Threats and Warnings on BookplatesIt was traditional, particularly before the invention of the printing press when books were all hand written manuscripts, to letter a curse into the book to prevent theft. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to have worked very well, as the books also had to be chained into place. Even chains had limited effect. Witness the many ancient libraries where there are still chains in place… but no books.
Here are a few examples:
Thys boke is one And God’s curse another; They that take the one God geve them the other. He who steals this book may he die the death may he be frizzled in a pan… This present book legible in scripture Here in this place thus tacched with a cheyn Purposed of entent for to endure And here perpetuelli stylle to remeyne Fro eyre to eyre wherfore appone peyn Of cryst is curs of faders and of moderes Non of hem hens atempt it to dereyne Whille ani leef may goodeli hange with oder. Steal not this Book my honest Friend For fear the Galows should be your hend, And when you die the Lord will say And wares the Book you stole away?
A variation on the same theme:
Steal not this book, my worthy friend For fear the gallows will be your end; Up the ladder, and down the rope, There you’ll hang until you choke; Then I’ll come along and say - “Where’s that book you stole away?”
From the Monastery of San Pedro, Barcelona, a blanket curse for the entire library…(I really wish this one existed, but unfortunately, it appears that it is apocryphal – there is no monastery in San Pedro. It’s so nasty though that I include it anyway.)
For him that Stealeth a Book from this Library, Let it change into a Serpent in his hand & rend him. Let him be struck with Palsy, & all his Members blasted. Let him languish in Pain crying aloud for Mercy, Let there be no Surcease to his Agony till he sink to Dissolution. Let Bookworms gnaw his Entrails in token of the Worm that dieth not, When at last he goeth to his final Punishment, Let the flames of hell consume him for ever & aye.“