List of destroyed libraries, archives and museums

List of destroyed libraries, archives and museums

This is a list of destroyed libraries (and some associated archives and museums) that have been deliberately or accidentally destroyed or badly damaged. Sometimes libraries are purposely destroyed as a form of cultural cleansing. Other times they are damaged by natural disasters like earthquakes, floods or accidental fires.


List of libraries deliberately destroyed

Image Name of Library City Country Date of Destruction Perpetrator Reason and/or Account of Destruction
Ancientlibraryalex.jpg Library of Alexandria Alexandria Ancient Egypt Disputed Disputed Unknown/Disputed[1][2][3]
Library of Antioch Antioch Ancient Syria AD 364 Emperor Jovian[4] The library was burnt by Emperor Jovian. It had been heavily stocked by the aid of his non-Christian predecessor, Emperor Julian
Library of the Serapeum Alexandria Ancient Egypt AD 392 Theophilus of Alexandria The library was burned and looted at the decree of Theophilus of Alexandria, who was so ordered by Theodosius I.
Library of Ctesiphon Ctesiphon, Khvârvarân Ancient Persia AD 651 Arab Invaders Books thrown into the Euphrates on the order of Caliph Umar.[citation needed]
Library of
al-Hakam II
Cordoba Al-Andalus 976c. Al-Mansur Ibn Abi Aamir & religious scholars All books consisting of "ancient science" were destroyed in a surge of ultra-orthodoxy.[5]
Library of Rayy Rayy Persia 1029 Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni Burned the library and all books deemed as heretical.[6]
Libary of Nishapur Nishapur 1154 Oghuz Turks City partially destroyed, libraries sacked and burned.[7]
Nalanda University India ruins.jpg Nalanda Nalanda India AD 1193 Bakhtiyar Khilji Nalanda University complex (the most renowned repository of Buddhist knowledge in the world at the time) was sacked by Turkic Muslim invaders under Bakhtiyar Khilji; this event is seen as a milestone in the decline of Buddhism in India.[8]
Imperial Library of Constantinople 1204 In 1204, the library became a target of the knights of the Fourth Crusade. The library itself was destroyed and its contents burned or sold. The great part of the library that was saved later became absorbed into the Ottoman Sultan's library after the Muslim forces of Mehmed II, Sultan of the Ottoman Turks, captured Constantinople at the end of the siege of 1453.
House of Wisdom Baghdad Iraq 1258 Mongol Invaders Destroyed during the Battle of Baghdad. Survivors said that the waters of the Tigris ran black with ink from the enormous quantities of books flung into the river.
Madrassah Library Granada Crown of Castile 1499 Troops commanded by Cardinal Cisneros The library was attacked by troops of Cardinal Cisneros in late 1499, the books were taken to the Plaza Bib-Rambla, where they were burned in public.
Glasney College Penryn, Cornwall England 1548 Royal officials The smashing and looting of the Cornish colleges at Glasney and Crantock brought an end to the formal scholarship which had helped to sustain the Cornish language and the Cornish cultural identity.
Earl of Worcester's library Raglan Castle Wales 1646 Parliamentary Army The library was burnt during the English Civil War by forces under the command of Thomas Fairfax[9]
The capture of Mandalay Palace
Royal library of the Kings of Burma Mandalay Palace Burma 1885 / 87 Troops of the British Army The British looted the palace at the end of the 3rd Anglo-Burmese War (some of the artefacts which were taken away are still on display in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London)[10] and burned down the royal library.
Louvain Library WWI.jpg Library of the Catholic University of Leuven Leuven Belgium August 25, 1914 German Occupation Troops The Germans set the library on fire as part of the burning of the entire city in an attempt to use terror to quell Belgian resistance to occupation.[11]
Public Records Office of Ireland Dublin Ireland 1922 Anti-Treaty IRA The Four Courts was occupied by the Anti-Treaty IRA at the start of the Irish Civil War. The building was bombarded by the Provisional Government forces under Michael Collins.[12]
1933-may-10-berlin-book-burning.JPG Institut für Sexualwissenschaft Berlin Nazi Germany May 1933 Members of the Deutsche Studentenschaft On 6 May 1933, the Deutsche Studentenschaft made an organised attack on the Institute of Sex Research. A few days later, the Institute's library and archives were publicly hauled out and burned in the streets of the Opernplatz.
National University of Tsing Hua, University Nan-k'ai, Institute of Technology of He-pei, Medical College of He-pei, Agricultural College of He-pei, University Ta Hsia, University Kuang Hua, National University of Hunan China 1937-1945 World War II Japanese Troops During World War II, Japanese military forces destroyed or partly destroyed numerous Chinese libraries, including libraries at the National University of Tsing Hua, Peking (lost 200,000 of 350,000 books), the University Nan-k'ai, T'ien-chin (totally destroyed, 224,000 books lost), Institute of Technology of He-pei, T'ien-chin (completely destroyed), Medical College of He-pei, Pao-ting (completely destroyed), Agricultural College of He-pei, Pao-ting (completely destroyed), University Ta Hsia, Shanghai (completely destroyed), University Kuang Hua, Shanghai (completely destroyed), National University of Hunan (completely destroyed).[13]
Louvain Library WWI.jpg Library of the Catholic University of Leuven Leuven Belgium May 1940 German Occupation Troops Set on fire (probably by accident) while fighting between Belgian and German troops.
National Library of Serbia Belgrade Yugoslavia April 1941 Nazi German Luftwaffe Destroyed during the World War II bombing of Belgrade.
Biblioteka Zaluskich.jpg Załuski Library Warsaw Poland 1944 Nazi German troops The library was burned down during the Nazi suppression of the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. The burning of this library was part of the general setting on fire of a large part of the city of Warsaw.[14]
National Library of Cambodia Phnom Penh Cambodia 1976-1979 The Khmer Rouge[13] Burnt most of the books and all bibliographical records. Only 20% of materials survived.[13]
Jaffna Public Library Jaffna Sri Lanka May 1981 Plainclothes police officers and others In May 1981 a mob composed of thugs and plainclothes police officers went on a rampage in minority Tamil-dominated northern Jaffna, and burned down the Jaffna Public Library. At least 95,000 volumes - the second largest library collection in South Asia - were destroyed.[15]
Oriental Institute in Sarajevo Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina 17 May 1992 Bosnian Serb Army Destroyed by the shellfire during the Siege of Sarajevo.[16][17]
Evstafiev-bosnia-cello.jpg National and University Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina 25 August 1992 Bosnian Serb Army The library was completely destroyed during the Siege of Sarajevo.[16][17]
Abkhazian Research Institute of History, Language and Literature & National Library of Abkhazia Sukhumi Abkhazia October 1992 Georgian Armed Forces Destroyed during the War in Abkhazia.[18]
Pol-i-Khomri Public Library Pol-i-Khomri Afghanistan 1998 Taliban militia It held 55,000 books and old manuscripts.[19]
Iraq National Library and Archive, Al-Awqaf Library, Central Library of the University of Baghdad, Library of Bayt al-Hikma, Central Library of the University of Mosul and other libraries Baghdad Iraq April 2003 Several libraries looted, set on fire, damaged and destroyed in various degrees during the 2003 Iraq War.[20][21][22][23][24]

