“[…] those Catalogues, and expurging Indexes that rake through the entralls of many an old good Author, with a violation wors then any could be offer’d to his tomb.”
– John Milton, Areopagitica (1644), p. 7
HISTORICALLY IMPORTANT EDITIONS OF THE INDEXES OF BOOKS PROHIBITED BY THE CATHOLIC CHRUCH.
The Catholic Church’s catalogue of prohibited reading emerged in its modern form as the Index Librorum Prohibitorum in 1560 and continued to be updated into the twentieth century—with the final edition published in 1948 before the Index’s official abolition in 1966 (see Lenard, “Index Librorum Prohibitorum”; History of the Church, p. 168). Many monuments of human knowledge found themselves on the pages of these indexes, including the works of Boccaccio, Copernicus and Erasmus.
Also among them, in 1732, was an Italian translation of Paradise Lost. Milton had addressed the English Parliament a century earlier in 1664, lampooning the “2 or 3 glutton Friars” who censored scores of books, pamphlets and papers “as if S. Peter has bequeath’d them the keys of the Presse also out of Paradise” (Areopagitica, p. 7). This condemnatory view of the Indexes themselves and championing of the freedom of the press helps to colour the context into which the 1667 Indexes available here were published, and the legacy faced by the later eighteenth-century editions.
The updated and expanded 1667 edition builds upon the 1640 edition that was borne out of the waning Inquisition of Philip IV of Spain’s rule. Expanded widely by Antonio de Sotomayor, who had served as Grand Inquisitor in the decade prior, the 1667 edition reflects this pressing historical climate with its rubricated subtitle: “De consilio supremi sentus inquisitionis generalis” [Concerning the Council of the Supreme and General Inquisition].
The edition is bound with the Index compiled for Pope Alexander VII which gathers an appended version of the Roman Tridentine Index of Forbidden Books (1564) along with a series of papal bulls issued up until the date of publication. The initial title page is inscribed in ink: “Dono V[ir] di[scretus] Domini Norberti Goeman præpositi in [?], 1700” [Gift of the Distinguished Lord Norbert Goeman, Provost of [?], 1700]; likely denoting Norbert Goeman, a Premonstratensian friar who by the end of 1679 was a sub-deacon in the Diocese of Arras in Pas-de-Calais (Haigneré (ed.), p. 29). While Madrid is listed as the place of publication, it is possible that they were printed in Lyon or Geneva (Petzoldt, 149; 1449).
The second volume of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (1758) offered here was executed under Pope Benedict XIV, and is the first of the indexes to present a thirty-six-page introduction delineating the rules for prohibiting books along with relevant papal decrees. Like the full-folio earlier indices, this copy is also bound with an additional text, here the later Indicis Novissimi Librorum Prohibitum Appendix for 1757 to 1763.
In investigating the development of the Indexes across their three-and-a-half centuries of censorship, J.M. De Bujanda observes that, “À certains moments, surtout en 1664, 1758 et 1900, le contenu de l’Index est restructuré en profondeur et des interdictions disparaissent.” [At certain moments, above all 1664, 1758 and 1900, the content of the Index was profoundly restructured and prohibitions lifted.] (De Bujanda, p. 8). Thus the present 1667 and 1758 volumes (along with their additions) offer valuable insights into how list developed across time.
One such countermand witnessed across the 1667 and 1758/63 indexes is the removal of many texts advocating for heliocentrism. Under Benedict XIV the general prohibition on pro-heliocentric texts was lifted, though uncensored copies continued to be verboten (Heilbron, pp. 262–63). As such, Galileo’s Dialogo (p. 109) and Kepler’s Epitome Astronomiae Copernicae (p. 143) remain, as does Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus but with the discretionary warning: “Nisi fuerint correcti juxta emendationem editam anno 1620.” [Unless they are corrected pursuant to the emendation issued in year 1620] (p. 66). Erasmus, in contrast, continues to be banned in full force with eight titles to his name (p. 93).
This copy of the 1758 edition is also heavily annotated. Over two dozen additions have been inscribed by a contemporary owner, with most texts having been banned in decrees of 1759. Though one emendation (p. 219) is noted as arising from a decree of 1742, possibly an incidence of the owner adding a text which they believe ought to have remained. A later inscription on the flyleaf reads: “[?]Maurata, janvier 1839”.
INDEX LIBRORUM PROHIBITORUM et Expurgandorum novissimus. Pro Catholicis Hispaniarum Regnis Philippi IV, Regnis Cathol. Ill. Ac R. D.D. Antonii a Sotomaior, Supremi Præsidis, &c. jussu ac studiis, luculenter & vigilantissimè recognitus: De consilio supremi sentus inquisitionis generalis. Folio,  leaves, xxxi pp.,  leaves, 992 pp. Large woodcut arms of Philip IV adorn the title-page; title printed in black and red; inscribed: “Dono V[ir] di[scretus] Domini Norberti Goeman præpositi in [?], 1700”. Madrid. Ex Typographae Didaci Diaz, 1667. Contemporary speckle calf binding, elaborately gilt-decorated spine. Some marginal paper reinforcements added to pages’ fore-edges, none obstructing text, some very light dampstaining in the early pages almost exclusively contained in the margins. Handsome binding with general rubbing and with chip at top of spine (exposing headband).
INDEX LIBRORUM PROHIBITUM Alexandri VII, Pontificus Maximi Iussu Editus. Actorum XIX. Mult autem ex eis qui feurant curiosa sectati, contulerunt Libros & combusserunt coram omnibus. Folio. 11, 304 pp. Large woodcut papal arms with supporters, title printed in red and black. Light foxing. Rome. Ex Typographia Rev. Cam. Apost., 1667.
INDEX LIBRORUM PROHIBITUM SSmi D.N. Benedicti XIV. Pontificus Maximi jussu Recognitus, atque editus. Octavo,  leaves, xxxvi, 304 pp. Famed engraved frontispiece of book burning on flyleaf. Woodcut coat of arms of Benedict XIV on title-page. Contemporary vellum binding. Rome. Ex Typographia Rev. Camerae Apostolicae, 1758. A little warping to vellum with some wear at spine ends.
INDICIS NOVISSIMI LIBRORUM PROHIBITUM APPENDIX in qua Recensentur deinceps proscriptie post annum M. DCC. LVII. usque ad diem XVII. Januarii M. DCC. LXIII. Octavo, 8 pp. Some foxing. Rome. Ex Typographia Reverendae Camerae Apostolicae, 1763.
De Bujanda, J.M., Index Librorum Prohibitorum, 1600–1966 (Montréal: Médiaspaul, 2002)
Dolan, John Patrick and Hubert Jedin (eds.), History of the Church, 10 vols. (London: Burns & Oates, 1965–1981), X: The Church in the Modern Age, trans. Anselm Biggs (1981)
Haigneré, Daniel (ed.), Inventaire Sommaire des Archives Départementales Antérieures a 1790: Pas-de-Calais, Archives Ecclésiastique – Série G (Arras: Laroche, 1891)
Heilbron, John L., “Censorship of Astronomy in Italy after Galileo”, in The Church and Galileo, ed. Ernan McMullin (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2005)
Lenard, Max, “On the Origin, Development and Demise of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum”, Journal of Access Services 3.4 (2006), 51–63
Milton, John, Areopagitica: A Speech of Mr. John Milton, for the Liberty of Unlicens’d Printing, to the Parliament of England (London: [n.p.], 1644)
Petzholdt, Julius, Bibliotheca Bibliographica (Leipzig: [n.p.], 1866).
Price: $5,200 .