited in Siku quanshu libraries in Hangzhou, Zhenjiang, and Yangzhou. All seven libraries also received copies of the 1725 imperial encyclopedia Gujin tushu jicheng.

"The Siku quanshu copies kept in Zhenjiang and Yangzhou were destroyed during the Taiping Rebellion. In 1860 during the Second Opium War an Anglo-French expedition force burned most of the copy kept at the Old Summer Palace. The four remaining copies suffered some damage during World War II. Today, the four remaining copies are kept at the National Library of China in Beijing, the National Palace Museum in Taipei, the Gansu Library in Lanzhou, and the Zhejiang Library in Hangzhou.  On the first month of the 37th year of Qianlong, the emperor issued an Imperial decree for Qing Empire, demanding the people to hand in their private book collections, in order for the compilation of Siku Quanshu. Due to the Manchu Empire's previous notorious record of Literary Inquisition such as in the case of Treason by the Book, the Chinese were too scared to hand in books, in the fear of subsequent persecution.

On October of that year, seeing that hardly any Chinese handed in books, Qianlong issued more Imperial Decrees, stressing the points (1) Books will be returned to owners once the compilation is finished. (2) Book owners would not be persecuted even if their books do contain Bad words. In less than three months after the issue of the decree, four to five thousands of different types of books were handed in.

"Apart from reassuring the book owners that they will be free from persecution, Qianlong made false promises and rewards to Chinese book owners, such as he would perform personal calligraphy on their books. By this time 10,000 types of books were handed in.

"Using the emperor initiated movement as a form of elite political contention among themselves, the Han Chinese literati of the society gave the emperor full cooperation and participation, thus helping Qianlong to fullfill his dream of establishing cultural superiority over all past emperors.

Qianlong's intention was very clear, he wanted his Siku Quanshu compilers to create a library of classical culture that contained no anti-Manchu elements, resulting in an empire-wide movement of house-to-house searches for "evil books, tracts, poetry, and plays". The movement was directed and led by Qianlong himself; the "evil texts" that were discovered were to be sent to Peking and burned, and the respective books owners, sometimes the whole families, were either sentenced to death, or exiled to remote land " (Wikipedia article on Siku Quanshu, accessed 10-26-2009).

♦ In 2004 300 sets of an edition of the Siku Quanshu were printed on handmade paper and hand-bound in 1,184 volumes.

♦ In February 2014 a digital version of the Siku Quanshu was available online from Eastview Information Services at this link.

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The Earliest Directory of the Book Trade? 1777

In January 2015, when I wrote this entry, the earliest printed directory of the book trade of which I was aware was the Almanach de l'auteur edited by Antoine Perrin in Paris in 1777, of which later editions appeared in 1778, 1781, and 1784. The source of this information was J. Grand-Carteret, Les Almanachs français (1896) Nos. 570 and 588 ff.

The full explanatory title of Perrin's work is:

Almanach de l'auteur et du libraire contenant:

1. Le nom des Ministres & Magistrats qui sont à la tête de la Librairie, ceux des Censeurs & des Inspecteurs.

2. Un Traité abrégé des formalités qu'on doit remplir pour obtenir les differentes permissions d'imprimer, de fair venir des Livres étrangers, de suivre les procès pendant en la Commission ou on Conseil, & enfin de ce qui'il faut faire pour parvenir à être reçu Libraire ou Imprimeur.

3. Un Tableau de tous les Libraires & Imprimeurs de Paris, avec la distinction de ceux qui sont retirés, & du genre de Libres que chacun d'eux à adopté.

4. Un Tableau de tous les Libraires & Imprimeurs du Royaume.

5. Un Tableau des Libraires le plus accrédités des principales Villes de l'Europe.

On y trouve aussi une list complette de tous les Ouvrages periodiques qui se chargent d'announcer les Livres nouveaux.

In January 2015 a digital edition of the work was available from the Hathitrust at this link.

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Tsar Paul I Suppresses Private Printing in Russia 1798

Private printing presses were suppressed in Russia by the order of the Tsar, Paul I in 1798.

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1800 – 1850

William Lawrence Describes the Natural History of Man 1819

William Lawrence

The Court of Chancery during the reign of George I by Benjamin Ferrers

Surgeon and scientist William Lawrence published Lectures on Physiology, Zoology and the Natural History of Man in 1819. This work set out Lawrence’s radical—and to our eyes, remarkably advanced—ideas concerning evolution and heredity. Arguing that theology and metaphysics had no place in science, Lawrence relied instead on empirical evidence in his examination of variation in animals and man, and the dissemination of variation through inheritance. On the question of cause, Lawrence disagreed with those who ascribed variation to external factors such as climate, and rejected the Lamarckian notion of the inheritance of acquired characteristics. His understanding of the mechanics of heredity was well ahead of his time: he stated that “offspring inherit only [their parents’] connate qualities and not any of the acquired qualities,” and that the “signal diversities which constitute differences of race in animals . . . can only be explained by two principles . . . namely, the occasional production of an offspring with different characters from those of the parents, as a native or congenital variety; and the propagation of such varieties by generation” (p. 510).

While Lawrence did not grasp the role that natural selection plays in the origination of new species, he recognized that “selections and exclusions,” including geographical separation, were the means of change and adaptation in all animals, including humans. He noted that men as well as animals can be improved by selective breeding, and pointed out that sexual selection was responsible for enhancing the beauty of the aristocracy: “The great and noble have generally had it more in their power than others to select the beauty of nations in marriage; and thus . . . they have distinguished their order, as much by elegant proportions of person, as by its prerogatives in society” (p. 454). He investigated the human races in detail, and insisted that the proper approach to this study was a zoological one, since the question of variation in mankind “cannot be settled from the Jewish Scriptures; nor from other historical records” (p. 243).

The Natural History of Man came under fire from conservatives and clergy for its materialist approach to human life, and Lawrence was accused of atheism for having dared to challenge the relevance of Scripture to science. In 1822 the Court of Chancery ruled the Natural History blasphemous, thus revoking the work’s copyright. Lawrence was forced to withdraw the book, a fact reflected in the comparative rarity of the first edition. However, the book’s notoriety was such that several publishers issued their own pirated editions, keeping the work in print for several decades. A list of the London editions of Lawrence’s work, taken from OCLC, follows:

1819 J. Callow (authorized)

1819 s.n. (?)

1822 W. Benbow

1822 J. Smith

1822 Kaygill & Price (unillustrated)

1823 R. Carlile

1823 J. Smith

1834 J. T. Cox

1838 J. Taylor

1840 J. Taylor

1844 J. Taylor

1848 H. G. Bohn

1866 Bell & Daldy

Editions were also published in Edinburgh and America. Darwin owned one of the unauthorized editions listed above, the one issued by “the notorious shoemaker-turned-publisher William Benbow, who financed his flaming politics by selling pornographic prints” (Desmond & Moore, Darwin, p. 253). Darwin was obviously impressed with Lawrence’s work, citing it five times in The Descent of Man (1871). 

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1850 – 1875

Anthony Comstock Founds the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice and Lobbies for Passage of the "Comstock Law" 1873 – 1950

In 1873 United States Postal Inspector and politician Anthony Comstock founded the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, an organization dedicated to supervising public morality. Later that year Comstock successfully lobbied Congress to pass the Comstock Law, which made illegal the delivery or transportation of "obscene, lewd, or lascivious" material, as well as the distribution of any methods of, or information pertaining to, birth control, or any information about venereal disease. 

"George Bernard Shaw used the term "comstockery", meaning 'censorship because of perceived obscenity or immorality', after Comstock alerted the New York City police to the content of Shaw's play Mrs. Warren's Profession. Shaw remarked that 'Comstockery is the world's standing joke at the expense of the United States. Europe likes to hear of such things. It confirms the deep-seated conviction of the Old World that America is a provincial place, a second-rate country-town civilization after all.' Comstock thought of Shaw as an 'Irish smut dealer.' The term 'comstockery' was actually first coined in an editorial in The New York Times in 1895" (Wikipedia article on Anthony Comstock, accessed 01-12-2014).

The specific mission of the NYSSV was to monitor compliance with state laws and work with the courts and district attorneys in bringing offenders to justice. While the organization is best remembered for its opposition to literary works, it also closely monitored newsstands, which sold the popular magazines of the day. When I wrote this entry in January 2014 the Wikipedia article listed numerous "noteworthy actions"— mainly attempts to suppress literary or theatrical works undertaken by the NYSSV between 1900 and its closure in 1950. As far as I know, all of the suppressed works were eventually published in spite of the organization and the Comstock law(s).

Relevant to censorship, the circular symbol of the society graphically depicted a policeman arresting an offender on the left, and a top-hatted man burning books on the right.

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1920 – 1930

Blue-Print for The Third Reich 1925 – 1927

In 1925 and 1927 Adolf Hitler published Mein Kampf, the first volume of which he dictated in prison to his associate Rudolf Hess after the abortive Beer Hall Putsch in Munich, November 1923. One of the most influential books ever published, and possibly the most evil, the publication history, as well as the contents of this work, continue to be intensively reviewed by scholars, and read by people of different political persuasions, including extremists. The Wikipedia article on Mein Kampf contains unusually thorough documentation concerning its publication history.

Though publication of Mein Kampf was banned in some countries in 1947, it continued to sell widely in print in many languages, and according to a New York Times article published in November 2011, it had sold over 70 million copies by 2008.  It was also freely distributed on the Internet.  In 2011, with the pending expiration of its copyright, issues were raised concerning the dangers of allowing this text to circulate freely, and how it might be used to counteract prejudice and Holocaust denial, if that would be possible: 

"In 1947, Austria adopted the Verbotsgesetz — or “Prohibition Act” — banning the Nazi Party and criminalizing the celebration, promotion, or adulation of Nazi ideology; in the 1990s, it was amended to prohibit Holocaust denial. (It was under this law that the English writer David Irving was jailed a few years ago for denying the existence of the gas chambers.) Distributing and displaying Nazi paraphernalia is forbidden here. Germany, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Lithuania — all these countries also criminalize revisionism and restrict various forms of speech and publications about the Holocaust. And for nearly 70 years, the German state of Bavaria, which holds the copyright for “Mein Kampf,” has fought heartily against the book’s publication in any country where it is possible to fight it.  

But now the rationale behind these restrictions is being questioned. While they may have helped limit the widespread distribution of “Mein Kampf” in Europe, repressive tactics of this kind have not aged well in the Internet era. (The book was never fully blocked anyway: in the 1980s, the U.S. Army sold it in some of its “Stars and Stripes” shops across Germany. And libraries often held copies.) Preventing a book’s publication today is largely a symbolic move.  

“Mein Kampf” is widely available, in its entirety, across the Web. It has been a hit in Japan and Turkey in recent years; it has sold briskly in South America and the Middle East; and it has shown up, like a nefarious inspiration, in such ugly places as the rantings of the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik. By 2008, an estimated 70,000,000 copies had been put into circulation since the book was first published in 1925, according to HatePrevention.org, a consortium of academics and activists. In other words, the restrictions on its publication may have enabled a kind of willful ignorance, a means of not recognizing the continued impact of the book’s ideas on society.  

"And so as Europe faces the end of the copyright on one of the most painful texts of the 20th century, some people now believe that the best course of action is not to extend the ban, but to publish 'Mein Kampf' with extensive annotations that explain how the book was used and what it wrought — that recognize its continued presence. 'Our idea is a zero-censorship effort,' says Philippe Coen, a French attorney at the forefront of HatePrevention.org, which organized the recent conference in Paris. He, like Dreyfus, favors the pedagogical approach to the publication of Hitler’s manifesto" (http://latitude.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/04/the-return-of-mein-kampf/?nl=opinion&emc=tyb1, accessed 12-14-2011).

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1930 – 1940

Hitler Seizes Power in Germany and the Nazis Begin Purging Germany of Jews & Jewish Culture, Eventually Burning 100,000,000 Books and Killing About 20 Million People April 6, 1933 – 1945

The ultra-nationalism and antisemitism of German middle-class, secular student organizations had been intense and vocal for decades prior to the rise of Nazism. After World War I, most students opposed the Weimar Republic (1919–1933) and found in National Socialism a suitable vehicle for their political discontent and hostility. After Adolf Hitler seized power on January 30, 1933 German university students became the vanguard of the Nazi movement, and many filled the ranks of various Nazi formations.

Following Hitler's plans, in 1933 Nazi Minister for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda Joseph Goebbels began the synchronization of culture, to bring the arts in Germany in line with Nazi goals. The German government purged cultural organizations of Jews and others alleged to be politically or artistically suspect. On April 6, 1933, the German Student Association's Main Office for Press and Propaganda proclaimed a nationwide “Action against the Un-German Spirit,” to climax in a literary purge or “cleansing” (Säuberung) by fire. Local chapters were to supply the press with releases and commission articles, sponsor well-known Nazi figures to speak at public gatherings, and negotiate for radio broadcast time. On April 8 the students association drafted its twelve "theses"—deliberately evocative of Martin Luther—declarations and requisites of a "pure" national language and culture. Placards publicized the theses, which attacked “Jewish intellectualism,” asserted the need to “purify” the German language and literature, and demanded that universities be centers of German nationalism. The students described the “action” as a response to a worldwide Jewish “smear campaign” against Germany and an affirmation of traditional German values.

On the night of May 10, 1933, in most university towns in Germany, nationalist students marched in torchlight parades "against the un-German spirit." The scripted rituals called for high Nazi officials, professors, rectors, and student leaders to address the participants and spectators. At the meeting places, students threw "un-German" books into the bonfires with great joyous ceremony, band-playing, songs, "fire oaths", and incantations. The students burned upwards of 25,000 volumes of "un-German" books, "presaging an era of state censorship and control of culture." The book burning of May 10 was based on meticulously compiled "black lists" were collected in the spring of 1933 by the Berlin librarian Dr. Wolfgang Herrmann

The formation of the Reichsschrifttumskammer on November 1, 1933 began not only targeted management and monitoring of authors, publishers and booksellers, but expansion of the Herrmann list. By decree of April 25, 1935, the  Reichsschrifttumskammer received the order, "[to compile] a list of such books and records that jeopardize Nazi culture. A first, undisclosed draft was prepared before the end of 1935. Ultimately, the "list of harmful and undesirable writings" consisted of more than 4500 entries, often the entire work of an author or the entire back list of a publisher.

