The Index at Catalogus Librorum Prohibitorum or the Index as it is more commonly known was first issued in 1559 by Paul IV. Paul IV had been pushing the creation of an index since the early 1540s when he had become Inquisitor General. He believed that printing was one of the main reasons for the spread of heresy.

When first issued the index was divided into three sections:

  1. Authors whose every book was condemned.
  2. Authors whose individual books were condemned.
  3. List of books containing pernicious doctrines
The index banned the works of all protestant reformers, all the works of Erasmus, all the books published in the last 40 years without the name of author or publisher and all books by 61 named printers. This resulted in the banning of most editions of the Bible, many works of the early Christian Church and some early Renaissance literary classics such as Boccaccio's Decameron.

A new version was published in 1564 following revision by the 3rd session of the Council of Trent.

In 1571 Pius V created a congregation of Cardinals to oversee the index. Its brief was to censure and condemn all books it considered dangerous to the faith. Its jurisdiction extended to all Catholics. The congregation could give permission for a Catholic to read a condemned book.

In 1588 the congregation became one of 15 laid down by Sixtus V. There were also indexes published in other countries such as the Netherlands, Spain and France often by universities or the inquisition.

During the Catholic Reformation it was used as a key weapon against Protestantism in Roman Catholic Areas. It was mocked by protestants at the time as a symbol of reaction.

It is still in place today with a congregation of cardinals still overseeing the Index.

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