On this last day of Banned Books Week, I'd like to spotlight some books that weren't burned as was intended, so we can reflect on the good that comes out of keeping literature.
1) Virgil's Aeneid -- Virgil wanted his Aeneid to be burned when he died, because he felt it was unfinished, and as such, not as great as it should be. Luckily, the emperor Augustus Caesar ordered his two literary executors, Lucius Varius Rufus and Plotius Tucca, not to have it destroyed, and instead ordered the Aeneid to be published with as few editotial changes as possible. Yay Augustus!!
2) Emily Dickson did the same thing, but she gave instructions in her will to her sister Lavinia "to burn all her papers." Can you imagine? Putting pressure like that on poor Lavinia? Well, Lavinia did burn some correspondence ... probably to appease Emily's ghost; she did not burn her notebooks and loose sheets, which contained nearly 1800 poems. If Lavinia had burned everything, Emily Dickinson would probably be known only as a minor character in literature, a footnote at best.
3) Franz Kafka also wrote to his literary executor Max Brod that he wanted all his "diaries, manuscripts, letters (my own and others'), sketches, and so on, to be burned unread." Good thing Emily wasn't as specific in her request to Lavinia! But Brod told Kafka he wouldn't honor it when he died; silly boy for writing it in a letter to Max before his death. Brod published the whole thing. If he hadn't, we would only have a few short stories published during his lifetime.
4) Two German officers, Lt. Col. Julius Schlegel (a Catholic) and Capt. Maximillian Becker (a Protestant) sent the Monte Cassino archives to the Vatican at the beginning of the Battle of Monte Cassino in World War II. Because of the fourteen-centuries of Benedictine abbey there, the German commander ordered troops not to use the abbey for defensive positions, and told both the Vatican and the Allies of that decision. Allied reconnaissance spotted German troops in the Abbey, which had a beautiful view of the surrounding area, and on February 15, 1944, the abbey was destroyed by 1,400 tons of bombs dropped by American bombers. Thank goodness for those two German officers, who saved all 1500 years of the abbey's records, 1400 irreplaceable manuscript codices, as well as saving the collections of the Keats-Shelly Memorial House, which had ironically been sent to the Abbey for safe-keeping in December, 1942.
Burning banned books is bad. Saving books from burning is good.