 "Not all book burnings took place on May 10, as the German Student Association had planned. Some were postponed a few days because of rain. Others, based on local chapter preference, took place on June 21, the summer solstice, a traditional date of celebration. Nonetheless, in 34 university towns across Germany the "Action against the Un-German Spirit" was a success, enlisting widespread newspaper coverage. And in some places, notably Berlin, radio broadcasts brought the speeches, songs, and ceremonial incantations "live" to countless German listeners" (United States Holocaust Museum website).

On the night of November 9, 1938—called Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass—92 Jews were murdered, and 25,000–30,000 were arrested and deported to concentration camps. More than 200 Synagogues were destroyed along with tens of thousands of Jewish businesses and homes. This marked the beginning of the Holocaust.

On December 31, 1938 the Reichsministerium fur Volksaufklaerung und Progaganda published the Liste des schädlichen und unerwünschten SchrifttumsThis list of "damaging and undesirable writing" included authors, living and dead, whose works were banned from the Reich because of their Jewish descent, pacifist or communist views, or suspicion thereof.

Between 1933 and 1945, Nazi Germany systematically destroyed an estimated 100 million books throughout occupied Europe, an act inextricably bound up with the murder of 6 million Jews, and millions of other people they considered undesirable. By burning and looting libraries and censoring "un-German" publications, the Nazis aimed to eradicate all traces of Jewish culture along with the Jewish people themselves. 

In March 2011 I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau. You cannot grasp the scale of the Holocaust until you visit Birkenau, especially— a giant factory of death capable of processing 20,000 people per day. The impact of the Holocaust was still reverberating in my head in April 2011 when I wrote this database entry. Needing to understand more, I read Richard Rhodes' book, Masters of Death, from which the horrifying wider scope of the Holocaust, unfolded in my consciousness, and from which I quote: 

“The notorious gas chambers and crematoria of the death camps have come to typify the Holocaust, but in fact they were exceptional. The primary means of mass murder the Nazis deployed during the Second World War was firearms and lethal privation. Shooting was not less efficient than gassing, as many historians have assumed. It was hard on the shooters’ nerves, and the gas vans and chambers alleviated the burden. But shooting began earlier, continued throughout the war and produced far more victims if Slavs are counted, as they must be, as well as Jews. ‘The Nazi regime was the most genocidal the world has ever seen,’ writes sociologist Michael Mann. ’During its short twelve years (overwhelmingly its last four) it killed approximately twenty million unarmed persons. . . . Jews comprised only a third of the victims and their mass murder occurred well into the sequence. . . . Slavs, defined as Untermenschenwere the most numerous victims—3 million Poles, 7 million Soviet citizens and 3.3 million Soviet POWs.’ Even among Jewish victims, Daniel Goldhagen estimates, ‘somewhere between 40 and 50 percent’ were killed ‘by means other than gassing, and more Germans were involved in these killings in a greater variety of contexts than in those carried out in the gas chambers’ ” (Richard RhodesMasters of Death. The SS-Einsatzgruppen and the Invention of the Holocaust [2002] 156-157).

In tracing and documenting the crimes committed by the SS summarized in these statistics Rhodes did not intend in any way to diminish the incredible losses suffered by the Jews, nor to blur the particular focus of the Nazis' Final Solution on the Jews. His exploration of SS crimes exposed a scope of criminality that was wider, almost beyond comprehension.

 Rose (ed.), The Holocaust and the Book: Destruction and Preservation (2000).

 (Information adapted from the United States Holocaust Museum website).

(This entry was last revised on 01-17-2015.)

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1940 – 1950

The Final Edition of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum is Published 1948

In 1948 The Catholic Church published the 32nd and final edition of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, the first of which had appeared in 1559. The edition was printed on inexpensive paper by the Typis Polyglotis Vaticanis, in Vatican City, and issued in drab printed boards. Its 24 preliminary pages contained a preface in Italian and another in Latin, strongly suggesting that the book was intended mainly for priests, all of whom would have read Latin at this time. The index consisted of 508pp. Relatively few 20th century works were included.

"This 32nd edition contained 4,000 titles censored for various reasons: heresy, moral deficiency, sexual explicitness, political incorrectness, and so on. Among the notable writers on the list were Desiderius Erasmus, Lawrence Sterne, Voltaire, Daniel Defoe, Nicolaus Copernicus, Honore de Balzac, Jean-Paul Sartre, as well as the Dutch Sexologist Theodor Hendrik van de Velde, author of the sex manual The Perfect Marriage. A complete list of the authors and writings present in the subsequent editions of the index are listed in J. Martinex de Bujanda, Index librorum prohibitorum, 1600-1966, Geneva, 2002. Almost every great Western philosopher was, or is, included on the list--even those that believed in God, such as Descartes, Kant, Berkeley. . . .That some atheists are not included is to to the general (Tridentine) rule that heretical works (i.e. works of non-Catholics) are ipso facto forbidden. That some important works are absent is due to the fact that nobody bothered to denounce them."

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Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four" is Published 1949

In 1949 English author Eric Arthur Blair, writing under his pseudonym, George Orwell, published the dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four in London. The story followed the life of Winston Smith, an apparently minor civil servant whose job was to falsify records and political literature, and thus perpetuate propaganda. Becoming disillusioned with this system and his meagre existence, Smith began a futile rebellion against the system. Orwell's novel became famous for its satirical portrayal of surveillance, and of society's increasing encroachment on the rights of the individual. Since its publication the terms Big Brother and Orwellian became widely used in popular speech.

"Nineteen Eighty-Four's impact upon the English language is extensive; many of its concepts: Big Brother, Room 101 (the worst place in the world), the Thought Police, the memory hole (oblivion), doublethink (simultaneously holding and believing two contradictory beliefs), and Newspeak (ideological language), are common usages for denoting and connoting overarching, totalitarian authority; Doublespeak is an elaboration of doublethink; the adjective "Orwellian" denotes that which is characteristic and reminiscent of George Orwell's writings, specifically 1984. The practice of appending the suffixes "-speak" and "-think" (groupthink, mediaspeak) to denote unthinking conformity. Many other works, in various forms of media, have taken themes from Nineteen Eighty-four" (Wikipedia article on Nineteen Eighty-Four).

As an aside, I remember reading Nineteen Eighty-Four in school in the 1950s. During the Cold War it, along with Orwell's Animal Farm, were required reading in many schools.  When I first read Nineteen Eighty Four I found much of it scary, but it seemed like it was set in the distant future. Later, when 1984 rolled around, I reread the novel and thought how "unlikely" it would be that Orwellian ideas would propagate in our free society. In 2013 with the disclosures by Eric Snowden of extensive secret electronic surveillance of Americans by the U.S. National Security Agency, Orwellian ideas did not seem so far-fetched, even in America.

