The Danger of Spreading the Word: Book Censorship in 16th-Century Venice
Part of the series, “Dangerous Ideas: Censorship Through a Jewish Lens”
With Dr. David Kraemer, Joseph J. and Dora Abbell Librarian and Professor of Talmud and Rabbinics
In the 16th century, as the new technology of the printing press hit its stride, the church began to realize the danger that the dissemination of knowledge could represent. Instituting a regime of censorship in Venice (the center of the print industry) and elsewhere, all new books—Christian and Jewish—had to pass muster before appearing. But the church was not alone in this effort. Rabbinic authorities recognized the same dangers, and they too sought to outlaw certain “dangerous” books.
ABOUT THE SERIES
Throughout Jewish history, certain texts and ideas have been deemed too dangerous to circulate—whether by outsiders who banned Jewish writings, or Jewish leaders who suppressed ideas considered heretical or beyond the pale. In this series, JTS scholars will examine efforts to control knowledge from ancient to contemporary times, exploring the ways in which censorship both reflects and shapes broader ideological struggles. They will discuss the varying motivations for controlling or revising narratives, and consider whether and under what circumstances it might make sense to suppress certain ideas. These discussions will illuminate past struggles and help us understand the battles over censorship and free expression playing out today.
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