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April 3, 2006

Medieval book curse

I'm reading Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, a wonderful book about the power and majesty of the written word, especially in book form. One of the chapters begins with this actual curse for people who would steal books from a monastery in Spain:

For him that stealeth, or borroweth and returneth not, this book from its owner, let it change into a serpent in his hand and rend him. Let him be struck with palsy, and all his members blasted. Let him languish in pain crying out for mercy, & let there be no surcease to his agony till he sing in dissolution. Let bookworms gnaw his entrails ... when at last he goeth to his final punishment, let the flames of Hell consume him forever.
from the monastery of San Pedro, Barcelona, Spain

Now that curse means business! More when I've got time ...

Posted by snackeru at April 3, 2006 8:34 AM | Books


But this curse was too prohibitive for people who wanted to check out books and thus the libraries were losing business and a valid reason for their existence.

So, the great Edict from London was decreed that changed the penalty from snake metamorphosis and entrail-eating bookworms to 5 cents/day; and there was much rejoicing.

Posted by: Cheesehead Craig at April 3, 2006 8:57 AM

Here is another medieval book curse that recognizes a threat more powerful than the borrower-who-returneth-not:

"Almighty Author and Lover of peace, scatter the nations that delight in war, which is above all plagues injurious to books. For wars being without the control of reason make a wild assault on everything they comes across, and being the check of reason they push on without discretion or distinction to destroy the vessels of reason."

(from the Philobiblion (1344) of Richard de Bury, Bishop of Durham, Treasurer and Chancellor of Edward III)

A little remindful of the fate of Iraqi libraries, no?

Posted by: oldstuffer at April 4, 2006 3:32 PM

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