Banned Books Week is an annual event that encourages information-seeking patrons to embrace and celebrate the freedom to read. Initially, Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden increase in the number of challenges to books in typical reading spaces like schools, bookstores and libraries. Banned Books week celebrates and upholds the value of free and open access to information by bringing together the entire book community—including librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types—in shared affirmation of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, including those ideas that some consider relatively unorthodox and unpopular. In Wilson Special Collections Library there are materials that reveal insights into the history of the book and the history of reading, as well as insights into how censorship intersects with historical social injustices and epistemic oppression. Our selections below illustrate a timeline of the history of censorship.
Index Librorum Prohibitorum
The history of censorship in Western Civilization is older than the printing press itself. The Catholic Church censored readings as early as 496. A.D. Censorship practices included book burning, book banning, publication restrictions and conditional censorship, imprisonment, torture, and execution. These practices carried the force of law in some territories well into the 19th century. Wilson Library’s Rare Book Collection holds a 1758 edition of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum that includes an engraved plate depicting a book burning. The Index Librorum Prohibitorum was never meant to be a complete catalogue of forbidden books, but rather a guideline for Catholic priests around the world to make determinations of censorship for their own localities.
An exact reprint of the Roman Index Expurgatorius
Conditional censorship and publication restrictions are just two examples of the practical means by which the Church censored reading in the West. The Roman Index Expurgatorius is similar to the Index Librorum Prohibitorum; however, it also includes a catalogue of books that were banned in totality. It provides comments and annotations on the works of specific authors and bans the works unless the author removes the expurgated material prior to authorized publication. The Rare Book Collection holds a facsimile edition of the 1608 Roman Index Expurgatorius printed in 1837.
Registrum huius operis libri cronicarum cum figuris et ymagibus ab inicio mundi, or the Nuremberg Chronicle
The Rare Book Collection’s copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle contains a variety of wood-engraved illustrations, coats of arms, maps, and portraits. The fabled Pope Joan is depicted in ceremonial regalia holding her baby. Legend has it that Pope Joan disguised herself as a man and rose through the ranks of the Vatican to become Pope, where she was only discovered to be a woman when she went into labor during a procession. In this copy, the illustration of Pope Joan and the accompanying text that describes her has been “expurgated,” by a previous owner. Expurgating books was a common practice encouraged by the Vatican’s commissioned censors in localities around the globe.
The History of the World, by Sir Walter Raleigh
The North Carolina Collection holds a copy of Sir Walter Raleigh’s The History of the World. Raleigh’s works were subjected to censorship by the English crown. After he fell out of popularity with the Royal Court of England, Raleigh was condemned to live in the Tower of London for over a decade before his execution. From there, he authored The History of the World. Soon after publication, the work was banned by King James I of England for, “being too saucy in censuring princes.”
Leaves of Grass and Go Tell It on the Mountain
Today, attempts to ban books target mostly LGBTQ and BIPOC authors, and our final selections highlight the longer history of challenges like these. The Rare Book Collection holds a first edition copy of Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman and two editions of Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin.
Leaves of Grass
Upon publication, Leaves of Grass was banned in a number of libraries in the United States; in 1865, Whitman was even fired from his job as a federal clerk in the Interior Department in Washington, D.C., after his employer found a copy in Whitman’s desk and became disgusted by the work’s sexually suggestive passages.
Go Tell It on the on Mountain
James Baldwin’s Go Tell it on the Mountain has been banned or challenged in various libraries across the United States for similar allegations that the work is sexually explicit and therefore, to some, inappropriate. The 1953 paperback edition is featured first above, depicting a city block and yellow sky. The second image shows a variant cover design rejected by author.
Fall is here and so are the Incubator Awards! If you haven’t heard, the Incubator Awards are an annual library program which provides student artists at all levels with funding to explore research questions and produce creative projects using any of our special collections. Each participant’s work culminates in a project which can take any form, including but not limited to film, visual art, artist books, writing, music, and performance. This paid opportunity gives students from all artistic disciplines the chance to work intimately with library materials that spark their creativity and produce something they can share with the UNC community at the Incubator Showcase.
