List of destroyed libraries

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Birmingham Central Library destroyed by fire, 1879

Libraries have been deliberately or accidentally destroyed or badly damaged. Sometimes a library is purposely destroyed as a form of cultural cleansing.[citation needed] There are examples of accidentally destroyed libraries by human actions. Other times they are damaged by natural disasters like earthquakes, floods or accidental fires.

Library fires have happened sporadically through the centuries: notable examples are the destruction of the Library of Alexandria and the accidental burning of the Duchess Anna Amalia Library in Weimar. Causes vary from arson to the sun's rays setting fire to leaflets through the action of a magnifying lens in a library in Northam, Devon.

Causes and prevention[edit]

In earlier times mildew was considered a major problem in many libraries and so the emphasis on library design was to increase air flow by, for example, leaving openings under the shelves in adjoining floors. In a fire the flames will be drawn floor to floor by the air flow thus ensuring the relatively easy destruction of a whole library rather than a small section.

Advances in technology have reduced the possibility of a library collection being destroyed by fire. These include water sprinklers, fire doors, freezers, alarms, smoke detectors, suppression systems, and emergency generators. Older libraries are usually converted by closing up air flow openings and installing fire doors, alarms and sprinklers. Air conditioning reduces the mold problems. These are all essential parts of new library design.

There is no recovery possible if a book is burnt so it is accepted that a better solution is to put out the fire with water and then dry out the books. As mold destroys paper the books are frozen until they can be dried. This process will damage the book but not destroy it and the information will be intact.

In order to minimize the possibility of damage from fire, or other causes, and decrease the time needed for recovery after a destructive event, all libraries need a disaster management and recovery plan. This can be an ongoing process which will include professional development following updates in technology for key staff, training for the remaining staff, checking and maintaining disaster kits, and review of the disaster plan.

In addition, fire-safety investigations are periodically carried out, especially regarding historical libraries. The Library of Congress, for example, experienced a year-long inspection in 2000. Before the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995, the Library of Congress and all Capitol Hill buildings were exempt from safety regulations.[1] Balancing historical preservation and contemporary safety standards proves to be a difficult task for "even a 12-year rehabilitation of LC completed in 1997 did not address many fire hazards".[2] After the Compliance Office inspection, however, the LC announced their wholehearted commitment "to achieving the highest level of safety possible" and "the Architect of the Capitol and Library of Congress will report their progress to the Office of Compliance every three months".[1]

Information technology is another catalyst for careful fire protection. With so many computers in libraries there "is a decrease in floor space and an increase in more compact and powerful computer systems" which generates more heat and requires the use of many more outlets, increasing the number of potential ignition sources.[3] From as early as the 1950s the potential dangers of computer equipment, and the facilities that house them, was recognized. Thus in 1962 the National Fire Protection Association began developing the first safety standards specifically applicable to electronic computer systems.[3] This standard is called NFPA 75 Protection of Information Technology Equipment. FM Global Data Sheet 5–32 is another standard providing guidelines to protect against not only fire, but water, power loss, etc.[3]

Human action[edit]

