Burning the Books: A History of Knowledge Under Attack

Attacks on libraries and archives have been a feature of history since ancient times but have increased in frequency and intensity during the modern era. Burning the Books takes us on a 3000-year journey through the destruction of knowledge and the fight against all the odds to preserve it.

Libraries are far more than stores of literature: through preserving legal documents such as Magna Carta and records of citizenship, they also support the rule of law and the rights of citizens. Richard Ovenden, director of the world-famous Bodleian Library, explores everything from what really happened to the Great Library of Alexandria to the Windrush papers, from Donald Trump's deleting embarrassing tweets to John Murray's burning of Byron's memoirs in the name of censorship.

At once a powerful history of civilisation and a manifesto for the vital importance of physical libraries in our increasingly digital age, Burning the Books is also a very human story animated by an unlikely cast of adventurers, self-taught archaeologists, poets, freedom-fighters and, of course, librarians and the heroic lengths they will go to preserve and rescue knowledge, ensuring that civilisation survives. From the rediscovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the desert, hidden from the Romans and lost for almost 2000 years to the medieval manuscript that inspired William Morris, the knowledge of the past still has so many valuable lessons to teach us and we ignore it at our peril.

 

  • Hardback
  • 320 pages
  • 16 x 24 x 3.1 cm

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