We asked some former Incubator Award recipients to tell us about their experience in the program and offer advice to potential participants. Read their responses below to get inspired for your own Incubator project and learn more about what our special collections have to offer.
Joel Hopler, 2017-18 recipient
At the time of the Incubator Awards, Joel was in his last year of earning an MFA in Studio Art. His work at Wilson Library supported his Master’s thesis show. He has since graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Joel’s project My research moving into getting the Incubator Award was to focus on a cross-historical, cross-cultural, collaborative environment between etchings from like 17th, 18th century Europe, Edo Japanese ink wash drawings, and then tying it into post-abstract expressionist art. At the time I was looking for sort of like metaphors of contemporary American fatherhood.
Which libraries did Joel use? Definitely the Wilson Rare Book Collection. We looked into the cage at the Sloane Art library at some Jackson Pollock facsimiles… the Sloane Art library a lot. And I interacted actually a good bit with the Ackland.
Joel’s advice to potential applicants I think the more you talk to people, the quicker you figure things out. And so, while it is, like, very important to understand how the digital catalogs work and how to search and find things, asking human beings questions is exponentially faster so the more I got to talk to people and meet with them in person, I think the faster my research started going in a productive direction.
Emily Yue, 2017-18 recipient
At the time of her award, Emily was a senior double majoring in Studio Art and Media & Journalism. She has since graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Emily’s project So what began as my capstone project for my Photojournalism major was the “Queer Bodies, Tender Hearts” series of portrait photography that I was doing of queer people of color and queer activists in the South. What I ended up doing was sort of blending my fine art background with the photography and making a deck of tarot cards and matching these people with the symbolism and iconography of tarot and making a book that accompanies it that sort of explains the cards and includes excerpts from the interviews I did with the subjects who sat.
Which libraries did Emily use? I read a lot of the artists’ books that were in the Sloane Art Library and the Hanes Art Center.
Emily’s advice to potential applicants I think no matter what your field or discipline is, it’s worth applying and I’d say to come into it with a lot of open-ended questions. And make sure that whoever you’re working with, if it’s your faculty advisor… I think it’s good to have good personal stuff on top of professional and like scholarly stuff as well. And to not worry so much about having something finished, but about being able to explore something a lot more thoroughly than you have before. It’d be really cool to see like a stem-centered Incubator performance art piece, or more photography, or some film, but it’s very cool. Libraries are great. That’s my advice.
Applications for the 2019-2020 Incubator Awards will be accepted October 1-31, 2019. To learn more about the program or submit your own proposal, click here.
1968 was a turbulent year characterized by extensive global protests, political repression, and conflict between citizens and governments. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of this landmark year, Wilson Library is displaying a selection of album covers, magazine advertisements, musical scores, and photographs drawn from the Southern Folklife Collection, North Carolina Collection, and UNC Music Library. Titled Sounds of ’68, this exhibit explores how music mirrored the changing times through protest, experimentation, and the merging of music genres, as well as how the music of 1968 has influenced the world of today. It is on view in the Saltarelli Gallery in Wilson Library from January 16 to April 22.
Universities were particularly affected by the global tensions of 1968, serving as centers for radical and political thought, and often as stages for organization and protest. Student protests and uprisings occurred globally, although their scope and purposes varied. The Rare Book Collection recently acquired materials on two such student uprisings: Mexico 1968, a pamphlet that addresses the government repression of the student protests in Mexico that preceded the 1968 Summer Olympics, and Action, a student newspaper covering the events of the student uprising and accompanying general strike that brought Paris to a standstill in May 1968.
