Title page of the Roman index

Title page: Roman Index (directory of banned books), 1711
Title page of the Index librorum prohibitorum, from a 1711 edition
Deutsches Buch- und Schriftmuseum der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek Leipzig

Title page of the Roman index

Proscribed under the Inquisition, 1711

Who kills a Man kills a reasonable creature, Gods Image; but hee who destroyes a good Booke, kills reason it selfe, kills the Image of God, as it were in the eye.

John Milton, Aeropagitica, 1644

In the period from 1559 to 1948, the Roman Catholic Church published the Index librorum prohibitorum on an irregular basis. The index served as a directory of books which were not to be read by Catholics, under threat of excommunication.

The fate of such banned books is portrayed in this frontispiece, which is placed before a number of different indices. The apostles Petrus and Paulus are intended as a representation of the Roman Inquisition and the regulatory Congregation. These important papal commissions were responsible for banning books and issuing corresponding directories. The light stemming from the Holy Ghost refracts against the hearts of the apostles and sets fire to the heretical writings