The Guardian reports that Iraqi troops have seized Iraq's national library to use its roof as a military outpost. The library director complains that "They have turned our national archive into a military target." The Guardian's lead line for this story announces that "Thousands of rare books and manuscripts in Iraq's national library and archive, one of the country's most important cultural institutions, are in peril." Jeremy Dibbell on Bibliophile editorializes: "The library building and grounds must be off-limits as a base for military operations, in order to prevent reprisal attacks on it and other cultural institutions."
Of interest from an iconic books perspective is the claim that important libraries and other cultural institutions, such as museums, should be off-limits to military activity. This reproduces in secular language the religious claim that military personnel stay out of shrines and other holy sites. Regard for libraries and museums as secular shrines is, of course, widespread in modern culture, even if recognition of the religious nature of this attitude is not.
Iconic books are texts revered as objects of power rather than just as words of instruction, information, or insight. In religious and secular rituals around the globe, people carry, show, wave, touch and kiss books and other texts, as well as read them. This blog chronicles such events and activities. (For more about iconic books, see the links to the Iconic Books Project at left.)