Mexico 1968: A Study of Domination and Repression was published by the North American Council on Latin America (NACLA) in 1968, shortly after the Tlatelolco Massacre on October 2, 1968. It provides a study of the historical, economic, and political contexts surrounding the Mexican student movement of that year. Through interviews with eyewitnesses, translated articles, and an analysis of official sources, Mexico 1968 presents a narrative of the uprising and subsequent repression that differs significantly from official reports. It also examines the dynamics of the Mexican economy on an international scale, paying careful attention to the role that US intervention played in shaping the conditions that the protests grew out of. Photographs from the demonstrations and illustrations inspired by the events are scattered among the text, which is broken up into essays and articles by various writers. Illustrations in a striking red on the front and back wrappers show skeleton-like soldiers armed with rifles and bayonets, as well as a tank whose treads display the five rings of the Olympic Games.
Mexico 1968 traces the student movement back to a conflict between two groups of students from rival schools that was met with surprising brutality by granaderos (grenadiers/riot police). This event sparked an uprising, prompting demonstrations that grew in size as the summer went on, all of which were met by violence from police and the army. Students barricaded themselves inside the schools, leading to invasions by the granaderos and the army that violated university autonomy and left many dead, injured, or arrested.
The protests blossomed to cover a range of social, political, and economic grievances directed at Mexican President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz and the Institutionalized Revolutionary Party’s (PRI) regime. The government’s expensive preparations for the 1968 Summer Olympic Games in contrast with the lack of resources allotted for social services was also a point of contention. Mexico 1968 provides a historical class analysis of the political and economic problems that led to the social unrest, as well as the antecedents that paves the way for the movement that began on July 22, 1968.
The demonstrations largely ended after an initially peaceful rally at the Plaza of Three Cultures. Plainclothes police opened fire into the crowd, sparking a violent response from the army that surrounded the protesters. Students and bystanders were equally targeted, and those that fled into the nearby Tlatelolco housing projects were pursued, shot at, beaten, and arrested. Though the government put the official death toll at between 20 and 28 people, Mexico 1968 depicts the event as a massacre of hundreds, including children, with hundreds more arrested, tortured, and disappeared. With most of the movement’s leadership either dead or in custody, the movement fizzled out, and, with the government-controlled media refusing to report on the situation, it became buried under the fanfare surrounding the Olympic Games.
Published the year of the demonstrations and the Tlatelolco Massacre, the book presents a perspective that significantly differs from the official explanation for the violence. The government blamed student militants for provoking the attack, explaining that the army acted only in self-defense. Mexico 1968 posits that instead, plainclothes policemen acted as agents provocateurs and provoked the massacre. In 2001, Mexican President Vicente Fox released formerly classified documents related to the massacre, which revealed that special forces called the Falcons opened fire from the surrounding buildings and provoked and coordinated the attack on government orders. Mexico 1968’s analysis of the events proved to be largely accurate.
The Mexican student demonstrations of that summer were not the only student uprisings of 1968. Another that played out several months earlier was the student uprising in Paris, in which students occupied their universities in protest of the closure of their schools by administration. Action, edited by Jean Pierre Vigier between May 7, 1968 and May 2, 1969, provides a contemporary account of the events of the May 1968 student uprising in Paris from the point of view of the students who participated in the demonstrations and the strike. Action documents events occurring in France as well as internationally with a focus on the happenings in Paris. Through articles, essays, photographs, cartoons, and posters, Action provides comprehensive coverage of the uprisings that froze Paris that May.
The first several issues between May 7 and June 24 cover the student demonstrations and the general strike in and around Paris in 1968 that lasted between May 2 and June 23. The conflicts began with a series of student occupations of Paris universities in the Latin Quarter of the city in protest against capitalism, consumerism, imperialism, and traditional institutions and values. The demonstrations evolved into a mass movement that sought to overthrow the prevailing socioeconomic structure of state-capitalist society and build an equal society founded on leftist thought. The occupation of the universities and associated demonstrations were met by brutality from the police and the military, leaving many students dead, injured, or arrested. Inside the occupied universities, students and faculty built small societies without hierarchies called Comités d’Action (Action Committees), in which responsibilities were shared and actions were based on the desire to change one’s circumstances.