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1950 – 1960

Ray Bradbury's Early Dystopian View of Books: "Fahrenheit 451" 1953 – November 2011

Having written the entire book on a pay typewriter in the basement of UCLA's Powell Library, in 1953 Ray Bradbury published the dystopian science fiction novel Fahrenheit 451, named after the temperature at which books are supposed to combust spontaneously. Besides the regular trade edition, the publisher, Ballantine Books, issued a limited edition of 200 copies signed by Bradbury and bound in white boards made of "Johns-Manville Quinterra," a fire-proof asbestos material.

"The novel presents a future American society in which the masses are hedonistic, and critical thought through reading is outlawed. The central character, Guy Montag, is employed is a 'fireman' (which, in this future, means 'book burner'). The number '451' refers to the temperature (in Fahrenheit) at which the books burn when the 'Firemen' burn them 'For the good of humanity'. Written in the early years of the Cold War, the novel is a critique of what Bradbury saw as an increasingly dysfunctional American society.

Bradbury's original intention in writing Fahrenheit 451 was to show his great love for books and libraries. "He has often referred to Montag as an allusion to himself" (Wikipedia article on Fahrenheit 451).

François Truffaut and Jean-Louis Richard wrote a screenplay based on the novel, and Truffault directed a film, released in 1966, entitled Fahrenheit 451, starring Julie Christie and Oskar Werner. The film was re-issued on DVD by Universal Studios in 2003.

♦ After publically opposing ebooks for several years, telling The New York Times in 2009 that "that the Internet is a big distraction," in November 2011, at the age of 91, Bradbury authorized an ebook edition of Fahrenheit 451, and several other of his best-selling books. By this date Fahrenheit 451 had sold more than 10 million copies in print, and had been translated into many languages. Also by this date, ebooks comprised 20% of the fiction book market in the U.S. 

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"Once the government can demand of a publisher the names of the purchasers of his publications, the free press as we know it disappears." March 9, 1953

In United States v. [Edward] Rumely 345 U.S. 41 (73 S.Ct. 543, 97 L.Ed. 770), decided on March 9, 1953, Justice William O. Douglas, in his concurrence, included the following: 

“If the present inquiry were sanctioned the press would be subjected to harassment that in practical effect might be as serious as censorship. A publisher, compelled to register with the federal government, would be subjected to vexatious inquiries. A requirement that a publisher disclose the identity of those who buy his books, pamphlets, or papers is indeed the beginning of surveillance of the press. True, no legal sanction is involved here. Congress has imposed no tax, established no board of censors, instituted no licensing system. But the potential restraint is equally severe. The finger of government leveled against the press is omnious. Once the government can demand of a publisher the names of the purchasers of his publications, the free press as we know it disappears. Then the specter of a government agent will look over the shoulder of everyone who reads. The purchase of a book or pamphlet today may result in a subpoena tomorrow. Fear of criticism goes with every person into the bookstall. The subtle, imponderable pressures of the orthodox lay hold. Some will fear to read what is unpopular what the powers-that-be dislike. When the light of publicity may reach any student, any teacher, inquiry will be discouraged. The books and pamphlets that are critical of the administration, that preach an unpopular policy in domestic or foreign affairs, that are in disrepute in the orthodox school of thought will be suspect and subject to investigation. The press and its readers will pay a heavy price in harassment. But that will be minor in comparison with the menace of the shadow which government will cast over literature that does not follow the dominant party line. If the lady from Toledo can be required to disclose what she read yesterday and what she will read tomorrow, fear will take the place of freedom in the libraries, bookstores, and homes of the land. Through the harassment of hearings, investigations, reports, and subpoenas government will hold a club over speech and over the press. Congress could not do this by law. The power of investigation is also limited.”

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Standing up to Censorship and McCarthyism During the "Second Red Scare" 1956

In 1956 Storm Center, an American drama film directed by screenwriter Daniel Taradash, from a screenplay by Taradash and Elick Moll, and starring Bette Davis as the librarian, Alicia Hull, was first overtly anti-McCarthyism film to be produced in Hollywood during the height of the "Second Red Scare" (late 1940s through late 1950s).  During the Second Red Scare hundreds of Hollywood entertainment professionals lost their jobs as a result of the unofficial Hollywood blacklist, and thousands of people in other occupations also lost jobs.

"Alicia Hull is a widowed small town librarian dedicated to introducing children to the joy of reading. In exchange for fulfilling her request for a children's wing, the city council asks her to withdraw the book The Communist Dream from the library's collection. When she refuses to comply with their demand, she is fired and branded as a subversive. Judge Ellerbe feels she has been treated unfairly and calls a town meeting. Ambitious attorney and aspiring politician Paul Duncan, who is dating assistant librarian Martha Lockeridge, uses the meeting as an opportunity to make a name for himself by denouncing Alicia as a Communist. His forceful rhetoric turns the entire town, with the exception of young Freddie Slater, against her. The boy, increasingly upset by the mistreatment his mentor is suffering and affected by the influence of his narrow-minded father, finally turns on her himself and sets the library on fire. His action causes the residents to have a change of heart, and they ask Alicia to return and supervise the construction of a new building" (Wikipedia article on Storm Center, accessed 05-30-2009).

Raven, "Introduction: The Resonances of Loss," (Raven [ed.] Lost Libraries. The Destruction of Great Book Collections Since Antiquity [2004] 31).

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"Nineteen Eighty-Four" Filmed 1956

In 1956 English director Michael Anderson directed 1984, a science fiction drama film based on the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, and starring Edmond O'Brien, Jan Sterling, Michael Redgrave, and Donald Pleasance.

This was the first cinema rendition of the novel. It was released on DVD in 2004.

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1960 – 1970

The Second Vatican Council Abolishes the Index Librorum Prohibitorum 1966

The Second Vatican Council in 1966 under Pope Paul VI abolished the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, founded in 1557.

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1970 – 1980

Book Burning and Personal Book Collecting by Chilean Dictator Augusto Pinochet 1973 – 1990

During the Chilean dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet numerous book burnings were conducted by the Junta Militar de Gobierno to destroy information they considered subversive. Burned books including leftist literature and other material that were incompatible with the junta's ideology, as part of a campaign to "extirpate the Marxist cancer" of the prior democratically elected socialist government of Salvador Allende.

"Following the coup, the military began raids to find potential opponents of the regimes, who were then held and some of them executed at the Estadio Nacional and other places. In addition to this, during the raids the military gathered and burned large numbers of books: not just Marxist literature, but also general sociological literature, newspapers and magazines.In addition to this, such books were withdrawn from the shelves of bookstores and libraries.

"The book burning attracted international protests: the American Library Association condemned them, arguing that it is "a despicable form of suppression" which "violates the fundamental rights of the people of Chile".

"Sporadic book burning occurred throughout the junta's regime which lasted until 1990. On November 28, 1986, the customs authorities seized almost 15,000 copies of Gabriel García Márquez's book Clandestine in Chile, which were later burned by military authorities in Valparaíso. Together with them, copies of a book of essays by Venezuelan presidential candidate Teodoro Petkoff were also burned" (Wikipedia article on Book burnings in Chile, accessed 01-12-2014).

