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List of destroyed libraries

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Birmingham Central Library destroyed by fire, 1879
The urn containing ashes of the most precious Polish incunabula and manuscripts, deliberately burnt in the Krasiński Library by a Nazi German Brandkommando following the fall of the Warsaw Uprising

Libraries have been deliberately or accidentally destroyed or badly damaged. Sometimes a library is purposely destroyed as a form of cultural cleansing.[1]

There are examples of libraries accidentally destroyed by human actions. Others were 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, the destruction of Library of Nalanda in India and the accidental burning of the Duchess Anna Amalia Library in Weimar, Germany. Causes vary from arson to the Sun's rays setting fire to leaflets through the action of a magnifying lens, as happened to a library in Northam, Devon.[2][3]

Causes and prevention

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 would be drawn from floor to floor by the air flow, leading quite easily to the destruction of a whole library rather than just a small part.

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 altered 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 it is better 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.

To reduce the chance of damage from fire, or other causes, and decrease the time needed for recovery after a destructive event, 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 for historical libraries. The Library of Congress, for example, underwent 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.[4] 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".[5] 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".[4]

Information technology is another reason 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 generate more heat and require the use of many more outlets, increasing the number of potential ignition sources.[6] 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.[6] 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 also water, power loss, etc.[6]

Human action

Image Name of Library City Country Date of Destruction Perpetrator Reason and/or Account of Destruction
Epang-Palast.jpg 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 Xianyang Palace by fire.[7]
Ancientlibraryalex.jpg Library of Alexandria Alexandria Ancient Egypt Disputed Disputed Disputed,[8][9] see destruction of the Library of Alexandria.
Imperial library of Luoyang Luoyang Han China 189 AD Dong Zhuo Much of the city, including the imperial library, was purposefully burned when its population was relocated during an evacuation.[10][11]: 460–461 
Library of Antioch Antioch Ancient Syria 364 AD Emperor Jovian[12] The library had been heavily stocked by the aid of the perpetrator's non-Christian predecessor, Emperor Julian (the Apostate).
Egypt.Alexandria.PompeysPillar.01.jpg Library of the Serapeum Alexandria Ancient Egypt 392 Theophilus of Alexandria Following the conversion of the temple of Serapis into a church, the library was destroyed.[13]
Library of al-Hakam II Córdoba Al-Andalus 976 Al-Mansur Ibn Abi Aamir & religious scholars All books consisting of "ancient science" were destroyed in a surge of ultra-orthodoxy.[14][15]
Library of Rayy Rayy Buyid Emirate 1029 Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni Burned the library and all books deemed as heretical.[16]
Library of Avicenna Isfahan Kakuyid Emirate 1034 Sultan Mas'ud I After conquering the city of Isfahan, the library of Avicenna was destroyed.[17]
Library of Banu Ammar (Dar al-'ilm) Tripoli Fatimid Caliphate 1109 Crusaders Following Sharaf al-Daulah's surrender to Baldwin I of Jerusalem, Genoese mercenaries burned and looted part of the city. The library, Dar al-'ilm, was burned.[18]
Library of Ghazna Ghazna Ghurid empire 1151 'Ala al-Din Husayn City was sacked and burned for seven days. Libraries and palaces built by the Ghaznavids were destroyed.[17]
Library of Nishapur Nishapur Seljuk Empire 1154 Oghuz Turks City partially destroyed, libraries sacked and burned.[19]
Nalanda University India ruins.jpg Nalanda Nalanda India 1193 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 the perpetrator; this event is seen as a milestone in the decline of Buddhism in India.[20]
Imperial Library of Constantinople Constantinople Byzantine Empire 1204 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.
Alamut Castle's library Alamut Castle Iran 1256 Mongols Library destroyed after the capitulation of Alamut.[21]
House of Wisdom Baghdad Iraq 1258 Mongols Destroyed during the Battle of Baghdad[22]
Libraries of Constantinople Constantinople Byzantine Empire 1453 Ottoman Turks After the Fall of Constantinople, hundreds upon thousands of manuscripts were removed, sold, or destroyed from Constantinople's libraries.[23]
Spain Andalusia Granada BW 2015-10-25 13-14-26 7 7 1.jpg Madrassah Library Granada Crown of Castile 1499 Cardinal Cisneros The library was ransacked by troops of Cardinal Cisneros in late 1499, the books were taken to the Plaza Bib-Rambla, where they were burned.[24]
