Richard Ovenden is the Bodley's Librarian. Since 1987 he has worked in a number of important archives and libraries, including the House of Lords Library, the National Library of Scotland (as a Curator of Rare Books) and in the University of Edinburgh, where he was Director of Collections. Ovenden was elected to Fellowships of the Society of Antiquaries and the Royal Society of Arts, and a Foreign Member of the American Philosophical Society. He is an Honorary Fellow of St Hugh's College, Oxford and holds a Professorial Fellowship at Balliol College, Oxford. His writing has been frequently published in major newspapers and online platforms. Burning the Books is his first book.
Fascinating and rewarding . . . Ovenden's finest achievement in Burning the Books is to demonstrate the importance and enduring power of preserved knowledge . . . [his] professional expertise and personal passion are evident on every page -- Timothy W Ryback * Literary Review * This book should stir us to thinking and to action - against censorship, against careless loss, and for the preservation of the memory of where we came from and of our right to be where we are -- Michael Skapinker * Financial Times * Ovenden moves effortlessly through the centuries and around the world . . . it is hard not to see him and his fellow librarians as warriors and freedom fighters, the unsung heroes of the high streets -- Frances Wilson * Standpoint * A galvanising manifesto for the importance of physical libraries in our increasingly digital age * The Bookseller * As director of the Bodleian Library Ovenden is well-placed to deliver this devastating take on the erosion of knowledge and the importance of libraries as a physical space -- 75 of the best books for autumn * Independent * Like an epic film-maker, Richard Ovenden unfolds vivid scenes from three millennia of turbulent history, to mount passionate arguments for the need to preserve the records of the past - and of the present. This urgent, lucid book calls out to us all to recognise and defend one of our most precious public goods - libraries and archives. -- MARINA WARNER A magnificent book - timely, vital and full of the most incredible tales, a manifesto for our humanity and its archives -- PHILIPPE SANDS A stark and important warning about the value of knowledge and the dangers that come from the destruction of books. Vital reading for this day and age. -- PETER FRANKOPAN BURNING THE BOOKS is fascinating, thought-provoking and very timely. No one should keep quiet about this library history. -- IAN HISLOP Both timely and authoritative...The subject of archives and libraries is one of permanent importance in the understanding a nation has of itself, and touches not only high politics but also life-and-death drama. I can think of no-one better qualified to write about it than Richard Ovenden. I enjoyed Burning the Books immensely. -- PHILIP PULLMAN Intriguing...Unforgettable -- Christopher Hart * SUNDAY TIMES * If there's anyone you might want to read your love letters after your death, it's Richard Ovenden; as Burning the Books reveals on every page, not only is he careful, diligent and wise, he also knows what to leave out and what to keep in and it's this quality that, above all, makes his book so remarkable. Francis Bacon described the creation of the Bodleian in the 1590s as 'an ark to save learning from the deluge' -- the deluge in question being the Reformation. Ovenden's ark, also written at a time of huge political and economic strife, attempts to save the concept of the library itself...something it achieves not through polemic but by telling stories. Rich, meticulous and impressive... Its sweep is quite astonishing. -- Rachel Cooke * OBSERVER * 'Dangerous souvenirs' is what Richard Ovenden calls the books salvaged by ex-monks under the nose of Henry VIII. Now as then, books need friends. This fascinating book will help to find them. -- ALAN BENNETT Passionate and illuminating... this splendid book reveals how, in today's world of fake news and alternative facts, libraries stand defiant as guardians of truth. -- Gerard deGroot * THE TIMES *