What directed my attention to this was an article by Simon Romero published in The New York Times on January 9, 2014, entitled "A Chilean Dictator's Secret Book Collection: Heavy on Napoleon, Light on Fiction." This described the private library of around 50,000 volumes secretly collected by Augusto Pinochet during his dictatorship. It seems that the dictator, under whose regime 3,000 people disappeared and nearly 40,000 were tortured, collected one of the largest and most significant libraries in South America, using government funds. The story of Pinochet's library was told in La secreta vida literaria de Augusto Pinochet by Juan Cristóbal Peña published in 2013. Both the article and book present psychological speculations as to why the dictator, who was no scholar, collected such a large library.

An image of Chilean soldiers burning leftist literature during the Pinochet regime in 1973 is available at this link.

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1990 – 2000

The Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act is Enacted November 29, 1999

The Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (also known as Truth in Domain Names Act), was enacted into U.S. law on November 29, 1999 as is part of A bill to amend the provisions of title 17, United States Code, and the Communications Act of 1934, relating to copyright licensing and carriage of broadcast signals by satellite (S. 1948). The act mades people who registered domain names that are either trademarks or individual's names with the sole intent of selling the rights of the domain name to the trademark holder or individual for a profit liable to civil action.

"In order for a trademark owner to bring a claim under the ACPA, the owner must establish

  • the trademark owner’s mark is distinctive or famous;
  • the domain name owner acted in bad faith to profit from the mark; and
  • the domain name and the trademark are either identical or confusingly similar (or dilutive for famous trademarks)" 

(Wikipedia article on Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, accessed 11-24-2008).

The Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act was enacted in part because the domain whitehouse.com went online in 1997 as an "adult entertainment" site, leading to this letter from a Whitehouse consel:

"The following is a December letter from a White House counsel to the operator of the "whitehouse.com" adult site regarding the use of the domain and the names and images of the White House, President Clinton, and Hillary Clinton on the site:

"The White House


"December 8, 1997


"Mr. Dan Parisi

"Secaucus, New Jersey

"Dear Mr. Parisi:

"It will come as no surprise to you that the White House Counsel's Office is aware of your Internet Web site, "www.whitehouse.com," and that we object to your use of the names and images of the White House, the President, and the First Lady on that Web site to sell memberships in an adult video club. We also recognize that you undoubtedly will use this letter as an object of humor and as an invitation to advance the claim that you are merely exercising your rights under the First Amendment.

"We too believe in the First Amendment--and in humor, although we see nothing humorous in your use of the White House domain name to draw children and other unwitting Internet users to your Web site. However distasteful your business may be, we do not challenge your right to pursue it or to exercise your First Amendment rights, but we do challenge your right to use the White House, the President, and the First Lady as a marketing device. For adult internet users, that device is, at the least, part of a deceptive scheme. For younger Internet users, it has more disturbing consequences. As your own online disclaimer implicitly acknowledges, the foreseeable result of your use of the White House domain name is that children will access your Web site inadvertently. Your customers will understand that such a result is unconscionable, and so, we submit, should you.


Charles F.C. Ruff

Counsel to the President" (http://news.cnet.com/2009-1023-207800.html, accessed 06-15-2009).

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2000 – 2005

Working Around Chinese Censorship of Literary Works 2002

Author Hao Qun, known by the pen name Murong Xuecun

In 2002 Chinese novelist Hao Qun, under the pen name Murong Xuecun, published his first novel, Chengdu, Please Forget Me Tonight, on the website tianya.cn

"Mr. Murong owes his commercial success to the fact that he has found ways to practice his art and build a fan base on the Internet, outside the more heavily policed print industry.

"He addresses political issues on both a blog and a microblog account that resembles Twitter, which has nearly 1.1 million followers. He posts his novels chapter by chapter or in sections online under different pseudonyms as he writes. This Dickens-style serialization generates buzz, and the writing evolves with reader feedback. Once the book is finished or nearly so, Mr. Murong signs with a publisher. The censored print editions make money, but the Internet versions are more complete" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/07/world/asia/murong-xuecun-pushes-censorship-limits-in-china.html?hp, accessed 11-10-2011).

The uncensored version of Murong's novel was translated into English by Harvey Thomlinson, and published in 2010 as Leave Me Alone: A Novel of Chengdu.

"Thirty-six year old Murong - Chinese literary superstar and reclusive celebrity - twenty eight and working as a sales manager in the car industry when he started posting his first novel Chengdu Please Forget Me Tonight on the internet. In 2002 it became a cult hit amongst young middle class Chinese looking for writing that pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable literature. Chengdu Please Forget Me Tonight was eventually posted on almost all of China's online bulletin boards, and attracted around 5 million online readers. Thousands of web commentaries and impassioned debates about the book appeared, while 'formal' commentaries and critiques amounted to more than 50,000 words. The novel won Murong the New Periodical 'Person of the Year', Xinliang website's 'Most popular novel', and the China Literary Journal's 2003 literature prize" (Amazon.com, accessed 11-10-2011).

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2005 – 2010

Development and State Control of the Chinese Internet April 14, 2005

Xiao Qiang

The U. S.- China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC.gov) issued the report of Xiao Qiang, University of California, Berkeley, on The Development and the State Control of the Chinese Internet. 

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"An Uncensorable System for Mass Document Leaking" December 2006

Julian Assange

The Wikileaks logo

In December 2006 Julian Assange and others founded Wikileaks, a website, with no official headquarters, that published anonymous submissions and leaks of sensitive governmental, corporate, or religious documents, while attempting to preserve the anonymity and untraceability of its contributors. Within one year of its foundation the site grew to 1,200,000 documents.

"The site states that it was 'founded by Chinese dissidents, journalists, mathematicians and startup company technologists, from the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa". The creators of Wikileaks were unidentified as of January 2007, although it has been represented in public since January 2007 by non-anonymous speakers such as Julian Assange, who had described himself as a member of Wikileaks' advisory board and was later referred to as the 'founder of Wikileaks.' "

"Wikileaks describes itself as 'an uncensorable system for untraceable mass document leaking'. Wikileaks is hosted by PRQ, a Sweden-based company providing 'highly secure, no-questions-asked hosting services'. PRQ is said to have 'almost no information about its clientele and maintains few if any of its own logs'. PRQ is owned by Gottfrid Svartholm and Fredrik Neij who, through their involvement in The Pirate Bay, have significant experience in withstanding legal challenges from authorities. Being hosted by PRQ makes it difficult to take Wikileaks offline. Furthermore, 'Wikileaks maintains its own servers at undisclosed locations, keeps no logs and uses military-grade encryption to protect sources and other confidential information.' Such arrangements have been called 'bulletproof hosting' (Wikipedia article on Wikileaks, accessed 11-25-2009).

"WikiLeaks was originally launched as a user-editable wiki site, but has progressively moved towards a more traditional publication model, and no longer accepts either user comments or edits. The site is available on multiple online servers and different domain names following a number of denial-of-service attacks and its severance from different Domain Name System (DNS) providers" (Wikipedia article on Wikileaks, accessed 12-08-2010).