List of libraries destroyed by natural disasters

Image Name of Library City Country Date of Destruction Causes and/or Account of Destruction
Imperial University Library in Tokyo, Max Müller Library, Nishimura Library, Hoshino Library Japan September 1923 An earthquake and the following fires.[13]
National Library of Nicaragua Rubén Darío Nicaragua 1931, 1972 It was damaged in the 1931 earthquake. Another earthquake in 1972 caused damages; furthermore, it was looted.[25]
Several libraries, archives, and museums[citation needed] India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Thailand, Sri Lanka December 2004 The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. See Library damage resulting from the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake.

See also


  1. ^ One of the largest destructions of books occurred at the Library of Alexandria, traditionally held to be in 640; however, the precise years are unknown as are whether the fires were intentional or accidental.
  2. ^ The Alexandrian Library"
  3. ^ Lewis, Bernard. "The Vanished Library". The New York Review of Books. 37(14). 27 September 1990.
  4. ^ Albrecht, Michael von & Schmeling, Gareth L. (1997) A History of Roman Literature; p. 1744
  5. ^ Ann Christy, Christians in Al-Andalus:711-1000, (Curzon Press, 2002), 142.
  6. ^ Moslem Libraries and Sectarian Propaganda, Ruth Stellhorn Mackensen, The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, Vol. 51, No. 2 (Jan., 1935), 93-94.
  7. ^ The Tomb of Omar Khayyâm, George Sarton, Isis, Vol. 29, No. 1 (Jul., 1938):16.
  8. ^ Sen, Gertrude Emerson (1964) The Story of Early Indian Civilization. Orient Longmans
  9. ^ Johnson, Paul. "Raglan Castle and the Civil War". Castlewales. Retrieved 16 July 2010. 
  10. ^ Bird, George W. (1897). Wanderings in Burma. London: F. J. Bright & Son. p. 254.;cc=sea;sid=f7c73dc350626ca80c0cf1c8ff80315f;rgn=full%20text;idno=sea282;view=image;seq=360. 
  11. ^ Kramer, Alan (2008). Dynamic of Destruction: culture and mass killing in the First World War. London: Penguin. ISBN 9781846140136. Gibson, Craig (2008). "The culture of destruction in the First World War". Times Literary Supplement (January 30, 2008). Retrieved 2008-02-18. 
  12. ^ Ferriter, Diarmaid (2010). The Limits of Liberty - Episode 1. RTÉ. 
  13. ^ a b c d Lost Memory — Libraries and Archived Destroyed in the Twentieth Century (Archived at WebCite)
  14. ^ Rebecca Knuth (2006). Burning Books and Leveling Libraries: extremist violence and cultural destruction. Westport, Conn.: Praeger. p. 166. ISBN 0-275990-07-9. 
  15. ^ Knuth, Rebecca (2006-06-27). "Destroying a Symbol: Checkered History of Sri Lanka's Jaffna Public Library" (PDF). IFLA. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  16. ^ a b Erasing the Past: The Destruction of Libraries and Archives in Bosnia-Herzegovina (Archived at WebCite)
  17. ^ a b Crimes of war, crimes of peace: destruction of libraries during and after the Balkan wars of the 1990s (Archived at WebCite)
  18. ^ Abkhazia: Cultural Tragedy Revisited, Caucasus Reporting Service, Institute for War and Peace Reporting
  19. ^ Censorship of historical thought: a world guide, 1945-2000, Antoon de Baets
  20. ^ Prized Iraqi annals 'lost in blaze' (Archived at WebCite)
  21. ^ Photos of the Iraq National Library 2003–08
  23. ^ Middle East Librarians Association Committee on Iraqi Libraries
  24. ^ Assessment of damage to Libraries and Archives in Iraq
  25. ^ Biblioteca Nacional Rubén Darío (Spanish)

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