In this revealingly illustrated book, the political sage Kenneth Baker records the many times throughout history when books have been burnt for political, religious, or personal reasons. Ranging politically from Ancient China to the Nazis, from Animal Farm to Chairman Mao; religiously, from the Spanish destruction of the Aztec civilisation to Bloody Mary, from Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses to bibles in Islamist strongholds today; personally, from Samuel Pepys and Lord Byron to Dickens’s letters, Hardy’s poems, Burton’s translations, and Philip Larkin’s diaries.
Alongside these telling examples are chapters on burning in war, accidental burning, royal burning — and lucky escapes.
Baker reveals that while books, diaries and letters can be burnt, as a result of the invention of the printing press in the 16th century, very rarely can their content be expunged from the written record in history — the ‘delete’ button did not delete. Book burning today survives as a symbol, usually by desperate regimes, dictators and religious fanatics to impress the naive, warn the dissenter and rally the faithful.