Friday, July 1, 2011

A timeline of 2,200 years of book burnings, from ancient China to "The Book of Negroes"

There is something about burning books.

Shredding, soaking, pulping or any other method of destroying books just does not compare. Neither does banning or censoring books.

Many of us can even identify the temperature at which paper combusts. But can we answer the same question for other materials? Fahrenheit 451 was the title of Ray Bradbury's famous 1953 novel about book burning and thought control.

Book burning has a long history, too. The first recorded state-sponsored book burning was in China in 213 BC, according to Matthew Fishburn, the author of Burning Books. The burnings were ordered by Qin Shi Huang, the Chinese emperor who also started the Great Wall and the Terracotta army.

Book burnings especially call to mind images of the Nazi bonfires in Germany in May-June 1933. But there is a long list of burnings that took place after the war. (read more)