Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Book burning is the practice of ceremoniously destroying by fire one or more copies of a book or other written material. In modern times other forms of media, such as gramophone records, CDs and video tapes, have also been ceremoniously burned or shredded. The practice, often carried out publicly, is usually motivated by moral, political or religious objections to the material.
The writer Heinrich Heine famously said in 1821 "Where they burn books, they will end in burning human beings." (Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen). Just over a century later the Nazis did exactly as Heine had predicted.
Many people find book burning to be offensive for a variety of reasons. Some feel it is a form of censorship that religious or political leaders practice against those ideas that they oppose. This is especially true of Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler. Those who oppose book burning on those grounds often equate those who burn books with Nazis.
Incidents of book burnings have included:
- Following the advice of Li Si, Qin Shi Huang ordered all philosophy books and history books from states other than Qin—except copies in the imperial library for official uses—to be burned. 212 BC This is accompanied by the live burial of a large number of intellectuals, who did not comply with the state dogma.
- According to the New Testament book of Acts, early converts to Christianity in Ephesus burned books of "curious arts". "Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver." (Acts 19:19, KJV) The term curious arts may refer to traditional magic practices. 
- The Sibylline Books were burnt by Flavius Stilicho (died AD 408).
- The books of Arius and his followers, after the first Council of Nicaea (AD 325), for heresy.
- The library of the Serapeum in Alexandria was trashed, burned and looted, AD 392, at the decree of Theophilus of Alexandria, who was ordered so by Theodosius I.
- Etrusca Disciplina, the Etruscan books of cult and divination, collected and burned in the 5th century.
- The books of Nestorius, after an edict of Theodosius II, for heresy (AD 435).
- In 1233 Maimonides' "Guide of the Perplexed" was burnt at Montpellier, Southern France.
- In the 1480s Tomas Torquemada promoted the burning of non-Catholic literature, especially Jewish Talmuds and, after the final defeat of the Moors at Granada in 1492, Arabic books also.
- In 1497 the Bonfire of the Vanities, preached by Girolamo Savonarola, consumed pornography, lewd pictures, pagan books, gaming tables, cosmetics, copies of Boccaccio's Decameron, and all the works of Ovid which could be found in Florence.
- In 1499 or 1500, in Andalucia, Spain, much of the Arabic & Hebrew poetry there was specifically targetted for destruction by fire, at the orders of Cisneros , Archbishop of Granada . (See: Emilio Garcia Gomez. (Ed.) In Praise of Boys: Moorish Poems from Al-Andalus, 1975).
- In 1525 & 1526 William Tyndale's English translation of the New Testament were burned wherever the authorities could find them.
- In 1918 the Valley of the Squinting Windows in Delvin, Ireland. The book criticised the village's inhabitants for being overly concerned with their image towards neighbours.
- The works of Jewish authors and other "degenerate" books were burned by the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s.
- May 10, 1933 on the Opernplatz in Berlin, S.A. and Nazi youth groups burned around 20,000 books from the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft and the Humboldt University; including works by Thomas Mann, Erich Maria Remarque, Heinrich Heine, Karl Marx and H.G. Wells. Student groups throughout Germany also carried out their own book burnings on that day and in the following weeks.
- In 1948, at Binghamton, New York children - overseen by priests, teachers, and parents - publicly burned around 2000 comic books.
- The novel The Satanic Verses has been the subject of bookburnings, for instance at Bolton and Bradford.
- In January 2001 the Egyptian Ministry of Culture burned 6,000 books of homoerotic poetry by Abu Nuwas, after pressure from Islamic fundamentalists.
- There have been several incidents of Harry Potter books being burned, including those directed by chuches at Alamogordo, New Mexico and Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Other famous items ceremoniously burnt in protest:
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