Bibliotheca Corviniana Buda Hungary 1526 Ottoman Turks Library was destroyed by Ottomans in the Battle of Mohács.[25]
Monastic libraries England England 1530s Royal officials The monastic libraries were destroyed or dispersed following the dissolution of monasteries by Henry VIII.
DSCN1948PenrynPrayerBookRebellionMemorial.jpg Glasney College Penryn, Cornwall England 1548 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.
Records on Gozo Gozo Hospitaller Malta 1551 Ottoman Turks Most paper records held on Gozo were lost or destroyed during an Ottoman raid in 1551.[26] The raid is said to have "led to the near total destruction of documentary evidence for life in medieval Gozo."[27]
Dresden Codex p09.jpg Maya codices of the Yucatán Maní, Yucatán Mexico and Guatemala 1562-07-12 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 Parliamentary Army The Earl of Worcester's library was burnt during the English Civil War by forces under the command of Thomas Fairfax
Vogel Załuski Library.jpgZniszczony Dom pod Królami.pngDom Pod Królami w Warszawie 2021.jpg Załuski Library Warsaw Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth/German-occupied Poland
(General Government)
1794/1944 Imperial Russian Army/Nazi German troops After the Kościuszko Uprising (1794), Russian troops, acting on orders from Czarina Catherine II, seized the library's holdings and transported them to her personal collection at Saint Petersburg, where a year later it formed the cornerstone of the newly founded Imperial Public Library.[28] Parts of the collections were damaged or destroyed as they were mishandled while being removed from the library and transported to Russia, and many were stolen.[28][29] According to the historian Joachim Lelewel, the Zaluskis' books, "could be bought at Grodno by the basket".[28] The collection was later dispersed among several Russian libraries. Some parts of the Zaluski collection came back to Poland on two separate dates in the nineteenth century: 1842 and 1863.[28] In the 1920s the government of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic returned some of the former Załuski Library holdings to the recently established Second Polish Republic thanks to the Treaty of Riga. The building was destroyed by the Germans during World War II. German soldiers also deliberately destroyed the collection (held in the Krasiński Library at the time - see below) during the planned destruction of Warsaw in October 1944, after collapse of the Warsaw Uprising. [30] [31] [32] Only 1800 manuscripts and 30,000 printed materials from the original library survived the war. After the war, the original building was rebuilt under the Polish People's Republic. [33][34]
BurningofWashington1814.jpg Library of Congress Washington, D.C. United States 1814 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.[35] This attack was retaliation for the burning of the Canadian towns of York and Niagara by American troops in 1813.[36] Soon after its destruction, the Library of Congress was reestablished, largely thanks to the purchase of Thomas Jefferson's personal library in 1815. A second fire on December 24th, 1851 destroyed a large portion of the Library of Congress' collection again, however, resulting in the loss of about two-thirds of the Thomas Jefferson collection and an estimated 35,000 books in total.[37]
Several libraries Mexico City and major Mexican cities Mexico 1856-1867 Liberal troops and anti-clericalists During and after the Mexican Reform War, under the liberal governments of Benito Juárez and Ignacio Comonfort, many convent libraries and Church owned school libraries were sacked or destroyed by Liberal troops and looters, most notably included San Francisco Convent Library, which had over 16,000 books (great majority of them were unique collections of Spanish colonial era productions), the library was totally destroyed. Other important libraries included San Agustín Convent Library, was looted and burned. The Carmen de San Ángel Convent and its library were also totally destroyed (with a few books recovered), other affected convent libraries to different degrees were those of Santo Domingo, Las Capuchinas, Santa Clara, La Merced and the Church owned school Colegio de San Juan de Letrán, among others, all of them in Mexico City. Similar events happened all over Mexico, espcially in major cities. Besides books, other items such as altarpieces, unique collections of colonial period Baroque paintings, crosses, sculptures, gold and silver chalices (often robbed and melted) were also lost. Total estimates place the total of lost books and manuscripts at 100,000 by 1884.[38][39]
University of Alabama 1859.jpg University of Alabama Tuscaloosa, Alabama United States 1865-05-04 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.[40]
Mosque-Library Turnovo, Bulgaria Ottoman Empire 1877 Christian Bulgarians Turkish books in a library were destroyed when the mosque was burned.[41]
Third Anglo-Burmese War A.jpg Royal library of the Kings of Burma Mandalay Palace Burma 1885–1887 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)[42] and burned down the royal library.