A key feature of the movement and a focal point of Action, Comités d’Action were created to address specific concerns or needs, including reaching out to the workers and encouraging their participation in the movement. Comités d’Action were the result of student experimentation with direct democracy, and eventually numbered in the hundreds. Action itself was produced and published by several Comités d’Action, with the support of the Union Nationale des Étudiants de France (UNEF). On May 14, the movement spread to the factories, leading to mass demonstrations of workers and the beginning of the two-week long wildcat general strike that 11 million workers participated in. Other demonstrations took place throughout Paris, calling for the overthrow of the government and the holding of new elections, leading President Charles de Gaulle to flee the country for a few hours. On May 30, de Gaulle proposed a new election to be held on June 23, and the threat of revolution faded. Afterwards, the movement lost steam – workers returned to the factories, universities were reclaimed and reopened, and the violence ended. Action continued to be published for almost another year, reporting on current events and maintaining a revolutionary fervor, but the movement itself had since ended.
Although subsequent issues continue to focus on events in Paris and in larger France, many of the articles began to have an international element as well. Action covers many of the other demonstrations, uprisings, and conflicts of 1968, including the Prague Spring, the Vietnam War, US student protests, the German student movement, and the Mexico student uprisings of 1968. The newspaper provides a leftist, student perspective on the international unrest of the time, the writers showing their solidarity with the students and the protesters. In addition to covering current events, many essays and articles were dedicated to exploring and analyzing the history of the class struggle and communist thought.
Mexico 1968 and Action provide contemporary perspectives on events that shaped history, and serve as key primary sources for understanding the unrest of the summer of 1968. The Sounds of ’68 Exhibition presents another perspective on the year, showing how music both reflected and shaped the attitudes of the time. Between January 16 and April 22, come visit the Saltarelli Gallery in Wilson Library to see and hear the emergence of influences that still reverberate loudly today. As we leave a year of comparable social unrest and approach the 50th anniversary of these uprisings, it is as important as ever to study the student movements and their subsequent repression that characterized 1968.
To prepare for the Wilson Special Collection Library’s upcoming Hallowzine! event, I wanted to learn more about the history of zines to gain a better understanding of the historical and social contexts they evolved from. When I started my research, it seemed that without fail any website or article I found about zines would always begin by trying to answer one question: “What is a zine?” The answer is broad, and the content, style, and audience of zines vary widely, but there are several shared characteristics that make a zine:
Zines are self-published or published by a small, independent publisher. Self-publishing allows marginalized voices to express themselves beyond the constraints of mainstream media, and also lets authors take control of the process of publishing. Zines also present an alternative to the hierarchical and commodified world of mainstream media.
Zines are non-commercial, and are printed in small numbers, circulating only through specific networks. They are underground publications that tend to have niche audiences.
Zines provide a vehicle for ideas, expression, and art. They build connections between people and within groups, and provide modes of communication in addition to information dissemination.
There are exceptions to every rule, and though many have shared characteristics, there is no formal definition of a zine.
Zines were first created in the science fiction fandoms of the 1930s, taking their name from fanzine, which is short for “fan magazine.” Long before the advent of the Internet, zines allowed fans to create networks, share ideas and analyses, and collaborate on writing and artwork.
The counterculture movements associated with the Beat generation of the 1950s and 1960s saw a growth of the underground press, which played an important role in connecting the people across the US. Although the underground press often involved significantly more people and resources in the production of materials, it provided a function that became a key part of zine culture in the 1980s and beyond: giving people a voice outside the scope of the mainstream media.
Art and literary magazines of the 1960s and 1970s were based on a similar need to circumvent the commercial art world, and were printed cheaply and spread through small, niche networks. Many of them combined art, politics, culture, and activism into a single eclectic publication, redefining what a magazine could be, and influencing the rise of activist artists’ magazines that shaped the punk and feminist scenes later on.
The punk music scene of the 1980s expanded upon the self-published format by creating a wide of array of constantly evolving zines dedicated to the musical genre that were both fanzines and political tracts. Punk zines were more than just magazines–they represented the aesthetic and ideals of an entire subculture, a condensed version of this cultural revolt against authoritarianism.
