by Paulo Henrique Martinez*

Translated and reviewed by Matheus Lucas Hebling


Printed books, in addition to their honorable utilitarian functions, immediate or not, make up an important collection of documents and testimonies of the culture and history of different human societies. For these same reasons, books are published, collected, preserved, disseminated, guarded, recommended, coveted, lent, republished and, it must be said, controlled, prohibited, censored, and destroyed.
Books awaken love and hate. Hence its persistent presence in people’s everyday lives, individually and collectively. Books are carriers of the human senses, which are very diversified and complex. Here lies a dynamic nucleus of meanings and the importance of books, especially when properly assembled, organized, preserved, consulted, and accessible to any interested parties, readers and curious people, social groups, and governments. In the history of the expression and cultural circulation of narratives, images, ideas, and values in book-writing practices and the public that reads, and likes books, or both, books touch human imagination and sensibilities.
The printed book is a cultural product. It is an object that is different from the canvas, from rolls of manuscripts in fabric, paper, and skin, from records engraved on rocks, coins, and metallic or wooden plaques. The printed book accounted for the generation of a chain of material production and sensibilities, from its intellectual conception, passing through the act of writing and the massive act of reading, to its accessibility in different supports, formats, colors, and styles of aesthetic presentation. Printed books result from graphic arts, design, visual communication, artistic creation on paper, and printing.

Last but not least, printed books are vectors of social processes over time, moving very precise and concrete actions, statements, symbols, and social and political values. Books or their simple writing, when not published or edited, awaken the desire and practice of censorship, the bonfire, imprisonment, and physical and symbolic aggression against authors, male and female readers, professors and students, bookstores, libraries, graphics, and publishing. Books are living words and, for this very reason, they migrate easily to music, theater, cinema, television, Facebook, podcasts, Tik Tok among other information technology and digital communication supports.
The presence of the printed book in collections, antique shops, libraries, museums, and public and private institutions, raises materialities specific to buildings, environments, furniture, writing instruments, editing, printing and reading, strategies, and techniques for promoting literate culture, in offices and reading clubs, storytelling, fairs, and book launches, meetings, interviews and dialogues with authors, periodical bulletins, opening up to so many other universes, such as children’s, feminine, ethnic, LGBTQIA+, fantastic, religious. Spaces of and for books, of and for the people who revolve around them, become memory cores of the multiplicity of forms that the world of books assumes in each era, nation, and society. They are starting points for research into new forms and sensory, creative, imaginative, and playful experiences. Libraries, their shelves and collections, their equipment and professionals, their visitors, and the curious, enter into continuous, incessant, and infinite interactions.
Is the paper world ending? Can we discard the printed book, consume it and instantly tear it to pieces, stop acquiring it, writing it, and keeping it? Will anyone else be allowed to read and re-read them, in the near or distant future? There are many books without readers, the printed book has become a museum object, will it have to wait for the next vintage or retro wave, will it be the vinyl record of the future? In libraries, museums, schools, courts, parliaments, consulting rooms and offices, private shelves, books, and book collections are umbilically associated with a republican culture, that of freedom, sharing, equality, autonomy, and creativity. The Protestant Reformation in Europe wanted the Bible in the hands of every Christian and that he was able to read it, interpret it, and discuss it together with his brothers of faith and preach it to the infidels.
The book, whether printed or not, is the subject and witness of the history of republican culture, life, and the common good shared under human existence. Its destruction, mutilation, abandonment, and contempt are indicative of an incomplete, embryonic, or non-existent republican culture. Be it the bonfires that burn for political, ideological, and religious intolerance, be it the highlights of colored pens, highlighters, rips, cuts, folds, dirt, and dents. The degree and forms of aggression, condemnation, and rejection of printed books will always and only be symptoms of democracy at risk and of a republican culture that needs to be taught, absorbed, and promoted in the daily life of Brazilian society, in the tip of the pencil.

* Paulo Henrique Martinez is a Professor at the São Paulo State University (UNESP), Department of History at the Faculty of Sciences and Letters of Assis, and member of the Campus Library Committee.

Paulo Henrique Martinez (2023) "Bibliographic heritage and those who destroy library books". Brazilian Research and Studies Blog. ISSN 2701-4924. UncategorizednameVol. 3 Num. 1. available at:, accessed on: May 18, 2024.