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Wikileaks Manifesto December 31, 2006

Julian Assange

The Wikileaks logo

Shortly after the foundation of Wikileaks, Julian Assange published a kind of informal, awkwardly written Wikileaks manifesto on the Internet: 

"The non linear effects of leaks on unjust systems of governance

"You may want to read The Road to Hanoi or Conspiracy as Governance [second essay following]; an obscure motivational document, almost useless in light of its decontextualization and perhaps even then. But if you read this latter document while thinking about how different structures of power are differentially affected by leaks (the defection of the inner to the outer) its motivations may become clearer.

"The more secretive or unjust an organization is, the more leaks induce fear and paranoia in its leadership and planning coterie. This must result in minimization of efficient internal communications mechanisms (an increase in cognitive "secrecy tax") and consequent system-wide cognitive decline resulting in decreased ability to hold onto power as the environment demands adaption.

"Hence in a world where leaking is easy, secretive or unjust systems are nonlinearly hit relative to open, just systems. Since unjust systems, by their nature induce opponents, and in many places barely have the upper hand, mass leaking leaves them exquisitely vulnerable to those who seek to replace them with more open forms of governance.

"Only revealed injustice can be answered; for man to do anything intelligent he has to know what's actually going on" (http://cryptome.org/0002/ja-conspiracies.pdf, accessed 12-08-2010).

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"Green Dam Youth Escort" May 19, 2009

On May 19, 2009 the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of the People's Republic of China issued a directive that, as of July 1, 2009, Green Dam Youth Escort (simplified Chinese: 绿坝-花季护航) must be pre-installed on, or shipped on a compact disc with, all personal computers sold in the mainland of the People's Republic of China, including those imported from abroad.

Using the Golden Shield Project, sometimes called the "Great Firewall of China," China regularly restricted access to certain Internet sites and information that the government deemed sensitive.

"Critics fear this new software could be used by the government to enhance internet censorship. The Computer and Communications Industry Association said the development was 'very unfortunate'. Ed Black, CCIA president criticised the move as 'clearly an escalation of attempts to limit access and the freedom of the internet, [...with] economic and trade as well as cultural and social ramifications.' Black said the Chinese were attempting to 'not only control their own citizens' access to the internet but to force everybody into being complicit and participate in a level of censorship'.

"On 8 June, Microsoft said that appropriate parental control tools was 'an important societal consideration'. However, 'we agree with others in industry and around the world that important issues such as freedom of expression, privacy, system reliability and security need to be properly addressed.'

"A spokesman for the Foreign ministry said the software would filter out pornography or violence. "The Chinese government pushes forward the healthy development of the internet. But it lawfully manages the internet," he added.

"On 11 June, a BBC News article reported that potential faults in the software could lead to a large-scale disaster: The report included comments by Isaac Mao, who said that there were 'a series of software flaws', including the unencrypted communications between the software and the company's servers, which could allow hackers access to people's private data or place malicious script on machines on the network to "affect [a] large scale disaster' " (Wikipedia article on Green Dam Youth Escort, accessed 06-11-2009).

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Piracy of Internet Filtering Software? June 13, 2009

Solid Oak Software Inc, developer of CyberSitter, alleged on June 13, 2009 that an Internet-filtering program called Green Dam Youth Escort produced in China, and mandated by the Chinese government, contained stolen portions of the company's code.

"Solid Oak Software, the developer of CyberSitter, claims that the look and feel of the GUI used by Green Dam mimics the style of CyberSitter. But more damning, chief executive Brian Milburn said, was the fact that the Green Dam code uses DLLs identified with the CyberSitter name, and even makes calls back to Solid Oak's servers for updates" (http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2348705,00.asp, accessed 06-13-2009).

Solid Oak Software Inc. said it will try to stop PC makers from shipping computers with the software.

"Solid Oak said Friday that it found pieces of its CyberSitter filtering software in the Chinese program, including a list of terms to be blocked, instructions for updating the software, and an old news bulletin promoting CyberSitter. Researchers at the University of Michigan who have been studying the Chinese program also said they found components of CyberSitter, including the blacklist of terms.

"Jinhui Computer System Engineering Co., the Chinese company that made the filtering software, denied stealing anything. "That's impossible," said Bryan Zhang, Jinhui's founder, in response to Solid Oak's charges.

"The allegations come as PC makers such as Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. are sorting through a mandate by the Chinese government requiring that all PCs sold in China as of July come with the filtering software. Representatives of the two big U.S. companies said they are working with trade associations to monitor new developments related to the Chinese software" (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124486910756712249.html, accessed 06-13-2009).

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"The Web Pries Lid off Iranian Censorship" June 23, 2009

"At one time, authoritarian regimes could draw a shroud around the events in their countries by simply snipping the long-distance phone lines and restricting a few foreigners. But this is the new arena of censorship in the 21st century, a world where cellphone cameras, Twitter accounts and all the trappings of the World Wide Web have changed the ancient calculus of how much power governments actually have to sequester their nations from the eyes of the world and make it difficult for their own people to gather, dissent and rebel.

"Iran’s sometimes faltering attempts to come to grips with this new reality are providing a laboratory for what can and cannot be done in this new media age — and providing lessons to other governments, watching with calculated interest from afar, about what they may be able to get away with should their own citizens take to the streets.

"One early lesson is that it is easier for Iranian authorities to limit images and information within their own country than it is to stop them from spreading rapidly to the outside world. While Iran has severely restricted Internet access, a loose worldwide network of sympathizers has risen up to help keep activists and spontaneous filmmakers connected.

"The pervasiveness of the Web makes censorship 'a much more complicated job,' said John Palfrey, a co-director of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

"The Berkman Center estimates that about three dozen governments — as widely disparate as China, Cuba and Uzbekistan — extensively control their citizens’ access to the Internet. Of those, Iran is one of the most aggressive. Mr. Palfrey said the trend during this decade has been toward more, not less, censorship. 'It’s almost impossible for the censor to win in an Internet world, but they’re putting up a good fight,' he said.

"Since the advent of the digital age, governments and rebels have dueled over attempts to censor communications. Text messaging was used to rally supporters in a popular political uprising in Ukraine in 2004 and to threaten activists in Belarus in 2006. When Myanmar sought to silence demonstrators in 2007, it switched off the country’s Internet network for six weeks. Earlier this month, China blocked sites like YouTube to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

"In Iran, the censorship has been more sophisticated, amounting to an extraordinary cyberduel. It feels at times as if communications within the country are being strained through a sieve, as the government slows down Web access and uses the latest spying technology to pinpoint opponents. But at least in limited ways, users are still able to send Twitter messages, or tweets, and transmit video to one another and to a world of online spectators.

"Because of the determination of those users, hundreds of amateur videos from Tehran and other cities have been uploaded to YouTube in recent days, providing television networks with hours of raw — but unverified — video from the protests. 

"The Internet has 'certainly broken 30 years of state control over what is seen and is unseen, what is visible versus invisible,'  said Navtej Dhillon, an analyst with the Brookings Institution" (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/23/world/middleeast/23censor.html?hp).

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U.S. National Text Pager Intercepts from 9/11 Are Released November 26 – November 26, 2009

"From 3AM on Wednesday November 25, 2009, until 3AM the following day (US east coast time), WikiLeaks released half a million US national text pager intercepts. The intercepts cover a 24 hour period surrounding the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington.