Image Name of Library City Country Date of Destruction Perpetrator Reason and/or Account of Destruction
Epang-Palast.jpg Epang Palace (or Xianyang Palace) and State Archives Xianyang Qin China 206 BC Xiang Yu Xiang Yu, rebelling against emperor Qin Er Shi, led his troops into Xianyang in 206 BC. He ordered the destruction of the Epang Palace (or Xianyang Palace) by fire.[4] (Qin Shi Huang had ordered the burning of books and burying of scholars earlier.)
Ancientlibraryalex.jpg Library of Alexandria Alexandria Ancient Egypt Disputed Disputed Disputed,[5][6] see destruction of the Library of Alexandria.
Library of Antioch Antioch Ancient Syria 364 AD Emperor Jovian[7] The library was burnt by Emperor Jovian. It had been heavily stocked by the aid of his non-Christian predecessor, Emperor Julian
Egypt.Alexandria.PompeysPillar.01.jpg Library of the Serapeum Alexandria Ancient Egypt 392 AD Theophilus of Alexandria The library was burned and looted at the decree of Theophilus of Alexandria, who was so ordered by Theodosius I.
Library of Ctesiphon Ctesiphon, Khvârvarân Ancient Persia 651 AD Arab Invaders Books thrown into the Euphrates on the order of Caliph Umar.[citation needed]
Library of
al-Hakam II
Córdoba Al-Andalus 976 AD Al-Mansur Ibn Abi Aamir & religious scholars All books consisting of "ancient science" were destroyed in a surge of ultra-orthodoxy.[8]
Library of Rayy Rayy Persia 1029 AD Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni Burned the library and all books deemed as heretical.[9]
Library of Ghazna Ghazna Ghurid empire 1151 AD 'Ala ad-Din Husain City was sacked and burned for seven days. Libraries and palaces built by the Ghaznavids were destroyed.[10]
Library of Nishapur Nishapur 1154 AD Oghuz Turks City partially destroyed, libraries sacked and burned.[11]
Nalanda University India ruins.jpg Nalanda Nalanda India 1193 AD Bakhtiyar Khilji Nalanda University complex (the most renowned repository of Buddhist knowledge in the world at the time) was sacked by Turkic Muslim invaders under Bakhtiyar Khilji; this event is seen as a milestone in the decline of Buddhism in India.[12]
Imperial Library of Constantinople Constantinople Byzantine Empire 1204 AD The Crusaders In 1204, the library became a target of the knights of the Fourth Crusade. The library itself was destroyed and its contents burned or sold. The great part of the library that was saved later became absorbed into the Ottoman Sultan's library after the Muslim forces of Mehmed II, Sultan of the Ottoman Turks, captured Constantinople at the end of the siege of 1453.
House of Wisdom Baghdad Iraq 1258 AD Mongol Invaders Allegedly destroyed during the Battle of Baghdad, but this is disputed by modern scholars, who point to the library's loss of importance after the capital moved to Samarra in the ninth century, to the fact that several of the other famous libraries allegedly destroyed at the same time were authoritatively reported to still exist over a hundred years later, and to the foundation of an important library in Persia using books collected by the Mongol King responsible for the city's capture
Granada madraza2.jpg Madrassah Library Granada Crown of Castile 1499 AD Troops commanded by Cardinal Cisneros The library was attacked by troops of Cardinal Cisneros in late 1499, the books were taken to the Plaza Bib-Rambla, where they were burned in public.
Bibliotheca Corviniana Ofen Ottoman Empire 1526 AD Troops of the Ottoman Empire. Library was destroyed by Ottomans.[13]
DSCN1948PenrynPrayerBookRebellionMemorial.jpg Glasney College Penryn, Cornwall England 1548 AD Royal officials The smashing and looting of the Cornish colleges at Glasney and Crantock brought an end to the formal scholarship which had helped to sustain the Cornish language and the Cornish cultural identity.
Dresden Codex p09.jpg Maya codices of the Yucatán Yucatán Mexico and Guatemala 1562-07-12 AD Diego de Landa Bishop De Landa, a Franciscan monk and conquistador during the Spanish conquest of Yucatán, wrote: "We found a large number of books in these characters and, as they contained nothing in which were not to be seen as superstition and lies of the devil, we burned them all, which they (the Maya) regretted to an amazing degree, and which caused them much affliction." Only three extant codices are widely considered unquestionably authentic.
Raglan Castle Gatehouse and library.jpg Raglan Library Raglan Castle Wales 1646 AD Parliamentary Army The Earl of Worcester's library was burnt during the English Civil War by forces under the command of Thomas Fairfax[14]
BurningofWashington1814.jpg Library of Congress Washington, D.C. United States 1814 AD Troops of the British Army The library was destroyed during the War of 1812 when British forces set fire to the U.S. Capitol during the Burning of Washington.[15]
