Censorship and Revolution. Forbidden Books in the Age of Enlightenment

Books have always been a privileged means of resistance against oppressive regimes. In this article, curator Ana Maria Campino writes about some of the ‘forbidden books’ from the 18th century that belong to the Gulbenkian Collection.
Ana Maria Campino 13 Mar 2024 1 min
From parchment to paper

Through literature, politics and history, whether in the form of a novel, treatise, epic poem or compendium, the great eighteenth-century thinkers of the French Enlightenment promoted ideas of liberty, equality, fraternity and tolerance. Questioning the values of Absolutism and Clericalism, their texts were closely related to the American Revolution of 1776 and the French Revolution of 1789.

Many of these publications were prohibited by the censors of France’s absolutist regime, the Catholic Church’s Index or the Faculty of Theology of the University of Paris (Sorbonne). However, these authors frequently endeavoured to have their first editions printed in secret or in cities outside French territory, often anonymously.

In the year marking the 50th anniversary of the 25 April Revolution, we are exploring the links between Censorship and Revolution. In this context, some ‘forbidden books’ by Montesquieu, Voltaire and Guillaume-Thomas François Raynal exemplify this theme perfectly, through copies published during the course of the eighteenth century and acquired by Calouste Gulbenkian for the quality of their illustrations or bindings.


From parchment to paper

On display for a short period due to their fragile preservation, the European books and graphic documents in the collection are less known to the public. In this series, the curator Ana Campino offers new perspectives on this set of works that were among Calouste Gulbenkian's favorite artistic collections.

Explore the series

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