"The messages were broadcasted 'live' to the global community — sychronized to the time of day they were sent. The first message was from 3AM September 11, 2001, five hours before the first attack, and the last, 24 hours later.  

"Text pagers are usualy carried by persons operating in an official capacity. Messages in the archive range from Pentagon, FBI, FEMA and New York Police Department exchanges, to computers reporting faults at investment banks inside the World Trade Center  

"The archive is a completely objective record of the defining moment of our time. We hope that its entrance into the historical record will lead to a nuanced understanding of how this event led to death, opportunism and war" (http://911.wikileaks.org/, accessed 11-26-2009).

According to BBC.com, the number of text messages published may have been as high as 573,000.

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Google's Computers in China Come Under Attack, Initiating a Review of the Company's Operations in China December 2009 – January 12, 2010

"Like many other well-known organizations, we face cyber attacks of varying degrees on a regular basis. In mid-December, we detected a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google. However, it soon became clear that what at first appeared to be solely a security incident--albeit a significant one--was something quite different.

"First, this attack was not just on Google. As part of our investigation we have discovered that at least twenty other large companies from a wide range of businesses--including the Internet, finance, technology, media and chemical sectors--have been similarly targeted. We are currently in the process of notifying those companies, and we are also working with the relevant U.S. authorities.  

"Second, we have evidence to suggest that a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. Based on our investigation to date we believe their attack did not achieve that objective. Only two Gmail accounts appear to have been accessed, and that activity was limited to account information (such as the date the account was created) and subject line, rather than the content of emails themselves.

"Third, as part of this investigation but independent of the attack on Google, we have discovered that the accounts of dozens of U.S.-, China- and Europe-based Gmail users who are advocates of human rights in China appear to have been routinely accessed by third parties. These accounts have not been accessed through any security breach at Google, but most likely via phishing scams or malware placed on the users' computers.  

"We have already used information gained from this attack to make infrastructure and architectural improvements that enhance security for Google and for our users. In terms of individual users, we would advise people to deploy reputable anti-virus and anti-spyware programs on their computers, to install patches for their operating systems and to update their web browsers. Always be cautious when clicking on links appearing in instant messages and emails, or when asked to share personal information like passwords online. You can read more here about our cyber-security recommendations. People wanting to learn more about these kinds of attacks can read this Report to Congress (PDF) by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (see p. 163-), as well as a related analysis (PDF) prepared for the Commission, Nart Villeneuve's blog and this presentation on the GhostNet spying incident.

 "We have taken the unusual step of sharing information about these attacks with a broad audience not just because of the security and human rights implications of what we have unearthed, but also because this information goes to the heart of a much bigger global debate about freedom of speech. In the last two decades, China's economic reform programs and its citizens' entrepreneurial flair have lifted hundreds of millions of Chinese people out of poverty. Indeed, this great nation is at the heart of much economic progress and development in the world today.  

"We launched Google.cn in January 2006 in the belief that the benefits of increased access to information for people in China and a more open Internet outweighed our discomfort in agreeing to censor some results. At the time we made clear that 'we will carefully monitor conditions in China, including new laws and other restrictions on our services. If we determine that we are unable to achieve the objectives outlined we will not hesitate to reconsider our approach to China.'

"These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered--combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web--have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China" (http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/01/new-approach-to-china.html, accessed 01-16-2010).

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2010 – 2012

Google Pulls its Search Engine Out of Mainland China March 22, 2010

Google announced in its blog on March 22, 2010 that it stopped censoring search services on Google.cn, and moved its Chinese search business from Google.cn to Google.com.hk.

"Users visiting Google.cn are now being redirected to Google.com.hk, where we are offering uncensored search in simplified Chinese, specifically designed for users in mainland China and delivered via our servers in Hong Kong. Users in Hong Kong will continue to receive their existing uncensored, traditional Chinese service, also from Google.com.hk. Due to the increased load on our Hong Kong servers and the complicated nature of these changes, users may see some slowdown in service or find some products temporarily inaccessible as we switch everything over" (http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/03/new-approach-to-china-update.html, accessed 03-22-2010)

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Wikileaks Installs an "Insurance File" July 29, 2010

"On 29 July 2010 WikiLeaks added a 1.4 GB "Insurance File" to the Afghan War Diary page. The file is AES encrypted and has been speculated to serve as insurance in case the WikiLeaks website or its spokesman Julian Assange are incapacitated, upon which the passphrase could be published, similar to the concept of a dead man's switch. Following the first few days' release of the United States diplomatic cables starting 28 November 2010, the US television broadcaster CBS predicted that 'If anything happens to Assange or the website, a key will go out to unlock the files. There would then be no way to stop the information from spreading like wildfire because so many people already have copies.' CBS correspondent Declan McCullagh stated, 'What most folks are speculating is that the insurance file contains unreleased information that would be especially embarrassing to the US government if it were released' "(Wikipedia article on Wikileaks, accessed 12-08-2010).

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The Wikileaks U. S. Diplomatic Cables Leak November 28 – December 8, 2010

"The United States diplomatic cables leak began on 28 November 2010 when the website WikiLeaks and five major newspapers published confidential documents of detailed correspondences between the U.S. State Department and its diplomatic missions around the world. The publication of the U.S. embassy cables is the third in a series of U.S. classified document 'mega-leaks' distributed by WikiLeaks in 2010, following the Afghan War documents leak in July, and the Iraq War documents leak in October. The contents of the cables describe international affairs from 274 embassies dated from 1966–2010, containing diplomatic analysis of world leaders, an assessment of host countries, and a discussion about international and domestic issues.

"The first 291 of the 251,287 documents were published on 28 November, with simultaneous press coverage from El País (Spain), Le Monde (France), Der Spiegel (Germany), The Guardian (United Kingdom), and The New York Times (United States). Over 130,000 of the documents are unclassified; none are classified as 'top secret' on the classification scale; some 100,000 are labeled 'confidential'; and about 15,000 documents have the higher classification 'secret'. As of December 8, 2010 1060 individual cables had been released. WikiLeaks plans to release the entirety of the cables in phases over several months" (Wikipedia article on United States diplomatic cables leak, accessed 12-08-2010).

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Founder of Wikileaks to Publish his Autobiography December 27, 2010

To pay for ongoing defence costs, Australian journalist, publisher, and Internet activist Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, stated in December 2010 that he would release an autobiography next year, having signed publishing deals that he told a British newspaper might be worth $1.7 million. Apart from the censorship and political elements of this case, the book contract underlined the commercial distinctions between commercial book publishing and many websites which generate little or no revenue, as for example Wikileaks, which is intentionally non-profit.

"Mr. Assange told The Sunday Times of London that he had signed an $800,000 deal with Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House, in the United States, and a $500,000 deal with Canongate books in Britain. With further rights and serialization, he told the newspaper, he expected his earnings to rise to $1.7 million.  

"Paul Bogaards, a spokesman for Random House, said Monday that the book would be 'a complete account of his life through the present day, including the founding of WikiLeaks and the work he has done there.' The deal, Mr. Bogaards said, was initiated by one of Mr. Assange’s lawyers in mid-December and was signed in a matter of days. He would not discuss the financial terms. Canongate has not yet made a public comment but has spoken of its own deal in messages on Twitter.