Hanlin Academy cropped.jpg Hanlin Academy Library Hanlin Academy China 1900-06-23/4 Disputed. Possibly the Kansu Braves besieging the west of the Legation Quarter, or possibly by the international defending forces. During the Siege of the International Legations in Beijing at the height of the Boxer Rebellion, the unofficial national library of China at the Hanlin Academy, which was adjacent to the British Legation, was set on fire (by whom and whether deliberately or accidentally is still disputed) and almost entirely destroyed. Many of the books and scrolls that survived the flames were subsequently looted by forces of the victorious foreign powers.
Louvain Library WWI.jpgLibrary of Louvain, 1940 (2).jpg Library of the Catholic University of Leuven Leuven Belgium 1914-08-25/1940-05 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.[43] The library caught again fire during the World War II German invasion of Louvain, Belgium.[44]
Four Courts Conflagration.jpg Public Records Office of Ireland Dublin Ireland 1922 Disputed. Poss. deliberately by Anti-Treaty IRA or accidental ignition of their stored explosives due to shelling by Provisional Government forces.[45] 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.[46]
Quema de conventos (1931).png Several religious libraries Madrid Republican Spain 1931 Anarchists and anti-clericalists In 1931, several groups of radical leftists and anarchists, with the complicit inaction of the Republican government, burned down several convents in Madrid. Most included important libraries. Among them, the Colegio de la Inmaculada y San Pedro Claver and the Instituto Católico de Artes e Industrias with a library of 20 000 volumes; the Casa Profesa with a library of 80 000 volumes, considered the second best in Spain at the time, after the National Library; and the Instituto Católico de Artes e Industrias, with 20 000 volumes, including the archives of the paleographer García Villada, and 100 000 popular songs compiled by P. Antonio Martínez. Everything was lost.
Oriental Library.jpg Oriental Library (also known as Dongfang Tushuguan) Zhabei, Shanghai China 1932-02-01 Imperial Japanese Army During the January 28 incident in the Second Sino-Japanese War Japanese forces bombed The Commercial Press and the attached Oriental Library, setting it alight and destroying most of its collection of more than 500,000 volumes.[47][48][49]
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 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).[50]
Bombed National Library Belgrad.JPG National Library of Serbia Belgrade Yugoslavia 1941-04-06 Nazi German Luftwaffe Destroyed during the World War II bombing of Belgrade, on the order of Adolf Hitler himself.[51] Around 500.000 volumes and all collections of the library were destroyed in one of the largest book bonfires in European history.[52]
BZB NBKM 1910.jpg SS. Cyril and Methodius National Library Sofia Bulgaria 1943–1944 Allied bombing Allied air forces
Fragment elewacji budynku Biblioteki i Muzeum Ordynacji Krasinskich w Warszawie. 1945 (9834013).jpg Krasiński Library (housing special collections of the National Library of Poland, including the Załuski Library collection, as well as those of the Warsaw University Library and the Warsaw Public Library) Warsaw German-occupied Poland
(General Government)
1944 Nazi German troops The library was deliberately set ablaze by Nazi German troops in the aftermath of the suppression of the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. The burning of this library was part of the general planned destruction of Warsaw.[53]
Destroyed Zamoyski Library in Warsaw.jpg Library of the Zamoyski Family Entail Warsaw German-occupied Poland
(General Government)
1944 Nazi German troops The library (which housed the collections of the former Zamoyski Academy) was deliberately set ablaze by the Nazi German troops in the aftermath of the suppression of the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. The burning of this library was part of the general planned destruction of Warsaw. Depending on source, 1800 to 3000 items constituting only 1.5% to 3% of the original collection (albeit the most valuable part) survived, partially due to the fact that the troops burning the library did not notice the entrance to the basement at the rear side of the building.[54]
OldWarsaw3.jpg Central Archives of Historical Records Warsaw German-occupied Poland
(General Government)
1944 Nazi German troops In the aftermath of the suppression of the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, the archives (one of the pair of archives housing historical documents of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, with the other located in Vilnius) were not only deliberately set ablaze, but the Nazi German troops also entered each of the nine accessible fire-proof vaults in the underground shelter and meticulously burned one after another (entrance to the 10th was blocked by rubble, thus saving its contents). Part of the general planned destruction of Warsaw.[55]
