John Murray acquires Bodleian director's history of knowledge

John Murray acquires Bodleian director's history of knowledge

John Murray is to publish Burning the Books: A History of Knowledge Under Attack by Richard Ovenden, director of Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries.

Non-fiction publisher Georgina Laycock bought UK and Commonwealth rights from Catherine Clarke at Felicity Bryan Associates. She said: "This riveting history and its unlikely heroes (poets, self-taught archaeologists, antiquaries, freedom-fighters and, of course, librarians) is a powerful call to action for readers everywhere."

The book explores the "destruction of knowledge and the fight against all the odds to preserve it". It spans a 3,000 year period encompassing "Mesopotamian clay tablets trying to predict the future", the dissolution of the monasteries the burning of Byron’s memoirs and the 1933 book bonfires of the Nazi Holocaust.

Ovenden is the 25th Bodley's Librarian since the post was set up in 1600. He has previously worked in the House of Lords Library, the National Library of Scotland and the University of Edinburgh.

He said: "We are living in an age where knowledge is under attack every day. My anger at the destruction of the Windrush landing records inspired me to write this book. In exploring the long history of attacks on libraries and archives, I wanted to examine the motivations of those who have sought to deny the truth and eradicate the past, and celebrate the astonishing efforts made to protect them."

The book will be published in hardback on 3rd September.