An extraordinary story of destruction and survivalRanging politically from Ancient China and the Nazis to Animal Farm and Chairman Mao; religiously, from the Spanish destruction of the Aztec civilisation to Bloody Mary or from Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses to Bibles in Islamist strongholds today; and personally, from Samuel Pepys and Lord Byron to Dickens’ letters, Hardy’s poems, Burton’s translations and Philip Larkin’s diaries. Baker reveals that although books, diaries and letters can be burnt, thanks to the invention of the printing press in the 16th century, very rarely can their content be expunged from the written record in history - the ‘delete’ button did not delete. Book burning today survives as a symbol, usually by desperate regimes, dictators or religious fanatics to impress the naive, warn the dissenter or rally the faithful.
Kenneth Baker, Lord Baker of Dorking CH PC, is the author of George III: A Life in Caricature, George IV: A Life in Caricature, George Washington’s War in Caricature and Print and five anthologies of poetry and several on historical prints. In the 1980s and 1990s he served as Environment Secretary, Education Secretary and Home Secretary.
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