Warsaw Public Library Warsaw German-occupied Poland
(General Government)
1945 Nazi German troops Before the outbreak of World War II the library already contained 500,000 book volumes. In January 1945 it was set ablaze by retreating Nazi German soldiers. As a result, 300,000 books were destroyed, another 100,000 were looted.[56]
Biblioteka Raczyńskich WW2.jpg Raczyński Library Poznań German-occupied Poland
(Reichsgau Wartheland)
1945 Nazi German troops The retreating Nazi German troops planted explosives in the building and triggered detonation, demolishing the entire structure and burning 90% of the collection, while the remaining 10% were looted in advance.
Bibliothèque nationale du Liban 1.jpg Lebanese National Library Beirut Lebanon 1975 Lebanese Civil War The 1975 war fighting began in Beirut's downtown where the National Library was located. During the war years, the library suffered significant damage. According to some sources, 1200 of most precious manuscripts disappeared, and no memory is left of the Library's organization and operational procedures of that time.
National Library - panoramio (1).jpg National Library of Cambodia Phnom Penh Cambodia 1976–1979 The Khmer Rouge[50] Burnt most of the books and all bibliographical records. Only 20% of materials survived.[50]
Public Library, Jaffna.JPG Jaffna Public Library Jaffna Sri Lanka 1981-05-?? 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.[57]
Sikh Reference Library Punjab India 1984-06-07 Indian Army Before its destruction, the library contained rare books and handwritten manuscripts on Sikh religion, history, and culture.[58] 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.[59][60]
Biblioteca Nationala Universitara.jpg!Palatul Fundatiei Universitare (Biblioteca Centrala Universitara).jpg Central University Library of Bucharest Bucharest Romania 1989-12-2? Romanian Land Forces Burnt down during the Romanian Revolution.[61][62]
Oriental Institute in Sarajevo Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina 1992-05-17 Bosnian Serb Army Destroyed by the shellfire during the Siege of Sarajevo.[63][64][65]
Evstafiev-bosnia-cello.jpg National and University Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina 1992-08-25 Bosnian Serb Army The library was completely destroyed during the Siege of Sarajevo.[63]
Abkhazian Research Institute of History, Language and Literature & National Library of Abkhazia Sukhumi Abkhazia 1992-10-?? Georgian Armed Forces Destroyed during the War in Abkhazia.[66][67]
City library Linköping Sweden 1996-09-20 Lack of evidence for trial After a year of repeated, minor arson attempts against an information bureau for immigrants located in the building, the library is eventually burnt down to the ground.
Pol-i-Khomri Public Library Pol-i-Khomri Afghanistan 1998 Taliban militia It held 55,000 books and old manuscripts.[68]
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-?? Unknown members of the Bagdad population Several libraries looted, set on fire, damaged and destroyed in various degrees during the 2003 Iraq War.[69][70][71][72][73]
The People's Library Occupy Wall Street Zuccotti Park Lower Manhattan New York City United States 2011 New York City Department of Sanitation Over 5,000 books cataloged in LibraryThing were seized.[74]
المجمع العلمي.JPG Egyptian Scientific Institute Cairo Egypt 2011-12-?? Aftermath of street clashes during the Egyptian revolution A first estimate says that only 30,000 volumes have been saved of a total of 200,000.[75]
CEDRHAB Timbuktu.jpg Ahmed Baba Institute (Timbuktu library) Timbuktu Mali 2013-01-28 Islamist militias Before the library was burned down, it contained over 20,000 manuscripts with only a fraction of them having been scanned as of January 2013. Before and during the occupation, more than 300,000 Timbuktu Manuscripts from the Institute and from private libraries were saved and moved to more secure locations.[76][77][78]
Ratanda Public Library Lesedi Local Municipality South Africa 2013-03-12 Public riots 1,807 library books, technological infrastructure including seven patron workstations, a photocopy machine and a large screen television.[79]
Libraries of Fisheries and Oceans Canada Canada 2013 Government of Canada headed by prime minister Stephen Harper Digitization effort to reduce the nine original libraries to seven and save $C443,000 annual cost.[80] Only 5–6% of the material was digitized, and scientific records and research created at a taxpayer cost of tens of millions of dollars were dumped, burned, and given away.[81] Particularly noted are baseline data important to ecological research, and data from 19th century exploration.
Saeh Library Tripoli Lebanon 2014-01-03 Unknown The Christian library was burned down, it contained over 80,000 manuscripts and books.[82][83][84]
Predsjedništvo BiH.JPG National Archives of Bosnia and Herzegovina (partially) Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina 2014-02-07 Seven Bosnian rioters suspected of having started the fire; two (Salem Hatibović and Nihad Trnka)[85] were arrested.[86]

