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Taking advantage of the Portuguese example of the "Catálogo de Livros que se Proíbem Nestes Reinos" published in 1581 AD, this book explores the reasons why the Inquisition banned certain books. It succinctly provides information on each of the books in this particular catalogue, along with potential reasons on why they were forbidden.
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Why Did The Inquisition Ban Certain Books? A Case Study from Portugal
Why Did the Inquisition Ban Certain Books? A Case Study From Portugal
1- Rules for the Catalogue
2- Books in Latin
3- Books in Language [of the people]
4- Books Partially Banned
5- A Brief Conclusion
Also By Miguel Carvalho Abrantes
Copyright © 2018 Miguel Carvalho AbrantesAll rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher.
Miguel Carvalho Abrantes
While attempting to find more information on some of the works banned by the Inquisition I ended up accidentally noticing there were no major books on the subject. Some cases, like those of Copernicus or Galileo, are particularly famous, and one can easily find many lists online which report that an author had some of his works banned in a particular year, but what I couldn’t find were the reasons for many of those works being banned. The topic intrigued me so much that I soon found myself researching it through a book currently available in the Portuguese National Library, the Catálogo de Livros que se Proíbem Nestes Reinos, published back in 1581 AD. Originally printed in Lisboa by one António Ribeiro, it can be divided into four different sections.
An introduction, in which are established 10 rules according to which books were judged and potentially banned – apparently, the same ones which were used in the famous
Index Librorum Prohibitorum
A first catalogue, including only the books written in Latin.
A second catalogue, including the books written in
, i.e. language of the people, which here typically means French, German, Italian, Portuguese or Spanish.
A third catalogue, containing a reference to the books in which only certain specific passages were condemned.
This organization may seem simple enough, but as you browse through the catalogues you will soon find yourself with a problem – the first two usually only feature some basic identification of the works, namely the name of the author, the name of the book, or both; while the third one sometimes also provides limited information on why those passages couldn’t be accepted by the Church. So, essentially, for the first two you get entries just like Zodiacus vitae or Discorsi de principii de la nobilta per M. Marco de la Frata e Monte albano, and you’re frequently left wondering about their author, content, and the reasons why such works were placed in the listing. As for the third catalogue, you do frequently get the author’s name and which passages were to be censored, but hardly any information about their original content.
In a sense, that lack of information about the original content was perfectly understandable – these books were supposed to be banned precisely in order to stop people from knowing about what they contained, and so the catalogues feature exclusively the information needed to accomplish that goal. But, at the same time, their goal was not my own – what I was wondering about were the reasons why those works were banned from public access. While scrolling across the catalogues, I found myself repeatedly wondering the exact same things:
Who wrote this book?
What was its content?
Why was it placed here?
So, in order to approach the problem at hand, I started by reading the rules according to which these books were banned. Then, as I advanced through the entries, I tried to work around the very limited pieces of information the original authors provided us, and I repeatedly attempted to answer the questions placed above, resorting to multiple online and offline researches on the subject. This was not an easy task, at all; since I was working around a listing of banned books, many of them have truly disappeared, and their original content can no longer be found. However, for each entry I did an extensive research, and I still attempted to provide as much information as I could find – which, regrettably, in many cases doesn’t mean much, as I was often still left with what were often unsatisfactory pieces of data. Even with the help of J. M. Bujanda’s Index de Livres Interdits, which helped me track down the correct names for many works and their assumed authors, the information available today isn’t always as big or detailed as most readers would like, which often turns into a frustrating experience.
The results of my research on these banned books can be seen in the next few chapters. I hope you enjoy reading a bit about all these works that the Inquisition restricted in Portugal back in 1581 AD. Although this may not be a very “academical” work, and it undoubtedly may have many flaws, it was quite an interesting exploration, and also a very unique challenge.
Miguel Carvalho Abrantes
1- Rules for the Catalogue............................................1
2- Books in Latin.............................................................9
3- Books in Language [of the people].....................37
4- Books Partially Banned..........................................71
5- A Brief Conclusion...................................................87
As already mentioned in the introduction, the Catálogo de Livros que se Proíbem Nestes Reinos begins with a small sequence of pages which explain the rules under which books were being banned. Out of those original ten rules, I present here the first nine, in my own English translation; the tenth one was omitted essentially due to the fact that it wasn’t about banning books, but about the process that had to be followed in order to get new books approved and published, which, although interesting, also appeared to be irrelevant to my particular research.
All the Books which before the year of M.D.XV. the Supreme Pontiffs, or the general Councils, condemned, and which aren’t [specifically mentioned] in this Catalogue, should still remain condemned, as they were before.
The Books by the Heresiarchs, just like the ones who after the aforementioned Year will invent new heresies, or revive the old ones, as the ones which are, or were, headed by captains of the heretics, like Luther, [Huldrych] Zwingli, Calvin, Balthasar Pacimontano, Suuencfeldius and those like them, of any name, title and regardless of the topic, can’t be defended. As for the books of other heretics, which essentially talk about religion, they are absolutely condemned: but the ones which aren’t about religion may be allowed, if they are examined and approved by the warrant of Bishops and Inquisitors. And the books written catholicly by those who afterwards fell in heresy, just like those who after falling returned to the guild of the Church, may be allowed, if they are approved by any faculty of Theology of any Catholic University, or by the general Inquisition.
The translations of books and treaties, even if they are Ecclesiastic, that until now were made by condemned authors, can be allowed, as long as there isn’t in them anything against the correct doctrine. As for the translations of the old testament, they can only be conceded to learned and pious men, by will of the Bishop, with the condition that they be used as translations of the Vulgata, and not of the sacred text. But the translations of the new testament, made by Authors of the first class of this Catalogue, cannot be conceded to anyone: because from such permission would result very few profits and many dangers for the Readers. And if with these translations that we concede, or with the Vulgata itself, are contained some Annotations, with the suspected places erased by any faculty of Theology of any Catholic University or by the general Inquisition, they can be allowed, along with their translations. With these conditions it may be conceded to learned and pious men all the Bible commonly said of Vatablo, or parts of it. But from the Bible of Isidorus Clarius Brixianus, the prologue should be cut, and the preface: and nobody should have for himself that his text is the one of the vulgata edition.
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