GHDI logo

"Guidelines for the Administration of Censorship and for the Behavior of the Censors" (1810)

Enlightenment liberalism argued for a free marketplace of ideas. Eighteenth-century German governments took long strides in this direction, but religious counter-currents and later the French Revolution inspired tightened censorship. This text illustrates the mixture of motives that animated the Austrian government’s censorship policies: political, religious, and cultural. Noteworthy is the distinction, acceptable both to conservatives and liberals, between writings fit only for the educated and rationally-minded upper classes and those that might prudently be made available to the common people.

print version     return to document list
previous document      next document

page 1 of 3

Guidelines for Administering the Censorship and for the Behavior of Censors from September 10, 1810

His Majesty unceasingly strives to promote the well-being of one and all in every way. His Majesty is convinced that among the most excellent means of bringing this about is the proliferation of useful knowledge and the perfection of discernment, combined with the refinement of the senses, and His Majesty knows well that an expediently managed freedom of reading and writing is especially suited to bring this about. Therefore, fully conscious of his foremost duties as ruler and father, which encompass the intellectual and moral education [of his subjects], as well as their physical well-being, and which no more allows that the subjects' spirits or hearts be corrupted than that their bodies be corrupted, His Majesty has most graciously deigned to specify the following standards for the future management of censorship as guidelines for the conduct of the censors. In the future in the monarchy no flash of light, regardless of where it comes from, shall remain unnoticed or unrecognized or be deprived of its most beneficial effect. However, the hearts and minds of minors shall be kept safe with a careful hand from the corrupting monstrosities of horrible fantasies, from the poisonous stench of egotistical debauchers, and from the dangerous pipe dreams of strange minds.

§. 1. In the judgment of books and manuscripts there must be differentiation above all between those works whose content and handling of their subject is intended only for academics and people dedicated to scholarship, and between brochures, popular literature [Volksschriften], entertaining books, and humor.

§ 2. A so-called academic work is not qualified by the size of the book, but rather by the importance and quality of the subject handled, and the manner in which the subject is handled.

first page < previous   |   next > last page