On 4 April 2014, Salem Hatibović and Nihad Trnka were released (although still under suspicion of terrorism), on conditions that they don't leave their places of residence and abstain from having any contact with each other. Both were also mandated to report to the police once every week.[85]
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 15,000 files from the 1996–2003 Human Rights Chamber for Bosnia and Herzegovina.[87][88]

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.[89]

Mosul University libraries
and private libraries
Mosul Iraq 2014-12-?? Ongoing ISIL book burning Book burning.[90]
Libraries in Al Anbar Governorate Al Anbar Governorate Iraq 2014-12-?? Ongoing ISIL book burning Book burning.[90]
Пожар в здании ИНИОН РАН (16224409288).jpg Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences (INION) (partially?) Moscow Russia 2015-01-29 Unknown. Fire spread to 2000 m² in third Floor. Roof caved in. Additional water damage. Ambient temperature too high for self-freezing of damaged Works. Library contains 14 million books, including rare texts in ancient Slavic languages, documents from the League of Nations, UNESCO, and parliamentary reports from countries including the US dating back as far as 1789.[91]
Mosul public library
(Central Public Library in Ninawa)
Mosul Iraq 2015-02-?? ISIL book burning 8,000 rare old books and manuscripts. Manuscripts from the 18th century, Syriac books printed in Iraq's first printing house in the 19th century, books from the Ottoman era, Iraqi newspapers from the early 20th century.[92]
Howard College Law Library, University of KwaZulu-Natal Durban South Africa 2016-09-06 FeesMustFall protestors Law Library, including early Roman-Dutch law texts, burnt by protesters during confrontations with the police.[93]

Natural disasters

Image Name of Library City Country Date of Destruction Causes and/or Account of Destruction
Terreiro do Paço antes do Terramoto de 1755.png Royal Library of Portugal, Ribeira Palace Lisbon Portugal 1755-11-01 Great Lisbon earthquake
Imperial University Library in Tokyo, Max Müller Library, Nishimura Library, Hoshino Library Japan 1923-09-01 An earthquake and the following fires.[50]
National Library of Nicaragua Rubén Darío Nicaragua 1931, 1972 It was damaged in the 1931 earthquake. Another earthquake in 1972 caused damages; furthermore, it was looted.[94]
Meulaboh.jpg Several libraries, archives, and museums[citation needed] Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Thailand, Sri Lanka 2004-12-?? The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. See Library damage resulting from the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake.

