LiveScience has a pretty interesting piece on the censoring of Erasmus (with thanks to James Waddell on FB for mentioning it).
More than 400 years before modern-day governments tried shutting down blogs or blocking tweets, two people tasked with censoring a sometimes-critic of the Catholic Church in Renaissance Europe took to their duties in very different ways: one with great beauty, the other with glue and, it appears, a message. Now, two books, housed at separate libraries at the University of Toronto, illustrate two unusual approaches censors took when dealing with the same author, Erasmus. …
A newly catalogued 1541 book, written by Erasmus … has pages ripped out, text blotted out with ink and two pages glued together. This book is now in the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto. A 1538 book in which Erasmus introduces the writings of fourth-century Saint Ambrose. In it Erasmus’ work is censored but this time with great beauty, with watercolors and baroque frames; it is now at the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, also at the University of Toronto. CREDIT: Owen Jarus (left); Pearce Carefoote (right).
The conflicts that ensued between Catholics and Protestants were fought, not just with guns and swords, but with ideas, especially the printed word. Erasmus was considered by some to be a Protestant sympathizer, and in 1559 his texts were put on a Roman index of forbidden books. Both sides tried to censor each other whenever they could, with the Catholics being somewhat more effective, at least during the 16th century. “They had the agents to be able to do it,” said Pearce Carefoote, a librarian at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto and author of “Forbidden Fruit: Banned, Censored, and Challenged Books from Dante to Harry Potter” (Lester, Mason & Begg, 2007). ….
One book, “Adagorium,” was published in 1541 in Lyon, France, and was cataloged this month in the Thomas Fisher Library. The book contains ancient proverbs written in Latin and Greek along with commentary by Erasmus.
Parts of it are blotted out with ink, a practice not unusual for the time. However, one section was treated with particular disdain, having pages ripped out, sections inked out and two of the pages actually glued together, still stuck after more than 400 years. [See Photos of the Censored Books]. “They’ve censored it, and then just to make sure they glued the page together,” Carefoote told LiveScience. “This is the first time I’ve ever seen that (the use of glue).” If that wasn’t enough, the censor appears to have left a message on the front, written in Latin, blasting Erasmus. It reads (in translation), “O Erasmus, you were the first to write the praise of folly, indicating the foolishness of your own nature.” One of Erasmus’ works was called “The Praise of Folly.”
Enjoy the entire essay.