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Banned Books Spotlight National Library Scotland

Thursday, 23 June 2011

An exciting new exhibition at the National Library of Scotland is set to provide a revealing insight into some of the most controversial material ever written.

The Banned Books exhibition, which opens on Friday 24 June and runs until 30 October, explores issues of censorship through a range of topics, from sexuality and politics to religion and the evolution of censorship itself, and how this has differed between societies and over time.

Famous titles such as DH Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover, Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita and Peter Wright's Spycatcher are all present, joined by scores of other items considered unsuitable for public consumption at their time of publication. The exhibition also focuses on the authors, exploring the compromises and in many cases the personal risks they endured as a result of their creations.

Martyn Wade, National Librarian and Chief Executive of the National Library of Scotland, said: "Over the centuries many books have been burned, censored or challenged by the state and religious authorities, and society itself, because their contents did not conform to the political, religious or moral codes of their day.

"Libraries such as the National Library of Scotland have a vital role in freedom of expression and speech, allowing everyone to explore knowledge and ideas now and into the future. 

"Our exhibition presents an opportunity for visitors to learn more about censorship and how it has differed over time and place, with a view to encouraging informed discussion and debate around these issues."

Book censorship in Western cultures can be traced back to the earliest years of the Christian church, when efforts were made to suppress competing views as heretical. There was much superstition around books and many were burnt following the Council of Ephesus in the 2nd century.

The first list of forbidden books was issued by the Pope in the 5th century. Following the invention of the printing press in the 15th century the increased dissemination of ideas led to a great expansion in censorship, which increased during the Protestant Reformation.

The exhibition covers material dating back almost 500 years from the Spanish Inquisition to more modern banned books, such as Trainspotting and Harry Potter.

The Banned Books exhibition is open from June 24 - Oct 30 at the National Library of Scotland, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, EH1 1EW. For more information about the exhibition and its contents visit http://www.nls.uk/.  


Notes to editors

Banned Books Exhibition - titles on display will include:

  • J.K.Rowling: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, New York, 1998  
  • Books censored during the Spanish Inquisition - Jerónimo Roman y Zamora: Republicas del mundo, vol.1 and 2, Medina Del Campo, 1575
  • J.D.Salinger: The Catcher in the Rye, London, 1991 pbk reissue of 1st ed.
  • D.H. Lawrence: Lady Chatterley's lover, Harmondsworth, 1960 - various different versions
  • David Hume: Dialogues concerning natural religion, manuscript, 1751
  • Graham Linehan & Arthur Matthews: Father Ted: The Complete Scripts, London, 1999
  • Irvine Welsh: Trainspotting, London, 1993
  • Vatsyayana. The Kama Sutra, Cosmopoli, 1883
  • Sir Richard Burton: The Kama Sutra in pop-up, London, 2004
  • Robert Burns: The merry muses: a choice collection of favourite songs, Dublin, [1804]
  • James Joyce. Ulysses, Paris, 1922
  • Peter Wright: Spycatcher, NY, 1987
  • Mark Twain: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, 1884
  • William Golding: Lord of the flies, 1954. [1958 paperback ed.]
  • Anthony Burgess, A clockwork Orange, 1962. 


About the National Library of Scotland:

  • The National Library of Scotland is a major European research library and is the world's leading centre for the study of Scotland and the Scots - an information treasure trove for Scotland's knowledge, history and culture
  • The Library's collections are of world-class importance. Key areas include digital material, rare books, manuscripts, maps, music, official publications, business information, science and technology, and the modern and foreign collections.
  • The Library holds well over 14 million items, including printed items, approximately 100,000 manuscripts, over 32,000 films and nearly 2 million maps. Every week it collects 6,000 new items. Around 80% of these are received free of charge in terms of Legal Deposit legislation.