University of Alabama Tuscaloosa, Alabama United States 1865-05-04 AD Troops of the Union Army During the American Civil War, Union troops destroyed most buildings on the University of Alabama campus, including its library of approximately 7,000 volumes.[16]
Third Anglo-Burmese War A.jpg Royal library of the Kings of Burma Mandalay Palace Burma 1885 - 1887 AD Troops of the British Army The British looted the palace at the end of the 3rd Anglo-Burmese War (some of the artefacts which were taken away are still on display in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London)[17] and burned down the royal library.
Louvain Library WWI.jpg Library of the Catholic University of Leuven Leuven Belgium 1914-08-25 German Occupation Troops The Germans set the library on fire as part of the burning of the entire city in an attempt to use terror to quell Belgian resistance to occupation.[18]
Four Courts Conflagration.jpg Public Records Office of Ireland Dublin Ireland 1922 AD Disputed. Poss. deliberately by Anti-Treaty IRA or accidental ignition of their stored explosives due to shelling by Provisional Government forces.[19] The Four Courts was occupied by the Anti-Treaty IRA at the start of the Irish Civil War. The building was bombarded by the Provisional Government forces under Michael Collins.[20]
1933-may-10-berlin-book-burning.JPG Institut für Sexualwissenschaft Berlin Nazi Germany 1933-05-?? Members of the Deutsche Studentenschaft On 6 May 1933, the Deutsche Studentenschaft made an organised attack on the Institute of Sex Research. A few days later, the Institute's library and archives were publicly hauled out and burned in the streets of the Opernplatz.
National University of Tsing Hua, University Nan-k'ai, Institute of Technology of He-pei, Medical College of He-pei, Agricultural College of He-pei, University Ta Hsia, University Kuang Hua, National University of Hunan China 1937 – 1945 AD World War II Japanese Troops During World War II, Japanese military forces destroyed or partly destroyed numerous Chinese libraries, including libraries at the National University of Tsing Hua, Peking (lost 200,000 of 350,000 books), the University Nan-k'ai, T'ien-chin (totally destroyed, 224,000 books lost), Institute of Technology of He-pei, T'ien-chin (completely destroyed), Medical College of He-pei, Pao-ting (completely destroyed), Agricultural College of He-pei, Pao-ting (completely destroyed), University Ta Hsia, Shanghai (completely destroyed), University Kuang Hua, Shanghai (completely destroyed), National University of Hunan (completely destroyed).[21]
Louvain Library WWI.jpg Library of the Catholic University of Leuven Leuven Belgium 1940-05-?? AD German Occupation Troops Caught fire during German invasion of Louvain, Belgium.[22]
Bombed National Library Belgrad.JPG National Library of Serbia Belgrade Yugoslavia 1941-04-06 AD Nazi German Luftwaffe Destroyed during the World War II bombing of Belgrade.
Vogel Załuski Library.jpg Załuski Library Warsaw Poland 1944 AD Nazi German troops The library was burned down during the Nazi suppression of the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. The burning of this library was part of the general setting on fire of a large part of the city of Warsaw.[23]
National Library of Cambodia Phnom Penh Cambodia 1976 – 1979 AD The Khmer Rouge[21] Burnt most of the books and all bibliographical records. Only 20% of materials survived.[21]
Tamilnet.com picture of burned Jaffna Library Jaffna Public Library Jaffna Sri Lanka 1981-05-?? AD Plainclothes police officers and others In May 1981 a mob composed of thugs and plainclothes police officers went on a rampage in minority Tamil-dominated northern Jaffna, and burned down the Jaffna Public Library. At least 95,000 volumes – the second largest library collection in South Asia – were destroyed.[24]
Picture of burned Sikh Reference Library Sikh Reference Library Punjab India 1984-06-07 AD Troops acting under Indira Gandhi's orders Before its destruction, the library contained rare books and handwritten manuscripts on Sikh religion, history, and culture[25] It could have been a desperate act on failure to locate letters or documents that could have implicated the then Indian government and its leader Indira Gandhi [26]
Biblioteca Nationala Universitara.jpg!Palatul Fundatiei Universitare (Biblioteca Centrala Universitara).jpg Central University Library of Bucharest Bucharest Romania 1989-12-2? CE Romanian Land Forces Burnt down during the Romanian Revolution.[27][28]
Oriental Institute in Sarajevo Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina 1992-05-17 AD Bosnian Serb Army Destroyed by the shellfire during the Siege of Sarajevo.

