Page:Books Condemned to be Burnt - James Anson Farrer.djvu/41

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CHAPTER I.

Sixteenth Century Book-Fires.

FIRE, which is the destruction of so many things, and destined, according to old Indian belief, one day to destroy the world, is so peculiarly the enemy of books, that the worm itself is not more fatal to them. Whole libraries have fallen a prey to the flames, and oftener, alas I by design than accident; the warrior always, whether Alexander at Persepolis, Antiochus at Jerusalem, Caesar and Omar at Alexandria, or General Ulrich at Strasburg (in 1870), esteeming it among the first duties of his barbarous calling to consign ideas and arts to destruction.

But these are the fires of indiscriminate rage, due to the natural antagonism between civilisation and military barbarism; it is fire, discriminately applied, that attaches a special interest and value to hookh condemned to it. Whether the sentence has come from Pope or Archbishop, Parliament or King, the book so