Censorship, Medieval Style

Before the era of Big Brother, censorship was alive and well. LiveScience explained how two censors took about their work in making sure that work critical of the church by Dutch Renaissance humanist Erasmus never saw the light of day:

In contrast to the newly discovered glued-up book, another example of Erasmus' writing, held at the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies at the University of Toronto, reveals a censor who took to his task with an artistic flourish.

Published in Basel, Switzerland, in 1538 this book contains essays by Erasmus introducing the writing of St. Ambrose, a fourth-century saint who was the bishop of Milan.

"It is one of the most exquisitely beautiful examples of censorship, with the offending passages obliterated using vibrant watercolors framed in baroque scroll frames with attending putti (an image of a male child)," Carefoote writes in his 2007 book. While the censor blanked out the prefaces by Erasmus he left the saint’s work alone. It's not known what Erasmus said that got him censored.It's also not known why the censor, probably a librarian, approached his job with such artistry.


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