Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Burnt Library of Algeria
On June 7, 1962, the Organisation de l'armee secrete (better known as the OAS), a militant underground organization opposed to Algerian independence, burned down the library of the University of Algiers destroying 112,500 books. This was one of the culminating acts of the 1954-1962 Algerian War. On July 1, 1962 Algerians in overwhelming numbers voted in favor of independence from France. The burning of the library was seen as a symbol of the rightness of Algerian independence and resulted in a number of Muslim countries issuing postage stamps commemorating the tragic event. I first learned of these postage stamps from a reprint of a 1982 American Libraries article entitled "Biblio-philately" by George M. Eberhart in the first edition of the Whole Library Handbook. The stamps were among the first additions to my collection of postal librariana. The first day cover shown above depicts the June 7, 1965 Algeria stamp commemorating the burning of the library. The stamp is a semi-postal stamp with the surtax going to the National Solidarity Fund of Algeria. June 7 is celebrated as the official anniversary of Algerian independence. To see the more of the stamps and related postal artifacts click here. The content of this post was originally developed for the September 2008 Library Cover Story on the Library History Buff website. October is National Stamp Collecting Month.