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Banned Books Week

The American Library Association’s 2015 Banned Books Week takes place Sep. 28-Oct. 2, celebrating the freedom to seek information and express views, even unpopular ones.

The History of Science Collection contains plenty of examples of works which were unpopular and unaccepted at some point in time. Nicolaus Copernicus’ De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the revolutions of the celestial spheres) was one such work.

copernicus2De revolutionibus outlines Copernicus’ theory about the universe and provides complex mathematical computations explaining the movement of the planets based on the Sun-centered model. Copernicus began circulating his ideas around 1514 in manuscript form, but he only published his theory after decades of refinement, in 1543. His model challenged popular conceptions of the solar system being Earth-centered. During the Counterreformation, Copernicus’ book was actually placed on on the Catholic Church’s index of prohibited books in 1616. Special Collections owns a third edition of De revolutionibus, published in 1617 in Amsterdam, which was controlled by Protestants and thus outside the reach of Catholic censors.

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