Similarly subversive, the riot grrrl movement grew out of the punk subculture and developed a zine culture of its own, focusing on feminism, sex, and chaos. The Sallie Bingham collection at Duke University’s Rubenstein Library has a large selection of zines by women and girls created during this period. The collection’s website also provides a short description of the role of zines within the riot grrrl movement:
“In the 1990s, with the combination of the riot grrrl movement’s reaction against sexism in punk culture, the rise of third wave feminism and girl culture, and an increased interest in the do-it-yourself lifestyle, the women’s and grrrls’ zine culture began to thrive. Feminist practice emphasizes the sharing of personal experience as a community-building tool, and zines proved to be the perfect medium for reaching out to young women across the country in order to form the ‘revolution, girl style.'”
Examples of zines can be found at the Sloane Art Library as well as in the Rare Book Collection. Within the Rare Book Collection, zines comprise part of the Beats Collection, the Mexican Comic Collection, and the Latino Comic Collection. All three collections provide diverse examples of the genre.
The Mexican Comic Collection, a collection of comic books and other graphic material produced in Mexico by Mexican writers and artists, contains examples of self-published artist zines and fanzines from the contemporary comic and graphic novel scene.
The Latino Comic Collection, a collection of comics and graphic material produced by contemporary US-born Latino artists and writers, also contains several examples of zines. Many of them are small, hand-drawn booklets, but others are more professionally produced.
Pizza Puffs, a zine made to share one of the artist’s favorite recipes. PN6726.L38
If you’re interested in learning more about zines, check out the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library’s Sallie Bingham Collection at Duke University, which contains a robust collection of zines by women and girls. They also provide a resource page that is an excellent starting point for learning more about zines and their history.
And if you’re interested in making zines, please join us on October 31st from 1:00 pm – 4:00pm for Hallowzine!, a zine-making event at Wilson Library where you can learn more about zines and apply your DIY skills to making one of your own. A variety of zines from the Sloane Art Library’s collection will also be on display in Wilson Library during the event, so please stop by!
Fans of UNC football got a glimpse into the Rare Book Collection during Saturday’s game against Virginia Tech. In the second quarter, ESPN featured Wilson Library’s Grand Reading Room as well as two books from the Rare Book Collection. Sports fans across the country had a chance to see UNC’s first millionth volume: John Gower’s Confessio Amantis, printed in 1483 by William Caxton. Alongside it was a first edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922), number 20 of 100 signed by the author.
ESPN chose to showcase Wilson Library’s Grand Reading Room in part because of Hurricane Matthew and the appeal of one of UNC’s most beautiful interior spaces. The Grand Reading Room is open for study—or shelter from the storm—during Wilson Library’s regular operating hours.
From June 18th to 21st, nearly 100 graduate students, professors, secondary educators, and Jane Austen fans of all ages converged on Chapel Hill to partake in a weekend celebrating the 200th anniversary of Emma. Headed by UNC Professors Inger Brodey and James Thompson of the Department of English and Comparative Literature, the Jane Austen Summer Program (JASP) has now completed its third year and is quickly becoming a June tradition for Janeites from near and far.
While many of the festivities occur off campus at the Friday Center for Continuing Education, the 2015 program kicked off by introducing attendees to some of the fascinating resources on campus with an exhibit selected from the Rare Book Collection of the Wilson Special Collections Library. “Emma, at Home and at Play,” curated by UNC graduate students Rachael Isom and Ted Scheinman and displayed in Wilson’s Grand Reading Room, included a variety of items designed to offer textual, cultural, and historical entry points for guests, as they approached the events and discussions of the weekend.
Comprised of seventeen items from the Rare Book Collection, this exhibit took shape around three approaches to Austen’s novel: the first-edition text of Emma and its illustrated afterlives, books allusively woven into Emma’s daily life, and contemporaneous cultural artifacts that offer a more detailed entry into that lifestyle.
