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UBC professor compiles list of 118,000 banned books

Last Updated Jul 7, 2019 at 11:13 pm PDT

An 2016/2017 art installation by Marta Minujín called The Parthenon of Books in Kassel, Germany. (CREDIT: Heinz Bunse flickr.com/photos/buffo400/)

The digital list of censored books is publicly available and searchable

It includes titles banned by governments as well as books that were taken off the shelves of public institutions

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) — A list of every book ever banned is over 118,000 titles long and it’s constantly growing, according to a UBC professor.

Professor Florian Gassner is the co-leader of a project to compile a digital list of censored books that is publicly available and searchable.

The project is called Die Kasseler Liste and it was inspired by an art installation in Germany that recreated the Parthenon using banned books.

Gassner says the first hurdle he and his team of students team had to overcome was deciding what constitutes censorship.

“Censorship is as difficult to define as pornography,” he says.

They decided to include titles banned by governments as well as books that were taken off the shelves of public institutions–like schools and libraries–after public pressure.

Gassner says that figuring out which books were censored by past governments was more difficult than they anticipated.

“For example, take the German Democratic Republic. We thought that would be the easiest to get a list of censored works there but the mechanisms of censorship were so devious, so insidious there that there was actually no record,” he explains.

Gassner says government censorship is still a reality in countries like China, Russia, and Nigeria.

“In certain countries even just compiling a list of censored books and making that available would probably be subject to censorship or some further disciplinary measure,” he says.

Gassner also wants people to understand that censorship goes beyond book-banning; it limits what can be written in the first place.

The list is interactive. Suggestions can be submitted to the site for consideration.