Roman Index

Title page: list of banned books of the Catholic Church, 1559
Title page of the first Index librorum prohibitorum from 1559
Deutsches Buch- und Schriftmuseum der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek Leipzig

Roman Index

Censorship in the name of the Catholic Church, 1559-1948

Censor is the younger of two heinous sisters, the older is called Inquisition. Censor is the living confession of the great that they may kick dumb slaves but cannot rule over a free people.

Johann Nestroy, Freiheit in Krähwinkel, 1848

What is the connection between Alexandre Dumas, Heinrich Heine and Martin Luther? All their works were banned by the Catholic Church and found their way into the Index librorum prohibitorum. This list of prohibited works was initiated in 1559 as a means of protecting the Catholic belief system against the influence of the Protestant Reformation.

Over the course of 400 years, the list provided for the prohibition of individual works or entire bodies of work by one author when they were deemed to be opposed to the tenants of the Catholic doctrine. The index was tacitly abolished in 1966, the result of the massive abundance of published literature and years of criticism of the church’s censorship practices. Other ecclesiastic and political institutions have also seen fit to issue similar indices over the course of history.