The Destruction of Texts

As part of Banned Books Week, I thought it might be appropriate to share a brief list of the libraries that have been destroyed over the centuries.

303 Diocletian decrees the burning of the scriptures.
644 – 656 All Qur’ans are destroyed by ‘Uthman.
1281 The Taoist libraries are burned by Kublai Khan.
1515 The Lateran Council ratifies the burning of all erroneous books.
1529 All Aztec books in Mexico are destroyed.
1789 The Bastille library is captured and a book massacre begins.
1814 The Library of Congress is burned by the British.
1914 The Louvain Library is burned by German soldiers.
1933 The Nazis burn books in Berlin, followed by several other sites.
1981 The Jaffna Library in Sri Lanka is burned.
1992 The Sarajevo Library is burned by the Serbs.
1998 The Pul-i-Khumri Library is destroyed by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

This listing comes from Lucien X. Polastron’s Books on Fire: The Destruction of Libraries Throughout History.

While almost everyone might know about the book burnings carried out by the Nazi regime, other genocides include the destruction of books and sacred texts as part of their assault on a given “victim” group. As I often discuss during my lectures, genocide is not simply an attempt to kill a people, it is an attempt to eradicate entire cultures. This is why we often see book burnings during genocidal massacres.

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