Exhibition on banned books

Banned books in the spotlight at the National Library of Scotland

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 D H 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 second century.

The first list of forbidden books was issued by the Pope in the fifth 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 to October 30 at the National Library of Scotland, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1EW.

23 June 2011

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