[29] [30][31]

Evstafiev-bosnia-cello.jpg National and University Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina 1992-08-25 AD Bosnian Serb Army The library was completely destroyed during the Siege of Sarajevo.[29]
Abkhazian Research Institute of History, Language and Literature & National Library of Abkhazia Sukhumi Abkhazia 1992-10-?? AD Georgian Armed Forces Destroyed during the War in Abkhazia.[32]
Pol-i-Khomri Public Library Pol-i-Khomri Afghanistan 1998 AD Taliban militia It held 55,000 books and old manuscripts.[33]
Iraq National Library Destroyed.jpg Iraq National Library and Archive, Al-Awqaf Library, Central Library of the University of Baghdad, Library of Bayt al-Hikma, Central Library of the University of Mosul and other libraries Baghdad Iraq 2003-04-?? AD Unknown members of the Bagdad population Several libraries looted, set on fire, damaged and destroyed in various degrees during the 2003 Iraq War.[34][35][36][37][38]
Egyptian Scientific Institute Cairo Egypt 2011-12-?? AD A first estimate says that only 30,000 volumes have been saved of a total of 200,000.[39]
Ahmed Baba Institute(Timbuktu library) Timbuktu Mali 2013-01-28 AD Islamists militia The library was burned down, it contained over 20,000 manuscripts with only a fraction of them having been scanned as of January 2013.[40][41][42]
Libraries of Fisheries and Oceans Canada Canada 2013 AD Government of Canada headed by prime minister Stephen Harper Alleged digitization effort to reduce the nine original libraries to seven and save $C443,000 annual cost.[43] It is alleged that only 5–6% of the material was digitized, and that scientific records and research created at a taxpayer cost of tens of millions of dollars was dumped, burned, and given away.[44] Particularly noted are baseline data important to ecological research, and data from 19th century exploration.
Saeh Library Tripoli Lebanon 2014-01-03 AD Unknown The library was burned down, it contained over 80,000 manuscripts and books.[45][46][47][48]
National Archives of Bosnia and Herzegovina (partially) Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina 2014-02-07 AD Unknown During the 2014 unrest in Bosnia and Herzegovina large amounts of historical documents were destroyed when sections of the Archives of Bosnia and Herzegovina, housed in the presidential building, were set on fire. Among the lost archival material were documents and gifts from the Ottoman period, original documents from the 1878-1918 Austro-Hungarian rule in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as documentations of the interwar period, the 1941-1945 rule of the Independent State of Croatia, papers from the following years, and about 15000 files from the 1996-2003 Human Rights Chamber for Bosnia and Herzegovina.[49][50]

