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Expurgation is a form of censorship by way of purging anything deemed noxious or offensive, usually from an artistic work. It has also been called bowdlerisation, after Thomas Bowdler, who in 1818 published an expurgated edition of William Shakespeare's work that he considered to be more appropriate for women and children. He similarly edited Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.


  • In 1264, Clement IV ordered the Jews of Aragon to submit their books to Dominican censors for expurgation.[1]
  • The Private Memoirs of Kenelm Digby (1603–1665) were only published in 1828, in a bowdlerised form.
  • Victor Hugo's dramas were bowdlerised almost out of recognition in the 1845 English translations of Frederick Lokes Slous included in the 1877 Complete Works. Le Roi s'amuse, familiar in Verdi's operatic treatment Rigoletto, was furnished with a happy ending: there is no hint of Blanche/Gilda being deflowered, rather, she comes within a hairbreadth of touching her lips to a glass of wine which contains the poison that Saltabadil/Sparafucile prefers to his usual instrument in this version. Lucrezia Borgia is similarly altered.
  • Fanny Hill (1748) was self-censored by author John Cleland in a 1750 edition. A modern edition was banned in the United States until Memoirs v. Massachusetts overturned the ban in 1966.
  • Justine (1791, also known as The Misfortunes of Virtue) by the Marquis de Sade was not completely translated into English until 1953 by Austryn Wainhouse.
  • Several themes in the play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof were toned down in the 1958 film of the same name, resulting in the playwright Tennessee Williams advising people to not view the film.
  • Lysistrata, by Aristophanes, was bowdlerised in all English translations before 1960.
  • In 1986, to mark the centenary of Hugh Lofting's birth, new editions of his Doctor Dolittle stories were published, in which derogatory terms and images for certain ethnic groups were removed.


  1. ^ Popper, William (1889). The Censorship of Hebrew Books. Knickerbocker Press, 13-14.


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