The first segment of the exhibit contained the 1816 Emma (which actually appeared in December 1815), the first of Austen’s novels to be published by John Murray, as well as two twentieth-century New York editions illustrated by C. E. Brock (1909) and Fritz Kredel (1964). Rounding out this section was a mid-twentieth-century critical work by R. W. Chapman, an object of especial interest because of its former ownership and annotations by C. S. Lewis.
The second section invited JASP attendees to consider the books that might have constituted Emma’s library at Highbury by showing examples of texts alluded to in the novel. Prolific eighteenth-century writers Oliver Goldsmith, Ann Radcliffe, and Thomas Gray were joined by lesser known authors of educational texts and Gothic novels to show the various reading interests of Emma, Harriet Smith, and other characters.
The final section grouped together books contemporary to Austen. From fashion plates in The Lady’s Magazine to sheet music by J. B. Cramer, cookbooks and pocketbooks to a unique family scrapbook, these items presented visitors with a sense of the larger social setting of Austen’s Emma. Perhaps guests could imagine Jane Fairfax playing one of Cramer’s sonatas or Mr. Woodhouse flipping through Mrs. Glasse’s Art of Cookery looking for the perfect gruel recipe. Thus, as JASP attendees returned to the text, they could take with them pieces of the culture in which it was written and set by Austen.
In its first year as a Jane Austen Summer Program event, the exhibit was well-received by attendees. Naturally, Austen fans were particularly excited to see a first-edition of Emma, but one guest also remarked that the display as a whole was “well-organized and informative.” Many also commented on the “beautiful” Grand Reading Room venue and look forward to more opportunities to visit Wilson Library.
One such opportunity awaits at next year’s Jane Austen Summer Program, which will feature a special exhibit inspired by Austen’s 1814 novel Mansfield Park. The event, slated for the weekend of June 16–19, 2016, will be open to the UNC-Chapel Hill community as well as to the program’s attendees. For more information, please visit www.janeaustensummer.org.
Rachael Isom is a Ph.D. student in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at UNC. Her research focuses particularly on the intersections of religion and literature in women’s poetry of the Romantic and early Victorian periods. She also serves as Assistant Editor of the Keats-Shelley Journal and works as a Project Assistant for the William Blake Archive.
The Rare Book Collection is excited to be co-sponsoring “13 Bak’tun: New Maya Perspectives in 2012,” a symposium on Maya civilization in recognition of the end of the current great cycle in the Maya Long Count calendar.
Find out about the full program of exhibitions and events by going to our elegant url: maya2012.unc.edu
Registration is not required, but recommended, and it will help us plan. We look forward to seeing you at Chapel Hill on October 25 and 26!
The exhibition, curated by RBC research assistant and UNC Ph.D. candidate Jennifer Park, is a rich exploration of early modern understandings of nature and the unnatural in Shakespeare’s time. Its fascinating selection of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English and Continental books connects astronomy, alchemy, animal husbandry, agricultural practice, and more to the language and themes of Shakespeare’s plays. Also included in the show are the RBC’s copies of the second, third, and fourth Shakespeare folios.
In her splendid lecture Prof. Floyd-Wilson conjured up a world of customs and concerns which translated into the Bard’s perennially popular play in wondrous and inventive ways. Few present will forget her discussion of the cunning woman/man, a fixture of English village life, or, for that matter, the sale of human fat by the local apothecary.
The well-attended lecture was a fine start to the graduate student conference, Shakespeare and the Natural World, jointly sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and King’s College London.
February 7, 2012, is truly a hallowed date for the history of English literature, marking as it does, the 200th anniversary of the birth of the great writer Charles Dickens. We could not forget, because the RBC includes a wonderful Dickens collection, begun by donor William A. Whitaker (UNC A.B. 1904), as well as strong holdings of the graphic work of George Cruikshank, one of the most important illustrators of Dickens.
For our post, however, we choose not a picture but – quite aptly, we believe – an image of the opening chapter of David Copperfield, “I Am Born.”
Indeed, today we celebrate Dickens as the hero of his own life!