Book burning

Burning of the Library of Alexandria (Gustave Dore) (Humanity Healing)
A depiction of the burning of the books of the Library of Alexandria by Gustave Dore.
In events, book burning refers to noted incidences of the combustion of literature works, considered "dangerous" and or poisonous to the person or group undertaking the burning; generally done because such works are averse to one’s way of thinking and or beliefs.

Overview
In c.440BC, Protagoras prefaced a book with the words: “I cannot say whether gods exist or not”, and for this, by order of the Athenians, he was banished from their city and territory, and had his books publicly burnt. [7]

In 391AD, Roman emperor Theodosius I declared paganism illegal, after which either all or part of the Library of Alexandria, the storehouse of the world’s knowledge, was burned down.

In 642, Alexandria was captured by the Muslims, who, under orders of Caliph Omar, burned all books, per the following logic:

“If those books are in agreement with the Quran, we have no need of them; and if these are opposed to the Quran, destroy them.”

In 1546, French scientific scholar Etienne Dolet (1509-1546), in 1535, was rumored to be a “materialist” and to deny the immortality of the soul (Ѻ), and eventually was convicted of the “crime” of atheism, tortured and then burned, with his books:

Etienne Dolet (burning) s

In 1766, Francois-Jean de La Barre (1745-1766) (Ѻ), at the age of 19, was burned, alongside a copy of Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary (1764), for the treasonous act of owing a copy of the banned book.
Froude book burning
In 1841, English reverend and Oxford moral philosophy professor William Sewell published Christian Morals, wherein he argued that modern sciences, e.g. chemical findings, such as certain metals burn under water, sided with Christianity; in 1849, Sewell burned James Froude’s Nemesis of Faith, a treatise on how modern science causes one to lose one’s Christian faith; in 1854, Froude did the first English translation of Goethe’s Elective Affinities, wherein it is shown how chemical findings allows one to create a new system of morality, based on physical chemistry, via interpretation of the “moral symbols” describing the heat and work aspects of chemical reactions, people explicitly conceived as being large “metamorphized”, i.e. evolved, types of animate chemicals.

Froude | Oxford book burning
In 1841, English reverend and Oxford moral philosophy professor William Sewell published Christian Morals, wherein he argued that modern sciences, e.g. chemical findings, such as certain metals burn under water, sided with Christianity. [1]

In 1849, English clergyman-abnegator and writer James Froude published his semi-autobiographical novel Nemesis of Faith, about a young priest whose faith comes into question in light of early 19th-century developments in science and history; the following is a representative statement from the novel: [2]

“What is man the wiser or the happier for knowing how the air-plants feed, or how my centuries the flint-stone was in forming, unless the knowledge of them can be linked on to humanity, and elucidate for us some of our hard moral mysteries?”

While great thinkers, such as George Eliot, professed profound admiration for the novel, others, specifically English religious figures, condemned the novel. [3]

On 27 Feb 1849, Froude’s book was burned in a Tuesday moral philosopher class at Oxford by Sewell—an incident summarized by Exeter College historian Charles Boase (1894), via citation to an 1892 letter published by the owner of the book Arthur Blomfield, as follows: [4]

Charles Boase (1894): “It was at one of these lectures that Sewell burnt a book which he thought obnoxious, in 1849, the last time a book has been publicly burnt in a College hall. The scene is thus described by the owner of the book, Arthur Blomfield, now R. of Beverston and RD. of Dursley, Glouc. [Rev. A. Blomfield of Beverston Rectory, Tetbury, Gloucestershire]:

Arthur Blomfield (1892): ‘I had just bought the Nemesis of Faith, or as it was called, ‘Faith with a Vengeance’, when on Tuesday morning, Feb. 27, 1849, I, an undergraduate of Exeter College, attended a lecture in hall. The Rev. William Sewell, Sub-Rector of Exeter College (not ‘Dean of the Chapel’) was lecturer. He declaimed loudly against Froude’s Nemesis of Faith. Hearing, on my own confession, that I possessed it, he requested me to bring ‘that book’ to him. No sooner had I complied with his request (Sewell was my college tutor) than he snatched the book from my hands and thrust it into the blazing fire of the college hall (not ‘quadrangle’). I see him now, with hall poker in hand, in delightful indignation, poking at this, to him, obnoxious book. In a few hours this ‘burning of the book’ was known all over Oxford. As your article justly remarks, ‘the burning only served as an advertisement’. ’

Sewell, supposedly, decried Froude’s work as a “wicked book” and the incident gave rise to apocryphal story that the book was burned publicly (Ѻ) at Oxford, i.e. not just in a classroom setting, but at some kind of out-door public gala or event.