In the repositories that were burnt, about 60 percent of the material was lost, according to estimates by Šaban Zahirović, the head of the Archives.[51]

Natural disasters[edit]

Image Name of Library City Country Date of Destruction Causes and/or Account of Destruction
Imperial University Library in Tokyo, Max Müller Library, Nishimura Library, Hoshino Library Japan 1923-09-?? AD An earthquake and the following fires.[21]
National Library of Nicaragua Rubén Darío Nicaragua 1931 AD, 1972 AD It was damaged in the 1931 earthquake. Another earthquake in 1972 caused damages; furthermore, it was looted.[52]
Meulaboh.jpg Several libraries, archives, and museums[citation needed] India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Thailand, Sri Lanka 2004-12-?? AD The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. See Library damage resulting from the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake.

Fire[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Fineberg, Gail. "Moving Toward a Safer Library. Compliance Office Issues Fire Safety Report," Library of Congress Information Bulletin 60 no. 3, 65, March 2001
  2. ^ L.A., "Inspection Scorches Fire Safety at LC," American Libraries, 32 no. 3 17–18, March 2001
  3. ^ a b c Fixen, Edward L. and Vidar S. Landa,"Avoiding the Smell of Burning Data," Consulting-Specifying Engineer, May 2006, Vol. 39 Issue 5, p47-51
  4. ^ Sima Qian. Records of the Grand Historian, Biography of Emperor Gaozu.
  5. ^ The Alexandrian Library"
  6. ^ Lewis, Bernard. "The Vanished Library". The New York Review of Books. 37(14). 27 September 1990.
  7. ^ Albrecht, Michael von & Schmeling, Gareth L. (1997) A History of Roman Literature; p. 1744
  8. ^ Ann Christy, Christians in Al-Andalus:711–1000, (Curzon Press, 2002), 142.
  9. ^ "Moslem Libraries and Sectarian Propaganda", Ruth Stellhorn Mackensen, The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, Vol. 51, No. 2 (January , 1935), 93–94.
  10. ^ C.E. Bosworth, The Later Ghaznavids, (Columbia University Press, 1977), 117.
  11. ^ The Tomb of Omar Khayyâm, George Sarton, Isis, Vol. 29, No. 1 (July , 1938):16.
  12. ^ Sen, Gertrude Emerson (1964) The Story of Early Indian Civilization. Orient Longmans
  13. ^ (DE)Edit Szegedi, Geschichtsbewusstsein und Gruppenidentität, (Bohlau Verlag, 2002), 223.
  14. ^ Johnson, Paul. "Raglan Castle and the Civil War". Castlewales. Retrieved 16 July 2010. 
  15. ^ "Jefferson's Legacy: A Brief History of the Library of Congress". Library of Congress. 2006-03-06. Retrieved 2008-01-14. 
  16. ^ Wolfe, Suzanne Rau (1983). The University of Alabama: A Pictorial History. Tuscaloosa, Alabama: The University of Alabama Press. pp. 57–59. 
  17. ^ Bird, George W. (1897). Wanderings in Burma. London: F. J. Bright & Son. p. 254. 
  18. ^ Kramer, Alan (2008). Dynamic of Destruction: culture and mass killing in the First World War. London: Penguin. ISBN 978-1-84614-013-6. Gibson, Craig (2008). "The culture of destruction in the First World War". Times Literary Supplement (January 30, 2008). Retrieved 2008-02-18. 
  19. ^ Hill, J. R. (2003). A New History of Ireland Volume VII: Ireland 1921-84. Oxford University Press. pp. Chapter II p2. ISBN 978-0-19-161559-7. 
  20. ^ Ferriter, Diarmaid (2010). The Limits of Liberty – Episode 1. RTÉ. 
  21. ^ a b c d Lost Memory — Libraries and Archived Destroyed in the Twentieth Century (Archived at WebCite)
  22. ^ University of Louvain, International Dictionary of University Histories, ed. Carol J. Summerfield, Mary Elizabeth Devine, Anthony Levi, (Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1998), 531.
  23. ^ Rebecca Knuth (2006). Burning Books and Leveling Libraries: extremist violence and cultural destruction. Westport, Conn.: Praeger. p. 166. ISBN 0-275-99007-9. 
  24. ^ Knuth, Rebecca (2006-06-27). "Destroying a Symbol: Checkered History of Sri Lanka's Jaffna Public Library" (PDF). IFLA. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  25. ^ Kaur, Jaskaran; Crossette, Barbara (2006).|http://ensaaf-org.jklaw.net/publications/reports/20years/20years-2nd.pdf
  26. ^ http://www.tribuneindia.com/2000/20000612/main7.htm
  27. ^ The Central University Library of Bucharest, official site: "the History".
  28. ^ "Legea recunoştinţei, made in Romania", Evenimentul Zilei, 03 June 2010.
  29. ^ a b Collection of articles and studies on destruction of libraries and archives in Bosnia and Herzegovina (available for download in .pdf)
  30. ^ Erasing the Past: The Destruction of Libraries and Archives in Bosnia-Herzegovina (Archived at WebCite)
  31. ^ Crimes of war, crimes of peace: destruction of libraries during and after the Balkan wars of the 1990s (Archived at WebCite)
  32. ^ Abkhazia: Cultural Tragedy Revisited, Caucasus Reporting Service, Institute for War and Peace Reporting
  33. ^ Censorship of historical thought: a world guide, 1945–2000, Antoon de Baets
  34. ^ Prized Iraqi annals 'lost in blaze' (Archived at WebCite)
  35. ^ Photos of the Iraq National Library 2003–08
  36. ^ PICTURES OF DAMAGED LIBRARIES IN IRAQ
  37. ^ Middle East Librarians Association Committee on Iraqi Libraries
  38. ^ Assessment of damage to Libraries and Archives in Iraq
  39. ^ Un incendio durante los disturbios de El Cairo destruye el original de la 'Descripción de Egipto' encargada por Napoleón (Archived at WebCite)
  40. ^ Harding, Luke (January 28, 2013). "Timbuktu mayor: Mali rebels torched library of historic manuscripts". The Guardian. Retrieved January 28, 2013. 
  41. ^ Walker, Peter (January 28, 2013). "Timbuktu library is treasure house of centuries of Malian history". The Guardian. Retrieved January 28, 2013. 
  42. ^ Fleeing Islamists burn priceless Timbuktu library, accessed 29 January 2013
  43. ^ Andrew Nikiforuk (30 December 2013). "Secret Memo Casts Doubt on Feds' Claims for Science Library Closures: Goal stated is 'culling' research, not preserving and sharing through digitization". The Tyee. 
  44. ^ "Irreplaceable research lost from purged federal libraries: BC Green Party MLA Andrew Weaver says government didn’t digitize entire libraries as promised". News1130. 6 January 2014. 
  45. ^ "Lebanon Loses 78000 Books To Terrorism: Tripoli’s "Al Sa’eh" Library Burned". Archived from the original on 2014-01-05. 
  46. ^ "Thousands of books, manuscripts torched in fire at historic Lebanese library". 
  47. ^ "Tripoli Figures Condemn Torching Famed Library as Father Sarrouj 'Forgives Attackers'". Archived from the original on 2014-01-05. 
  48. ^ "20 Pictures Of Al Sa’eh Library in Tripoli Before It Got Torched". Archived from the original on 2014-01-05. 
  49. ^ "Ogromna šteta, dio dokumentacije nepovratno uništen". tportal.hr. 13 February 2014. Retrieved 19 February 2014. 
  50. ^ "Nepovratno uništen deo Arhiva BiH". B92. 13 February 2014. Retrieved 19 February 2014. 
  51. ^ "Direktor Arhiva BiH tvrdi: Izgorjelo je 60 posto depoa". Oslobođenje. 13 February 2014. Retrieved 17 February 2014. 
  52. ^ Biblioteca Nacional Rubén Darío (Spanish)
  53. ^ Charles A. Halbert Public Library (Archived at WebCite)

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]