Last week I was sent a wonderful book, Deletrix – a collaboration between the artist Joan Fontcuberta, Catalan PEN and Arts Santa Mònica and it explores censorship and violence done to books. Thought provoking, and beautifully illustrated with images that have a strange haunting quality- indeed Fontcuberta challenges the audience as to whether the inherent beauty of the object can redeem the violence done to them. It has got me thinking about the items in our collections that have suffered changes at the hands of censors over the years.

Perhaps the one that immediately springs to mind is Micheal Servetus’ Christianismi Restitutio http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/tv7257. It is thought to be the copy Servetus sent to Calvin; incensed by Servetus’ theories, Calvin ripped out the first 16 pages before he set the wheels in motion to have Servetus burned at the stake using his own books for the fire! (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Servetus for more information).

However, there are many more censored images in the collection, often the result of religious belief & moral concerns. All the illustrations in the Genesis chapter of this French Bible appear to have God covered with Gold paint http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/q28182
0026013dAnd there are many examples of people being defaced http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/ir0qfd

Further examples can be found below
http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/75ig3v – perhaps an example of Victorian vandalism?
Or how about this one, where it looks as though the owners name and anathema has been deliberately erased http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/55b726

More information on Deletrix can be found at the links below



Many thanks to Ana González Tornero for the beautiful book, the links and information about the Deletrix Project.

Susan Pettigrew

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