Academic journal article Pennsylvania Literary Journal

The History of Book Burning for Young Readers

Academic journal article Pennsylvania Literary Journal

The History of Book Burning for Young Readers

Article excerpt

The History of Book Burning for Young Readers Kenneth Baker. On the Burning of Books: How Flames Fail to Destroy the Written Word. London: Unicorn Publishing Group LLP, October 2016. ISBN: 978-1-910787-11-3. History. 60 color plates. 256pp. Cloth: $40.

This study is close to my own current research as I just completed a book on author-publishers or authors who had to start their own publishing ventures because they were unhappy with their corrupted, money-grabbing publishers, or were facing censorship due to the radicalism of their ideas. In this project, Baker looks at the history of book burning since before the invention of the printing press in the 16th century. The press release indicates that central times and places studied include China, the Nazis, as well as individual authors and books, like Animal Farm and The Satanic Verses, or Aztec artifacts. This promises to be a very ambitious project, as it attempts to also look at accidental and personal book burnings, and there surely have been nearly as many tossed out and discarded books as there have been books printed. The book is separated into chapters called: Political Burning, Religious Burning, War Burning, Personal Burning, Accidental Burning, Royal Burning and Lucky Escapes.

The cover is not exactly appealing as it shows an artistic rendering of a book after it was tossed into a fire but only had its edges burned off. I thought that it might have been damaged in the shipment when I first looked at it. There is an edge at the start of the spine that looks like a line of black dirt, rather than like a book that has been burning, and I tried dusting this off upon taking it out of the box... only to figure out that this was an intentional design. But, then, in an odd contrast, the interior of the book is printed on high-quality color pages. The photos in the book have been oddly edited in Painter or photoshop, so that the color flames look like they come from a science fiction pop film, while the people appear to be colored in low-quality photographs from the Nazi etc. periods. The first of these images on page vi shows a half of poorly cut in Photoshop page of a burning or stained in brown blank book page in the middle of which the fire and Nazi officers are engaging in the burning. Another oddity is that some of the text is in red. For example, on page 6, the second sentence after a quote on burning from Orwell is in red, but it starts with a simple, "But it didn't stop there." and ends with the threat of the burning of human beings. While burning people is a dramatic moment, this is not a key phrase or a key definition in the text, so it is odd that this bit is stressed with the red text color. …

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