“ 'I don’t want to write this book, but I have to,' Mr. Assange told the newspaper, explaining that his legal costs in fighting extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning about allegations of sexual misconduct, have reached more than $300,000. 'I need to defend myself and to keep WikiLeaks afloat,' he said.  

"Mr. Assange is under what he has called 'high-tech house arrest' in an English mansion while he awaits hearings, beginning Jan. 11, regarding those allegations. Two women in Stockholm have accused him of rape, unlawful coercion and two counts of sexual molestation over a four-day period last August. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in the matter, and has called the case 'a smear campaign' led by those who seek to stop him from leaking classified government and corporate documents" (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/28/world/europe/28wiki.html?_r=1&hpw, accessed 12-28-2010).

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Four Phases of Government Internet Surveillance and Censorship to Date February 25, 2011

Harvard Law professor, and Vice Dean, Library and Information Services, John Palfrey of the OpenNet Initiative wrote in "Middle East Conflict and and Internet Tipping Point" that the OpenNet Initiative had divided the way in which states filtered and practice surveillance over the Internet into four phases: "open Internet," "access denied," "access controlled," and "access contested."

"The first is the 'open Internet' period, from the network's birth through about 2000. In this period, there were few restrictions on the network globally. There was even an argument about whether the network could itself be regulated. This sense of unfettered freedom is a distant memory today.

"In the 'access denied' period that followed, through about 2005, states like China, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and dozens of others began to block access to certain information online. They developed technical Internet filtering modes to stop people from reaching certain websites, commonly including material deemed sensitive for political, cultural, or religious reasons.

"The most recent period, 'access controlled,' through 2010 or so, was characterized by the growth in the sophistication with which states began to control the flow of information online. Internet filtering grew in scope and scale, especially throughout Asia, the former Soviet states, and the Middle East and North Africa. Techniques to use the network for surveillance grew dramatically, as did "just-in-time" blocking approaches such as the use of distributed denial-of-service attacks against undesirable content. Overall, states got much more effective at pushing back on the use of the Internet by those who wished to share information broadly and for prodemocratic purposes.

"Today, we are entering a period that we should call 'access contested.' Activists around the world are pushing back on the denial of access and controls put in place by states that wish to restrict the free flow of information. This round of the contest, at least in the Middle East and North Africa, is being won by those who are using the network to organize against autocratic regimes. Online communities such as Herdict.org and peer-to-peer technologies like mesh networking provide specific ways for people to get involved directly in shaping how these technologies develop around the world" (http://www.technologyreview.com/web/32437/?p1=A1, accessed 02-28-2011).

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2012 – 2016

Major Websites Go Dark to Protest Web Censorship Legislation January 17, 2012

On January 17, 2012 Wikipedia went down and WordPress was dark to protest the potential passage of two bills under consideration by the U.S. Congress. The bills were known as the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House.

According to the Official Google Blog:

"♦ PIPA & SOPA will censor the web. These bills would grant new powers to law enforcement to filter the Internet and block access to tools to get around those filters. We know from experience that these powers are on the wish list of oppressive regimes throughout the world. SOPA and PIPA also eliminate due process. They provide incentives for American companies to shut down, block access to and stop servicing U.S. and foreign websites that copyright and trademark owners allege are illegal without any due process or ability of a wrongfully targeted website to seek restitution.

" ♦ PIPA & SOPA will risk our industry’s track record of innovation and job creation. These bills would make it easier to sue law-abiding U.S. companies. Law-abiding payment processors and Internet advertising services can be subject to these private rights of action. SOPA and PIPA would also create harmful (and uncertain) technology mandates on U.S. Internet companies, as federal judges second-guess technological measures used by these companies to stop bad actors, and potentially impose inconsistent injunctions on them.

" ♦ PIPA & SOPA will not stop piracy. These bills wouldn’t get rid of pirate sites. Pirate sites would just change their addresses in order to continue their criminal activities. There are better ways to address piracy than to ask U.S. companies to censor the Internet. The foreign rogue sites are in it for the money, and we believe the best way to shut them down is to cut off their sources of funding. As a result, Google supports alternative approaches like the OPEN Act" (http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2012/01/dont-censor-web.html, accessed 01-19-2012)

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How Book Censorship Works in Jordan February 2014

In February 2014 the Jordanian website 7iber.org published an article, with graphics, on the mechanism of book censorship in Jordan. The article, in Arabic, could be roughly translated into English by Google Translate.

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Filed under: Censorship

ISIS Closes Mosul University Departments and Bans Text Books October 25, 2014

On October 25, 2014 The Times of London reported that ISIS closed several academic departments at the University of Mosul, severely restricting subjects that could be taught. Earlier it was reported that ISIS had closed the School of Library and Information Studies at the university. Mosul University was the second largest university in Iraq and one of the largest educational and research centers in the Middle East

Here is the text of the article by Tom Coghlan:

"Isis bans text books in sharia campus clampdown

"Published at 12:01AM, October 25 2014

"People living under Islamic State rule have been banned from owning academic books as the jihadists launch a crackdown on learning that diverges from their world view.

"To herald the start of the academic year this week, Islamic State (Isis) closed university departments of law, political science, fine art, archaeology, sports education, philosophy, tourism and hotel management.

"Activists in Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, both controlled by Isis, also halted further teaching of 'democracy, cultural education, human rights and law (general courses)' for what it called 'the public good'.

"Teachers were told that they must have training in Sharia, as interpreted by Isis, and that exams should avoid certain subjects.

"There is a ban on 'forged historical events' — a term for the teaching of evolution and Darwinian principles — and on exam questions on patriotism, education and ethnicity 'which do not conform to Sharia law'. Isis’s rejection of the idea of nation states is reflected in a ban on “un-Islamic geographic decisions”. Teaching staff were also warned of punishments if 'legitimate standards of isolating males from females' were not followed.

"The radically altered curriculum, reminiscent of Pol Pot’s Year Zero edict in Cambodia in the 1970s, follows the disbandment by Isis of the ministry of higher education and imposition of its own 'chamber of education'.

"An activist inside Raqqa, contacted via the internet, said that many educated families were trying to avoid the bans by using paid private tuition in their homes.

"The source said that this was also under scrutiny from Isis, with a death sentence threatened if men were found to be teaching women. Searches were carried out for illegal books.

" 'I have books of philosophy and history,' said the source, who uses the nickname Abu Wart. He said that another family member had philosophy books, including works by Socrates. 'They are hidden,' he said. Books were removed and families warned if they were caught.

"Isis has sought to attract jihadists with technical qualifications to its flag, acknowledging that it needs skilled professionals and bureaucrats to run its self-styled caliphate. Andre Poulin, a Canadian jihadist killed in Syria last year, issued a video exhortation to potential recruits, promising a 'high station in the next life' for those with professional rather than fighting skills who joined Isis.

“We need engineers, we need doctors, we need professionals, every person can contribute something,' he said.

"Students from the University of Mosul were last week allowed to travel outside Isis-controlled areas to take final year exams in Iraqi Kurdistan in subjects deemed legitimate."

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