In more detail, in a 1892 book section on the history of “book burning”, made amid a discussion of James Farrer’s 1892 Books Condemned to be Burnt, we find the following retelling of the Sewell book-burning incident as follows: [5]

“Mr. Farrer's delightful book teems with facts, and he practically covers the whole range of the subject, so far as book-burning in England is concerned. But it seems more than passing strange that the institution existed, to a certain extent, just over forty years ago, for the Rev. A. Blomfield writes from Beverston Rectory, Tetbury, Gloucestershire: "My private journal records—' Sewell burnt Froude's book.' The history is this: The burnt book was mine. I had just bought the 'Nemesis of Faith,' or as it was called, ' Faith with a Vengeance,' when on Tuesday morning, Feb. 27, 1849,1, an undergraduate of Exeter College, attended a lecture in hall. The Rev. William Sewell, Sub-Rector of Exeter College (not 'Dean of the Chapel') was lecturer. He declaimed loudly against Froude's 'Nemesis of Faith.' Hearing, on my own confession, that I possessed it, he requested me to bring 'that book to him.' No sooner had I complied with his request (Sewell was my college tutor) than he snatched the book from my hands and thrust it into the blazing fire of the college hall. I see him now, with hall poker in hand, in delightful indignation, poking at this, to him, obnoxious book. In a few hours this ' burning of the book' was known all over Oxford. The book became famous—editions multiplied. I lost my 'Nemesis of Faith;' I think I lost 'Faith' in my college tutor, for at least he should have recouped costs (3s. 6d., I believe, was the book's price), or presented me with an antidote in the form of one of his books—e.g.,'Sewell's Christian Morals.' Not he. O temporal O mores!'”

(add discussion)

Zach Strausbaugh mural 1000px
A photo of Dover High School student Zach Strausbaugh’s 1998 evolution mural, which was burned in 2003 by 68-year-old janitor Larry Reeser because it “offended his faith, was obscene, and was full of lies” and his granddaughter was about to start school there that year.
Dover mural
In Aug 2003, in Dover Area High School, Dover, Pennsylvania, Larry Reeser (1935-), the then 68-year-old building and groundskeeper, of the high school, whose granddaughter was about to start ninth grade there, took down art and science student Zach Strausbaugh’s 1998 evolution mural, a 4x16-foot depiction of prehumen hominids into more modern types, an “ape evolving into upright human” depiction, took it home, and together with one of the school board members, watched the mural burn, because as Reeser later told reporter Lauri Lebo, the painting “offended his faith, was obscene, and was full of lies”. The schoolboard member, who was there for the burning, either Alan Bonsell or Bill Buckingham, later told science department head Bertha Spahr, that he “gleefully watched it burn.” [6]

References
1. Sewell, William. (1841). Christian Morals (water and fire, pg. 323; fire, 25+ pgs). James Burns.
2. Froude, James. (1849). The Nemesis of Faith (moral mysteries, pg. 86). London: John Chapman.
3. The Nemesis of Faith – Wikipedia.
4. (a) Blomfield, Arthur. (1892). “Letter”, Daily News, May 2.
(b) Boase, Charles W. (1894). Registrum Collegii Exoniensis: Register of the Rectors, Fellows, and Other Members on the Foundation of Exeter College, Oxford. With a History of the College and Illustrative Documents (§:History of Exeter College, pgs. i-clxxviii; esp. pg. cxlviii). Oxford Historical Society at the Clarendon Press.
5. (a) Farrer, James A. (1892). Books Condemned to be Burnt. London: Elliot Stock.
(b) Anon. (1892). The Bookworm: an Illustrated Treasury of Old-time Literature (§Book Burning, 255-57; esp. pg. 257). London: Elliot Stock.
6. (a) Gordy, Slack. (2007). The Battle Over the Meaning of Everything (mural, 8+ pgs). John Wiley & Sons.
(b) Pierce, Charles P. (2009). Idiot America: How Stupidity became a Virtue in the Land of the Free (pg. 129). Anchor Books.
7. Cicero. (45BC). The Nature of the Gods (Introduction, translation, and notes: Patrick Walsh) (pgs. 24-25). Oxford University Press, 1998.

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