Fire

Image Name of Library City Country Date of Destruction Account of Destruction
Ephesus Celsus Library Façade.jpg Library of Celsus Ephesus Roman Empire 262 A fire caused by the 262 Southwest Anatolia earthquake or a Gothic invasion.
University of Copenhagen Library Copenhagen Denmark 1728 October Copenhagen Fire of 1728
Cotton Library London, Ashburnham House United Kingdom 1731-10-23
Library of Congress Washington, D.C. United States 1814-08-25
Birmingham Central Library Birmingham United Kingdom 1879-01-11 A fire broke out behind a wooden partition serving as a temporary wall during building operations.[95] The fire caused extensive damage, with only 1,000 volumes saved from a stock of 50,000.[95]
University of Virginia Library Charlottesville, Virginia United States 1895-10-27
New York State Library Albany, New York United States 1911-03-29
National Library of Peru Lima Peru 1943-05-10
Jewish Theological Seminary of America library New York City United States 1966-04-18 Jewish Theological Seminary library fire
Charles A. Halbert Public Library Basseterre Saint Kitts and Nevis 1982[96]
Dalhousie University Law Library Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada 1985-08-16 A lightning strike caused a short circuit in the electrical system which started a fire that destroyed the top floor of the building which housed the library.[97]
Street lined with fire engines during Los Angeles Central Library fire, 1986.jpg
Los Angeles Central Library Los Angeles, California United States 1986-04-29 & 1986-09-03 At 10:52 a.m. on April 29, 1986, a fire alarm alerted staff and patrons of a fire in the library's main building. Over 350 firefighters responded to the blaze, which burned for about 7 hours. An estimated 400,000 books were destroyed and an additional 350,000 materials suffered significant amounts of smoke and water damage. Ultimately, the source of the fire was determined to be incendiary[clarification needed]; it began on the fifth tier of the northeast stack.[98]
Library of the Russian Academy of Sciences 02.jpg Academy of Sciences Library Leningrad USSR 1988-02-14 The 1988 fire in the Library of the USSR Academy of Sciences (now Library of the Russian Academy of Sciences) broke out on Sunday, February 14, 1988, in the newspaper section on the third floor of the library. According to the library's acting director Valeriy Leonov, the fire alarm sounded at 8:13 pm, when the library was closed for visitors. By the time the fire was extinguished the following afternoon, it had destroyed between 300,000[99] and 400,000[100] books of the total 12 million housed. About 3.5 million volumes initially became damp due to firefighting foam.
Norwich Library Norwich, England United Kingdom 1994-08-01[101] On August 1, 1994, Norwich Central Library caught fire due to an electrical fault. Over one hundred firefighters responded as the flames escalated and smoke became visible from twenty miles away. Over 100,000 books and thousands of historical documents were destroyed.[102]
Iraq National Library Baghdad Iraq 2003-04-15
Brand Anna Amalia 22.30Uhr.JPG Duchess Anna Amalia Library Weimar Germany 2004-09-02
Glasgow School of Art, Rennie Mackintosh Library Glasgow, Scotland United Kingdom 2014-05-24 & 2018-06-15 On May 24, 2014, a fire began inside the Charles Rennie Mackintosh building at the Glasgow School of Art. The Mackintosh Library was lost in the blaze; however all students and staff were directed to safety and no injuries resulted.[103] The fire began after gases from an expanding foam canister being used in a student project were ignited by a sparking projector. At the time of the incident, the building's recently installed fire suppression system was not yet operational.[104] While the Mackintosh building was under renovation following the 2014 fire, a second fire broke out around 11:15 p.m. on June 15, 2018. Larger in scale than the previous fire, the damages that resulted destroyed all of the building's renovation progress, as well as part of the school that had been left untouched by the first fire.[105]
Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences (INION) Moscow Russia 2015-01-31
Mzuzu University Library Mzuzu Malawi 2015-12-18[106] In the very early hours of December 18, 2015, the Mzuzu University library caught fire. Although the library's wooden structure and carpeting spread the flames rapidly, students, staff, and firefighters on the scene attempted to rescue materials by carrying them out of the building and away from the flames. But by 5:00 a.m. the library collapsed, resulting in the loss of 45,000 volumes. Then a sudden rainstorm heightened the damage by soaking materials that had been carried out of the burning building.[107]
Palácio de São Cristóvão.jpg National Museum of Brazil Quinta da Boa Vista in Rio de Janeiro Brazil 2018-09-02 Not yet investigated. See National Museum of Brazil fire. Museum library was also destroyed.
FeesMustFall protests at UCT - the second day of protests 01 (cropped).JPG Jagger Library (partially) Cape Town South Africa 2021-04-18 Partially destroyed by the 2021 Table Mountain fire.[108] However, the library's fire detection systems stopped the destruction of the entire collection.[109]

See also

Further reading

  • The Bosnian Manuscript Ingathering Project – A call for Bosnian manuscripts ingathering
  • Polastron, Lucien X. (2007) Libros en Llamas: historia de la interminable destrucción de bibliotecas. Libraria, ISBN 968-16-8398-6.[1]
  • Knuth, Rebecca. Libricide : the regime-sponsored destruction of books and libraries in the twentieth century. ISBN 0-275-98088-X
  • Polastron, Lucien X. Books on fire: the destruction of libraries throughout history. ISBN 978-1-59477-167-5
  • Civallero, Edgardo. When Memory Turns into Ashes... Memoricide During the XX Century. DOI.
  • UNESCO. Lost Memory – Libraries and archives destroyed in the twentieth century
  • Books on Fire: The Destruction of Libraries Throughout History. Lucien Xavier Polastron. Translated by John E Graham. Inner Traditions. ISBN 978-1-59477-167-5. ISBN 1-59477-167-7.
  • Ovenden, Richard Burning the Books. London: John Murray[110]

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External links