Introduction of Book Burning by the Hangman

1543 edition of Trattato Utilissimo Del Beneficio Di Giesu Christo Crocifisso.

1543 edition of Trattato Utilissimo Del Beneficio Di Giesu Christo Crocifisso.

In 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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