Banned books in Saxony 1750-1850

Project description

Title copperplate, Old image in black and white

In the trade fair city of Leipzig, not only were many books printed, published and negotiated in the past, but also many books that, in the eyes of the authorities, violated the dictates of religion and state or "good morals" were banned and confiscated. Many of the book bans of the time are documented in countless files of the Leipzig Book Commission, which are kept in the Leipzig City Archives, as well as in the corresponding fascicles of the Dresden High Consistory and the Secret Council of the Saxon State Government, which are preserved in the Saxon Main State Archives in Dresden; extensive material on book bans and confiscations in the Residenz has also survived the course of time in the Dresden City Archives.

The aim of the research project is to use these enormously extensive holdings of records in Leipzig and Dresden, some of which have not yet been finely indexed and most of which have not yet been taken into account by researchers, to compile a bibliographie raisonnée which not only covers the corpus of books banned in Saxony between 1750 and 1850, but also, if possible, names the authors of the works, most of which were published under anonymous or pseudonymous names, supplements the often incomplete imprints and resolves the falsifications in the case of masked literature, provides specific information on the dates, reasons and backgrounds of the bans, and finally also refers precisely to the corresponding archival records for the purpose of further research. In a second index, all those works will be listed that were confiscated and locked away by the Book Commission in Leipzig over a period of about 100 years - partly due to content-related concerns, partly due to violations of privileges or copyrights - in total more than 70,000 copies, which were almost without exception destroyed in 1870 by being processed into roofing felt at the behest of the city council.

Since the corpus of literature banned in Austria in the period 1750-1848 has been indexed and processed for several years by a project headed by Prof. Dr. Norbert Bachleitner (University of Vienna), the bibliographic results of which have already been published in the form of a database [Link: https: //], it will be possible after the completion of both projects to take a comparative look at the censorship and prohibition practices as well as the limits of freedom of opinion and freedom of the press in two of the leading territories in the German-speaking world and thus obtain fundamental insights into book printing and trade in the German-speaking world from the Enlightenment to the Vormärz. At the same time, a wealth of clandestine, heterodox, satirical, politically advanced or even revolutionary and erotic-pornographic works from the basement and underground of literature will become visible, which were confiscated at the time, consequently in many cases only survived sparsely and therefore partly remained unnoticed until today.

Contact person

Dr. Dirk Sangmeister


Gerda Henkel Foundation, Düsseldorf


2015 - 2016

Image: Title copperplate to the Index librorum prohibitorum of 1711, via Wikimedia Commons.