Rare Book Monthly

Articles - August - 2021 Issue

Book Censorship is Raising Its Head Again, and This is a Bad Sign

Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban whose government is clamping down on LGBTQ books.

Some disturbing news has come out of Hungary recently of concern to those who support freedom of ideas in books. Hungary might not seem an important place on the world stage, but as those cognizant of history know, some terrible things have emanated from Europe, such as a pair of world wars and mass murders. In too many places, freedom today finds itself on the run. If this course isn't changed, the outcome can only be bad.

 

A recently enacted law in Hungary prohibits the dissemination of material allegedly depicting or promoting non-normal behavior to children, specifically, homosexuality or gender transitions. It quickly led to the imposition of a fine on one of Hungary's largest bookstore chains, Lira Konyv. The fine was for $830 for selling a book depicting a family headed by a same-sex couple. The prosecutor claimed the book contains content which “deviates from the norm.” In an attempt to ward off further such charges, Lira Konyv has begun posting signs that read, “This store sells books with non-traditional content.” We will see if this stops the harassment, but I wouldn't count on it.

 

The supposed reason for this law is to protect children from pedophiles, a red herring if ever there was one. There aren't heterosexual pedophiles too? This is nothing new for Hungary's authoritarian leader and ultra-nationalist Victor Orban. Other minorities have also been attacked by his government. It is a tactic that has been used by all sorts of leaders more interested in their own power than the well-being of their citizens. Europe has its history. Today, many European countries have sizable populations who favor such leaders and policies. Poland is already much in Orban's camp. This law mimics laws already in place in Russia.

 

The European Union reacted strongly against this new law. They called on Hungary to reverse it. Orban refused. Dutch Prime Minster Mark Rutte called on Hungary's leaders to withdraw the law, otherwise, “European values are not your values,” and they need to reconsider whether the nation belongs in the European Union.

 

The trend has not been good in recent years, authoritarians on the move, democrats in retreat. Elections in Europe these days are causes for increasing nervousness. Brazil has turned to a strongman. The Arab spring is over. Russia, so promising in the 1990s, is back under the thumb of a brutal dictator no different from those who openly called themselves “communists.” Little more need be said about the last bastion of freedom on the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong. A few days ago, five people were arrested for publishing a children's book about sheep trying to hold back wolves from their village. The charge is sedition. It is free no more.

 

America speaks for itself.

 

These are difficult times. Life has been upended through most of the world. We have spent over a year under the domination of Covid, poverty is widespread and income differentials between rich and poor seem to be widening, not narrowing. Climate catastrophes are commonplace and refugees cross borders in search of refuge in countries hostile to their presence. These are the types of conditions that have led to terrible outcomes in the past. A common early warning sign is the scapegoating of minorities. Book burning, literal or figurative, is never far behind. We need to see such behavior for what it is before it is too late.

 

Hungary was once an inspiration to mankind. Brave Hungarians stood up to their Soviet masters during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. They put their lives on the line for freedom and many paid the price. Now look at what it has become. Freedom is never free. The price of liberty is still eternal vigilance.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Winston Churchill. The Second World War. Set of First-Edition Volumes. 6,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard. A Collection of The Pooh Books. Set of First-Editions. 18,600 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Salvador Dalí, Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Finely Bound and Signed Limited Edition. 15,000 USD
    Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ian Fleming. Live and Let Die. First Edition. 9,500 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter Series. Finely Bound First Printing Set of Complete Series. 5,650 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. First Edition, First Printing. 4,200 USD
  • Manuscript Masterpieces from the Schøyen Collection
    London auction, 11 June
    BROWSE NOW
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Holkham Hebrew Bible. In Hebrew, decorated manuscript on vellum [Toledo, 2nd quarter 13th century]. £1,500,000–3,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Crosby-Schøyen Codex. In Coptic, manuscript on papyrus [Upper Egypt, middle 3rd century / 4th century]. £2,000,000–3,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Geraardsbergen Bible. In Latin, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Southern Netherlands, late 12th century]. £700,000–1,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now : Jean de Courcy (fl. 1420). The Chronique de la Bouquechardiere. In French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1480]. £200,000–300,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The ‘Catherine de Medici’ Hours. In Latin and French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1485]. £120,000–180,000
  • Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Potter (Beatrix). Complete set of four original illustrations for the nursery rhyme, 'This pig went to market', 1890s. £60,000 to £80,000.
    Forum, May 30: Dante Alighieri.- Lactantius (Lucius Coelius Firmianus). Opera, second edition, Rome, 1468. £40,000 to £60,000.
    Forum, May 30: Distilling.- Brunschwig (Hieronymus). Liber de arte Distillandi de Compositis, first edition of the so-called 'Grosses Destillierbuch', Strassburg, 1512. £22,000 to £28,000.
    Forum, May 30: Eliot (T.S.), W. H. Auden, Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin, Robert Lowell, Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, & others. A Personal Anthology for Eric Walter White, 60 autograph poems. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum, May 30: Cornerstone of French Enlightenment Philosophy.- Helvetius (Claude Adrien). De l'Esprit, true first issue "A" of the suppressed first edition, Paris, 1758. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Szyk (Arthur). The Haggadah, one of 125 copies, this out-of-series, Beaconsfield Press, 1940. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Fleming (Ian). Casino Royale, first edition, first impression, 1953. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Japan.- Ryusui (Katsuma). Umi no Sachi [Wealth of the Sea], 2 vol., Tokyo, 1762. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Computing.- Operating and maintenance manual for the BINAC binary automatic computer built for Northrop Aircraft Corporation 1949, Philadelphia, 1949. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Burmese School (probably circa 1870s). Folding manuscript, or parabaik, from the Court Workshop at the Royal Court at Manadaly, Burma, [c.1870s]. £8,000 to £12,000.
  • Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    K. Marx, Das Kapital,1867. Dedication copy. Est: € 120,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Latin and French Book of Hours, around 1380. Est: € 25,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Theodor de Bry, Indiae Orientalis, 1598-1625. Est: € 80,000
    Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Breviary, Latin manuscript, around 1450-75. Est: € 10,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    G. B. Piranesi, Vedute di Roma, 1748-69. Est: € 60,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    K. Schmidt-Rottluff, Arbeiter, 1921. Orig. watercolour on postcard. Est: € 18,000
    Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Breviarium Romanum, Latin manuscript, 1474. Est: € 20,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    C. J. Trew, Plantae selectae, 1750-73. Est: € 28,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    M. Beckmann, Apokalypse, 1943. Est: € 50,000
    Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Ulrich von Richenthal, Das Concilium, 1536. Est: € 9,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    I. Kant, Critik der reinen Vernunft, 1781. Est: €12,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Arbeiter-Illustrierte Zeitung (AIZ) / Die Volks-Illustrierte (VI), 1932-38. Est: €8,000

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions