"mass destruction by fire of published material deemed obscene, corrupting, etc.," 1850, from book (n.) + verbal noun from burn (v.). As an adjective, it is attested from 1726 (in John Toland, who was a victim of it).
What an irreparable destruction of History, what a deplorable extinction of arts and inventions, what an unspeakable detriment to Learning, what a dishonor upon human understanding, has the cowardly proceeding of the ignorant or rather of the interested against unarm'd monuments at all times occasion'd! And yet this Book-burning and Letter-murdring humor, tho far from being commanded by Christ, has prevail'd in Christianity from the beginning .... [John Toland, "The History of the Druids," 1726]
updated on September 25, 2018