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9 medieval curses that scared book thieves

The threat to go to the gallows may seem unnecessarily harsh for stealing a book, but this is just one example of a long-standing tradition of book curses. Before the invention of the printing press in the West, the cost of a single book could be enormous. As explained by the scientist-specialist in the middle Ages Eric Kwakkel, theft of books in those days were more like stealing a car today. Today there is a car alarm, and then there were chains, chests and.. curses.

The earliest such curses date back to the seventh century BC. They are found in Latin, the languages of various European Nations, Arabic, Greek, and other languages. Curses existed in some cases even in the age of printing, gradually disappearing as books became cheaper. Here are some examples of such curses that should have fallen on the thief who stole the book.

The Arnstein Bible, which is kept in the British library, was written in Germany around 1172. In it you can see a particularly vivid torture, which was allegedly guaranteed to anyone who dares to steal the Bible: “If anyone steals it, let him die in agony, let him be fried in a frying pan, he will be attacked by epilepsy and fever, and let him be wheeled and hanged. Pestilence to him. Amen».

French curse of the XV century, described by mark Drogin in his book ” Anathema! Medieval scribes and the history of book curses ” sounds like this:

“Whoever steals this book,
will hang on the gallows in Paris,
And if it doesn’t hang, it will sink,
And if it doesn’t drown, it will fry,
And if they don’t fry him, the worst will happen to him.”

3. “Their eyes gouged out»

Arkdragen also rewrote the curse of the XIII century, which he saw in manuscript in the Vatican library.

“The finished book is in front of you,
don’t criticize the humble chronicler.
The one who will take this book
it will never appear before the eyes of Christ.
Who will steal this book
Will be killed by the curse.
Who’s going to try to steal it
They’ll put out his eyes.”

4. “Condemned and damned forever»
Book curse of the XI century, which was found by the scientist Eric Quackel in the Italian Church offers potential thieves the opportunity to do good. It reads: “Whoever takes this book or steals it, or in some evil way removes it from the Church of Santa Cecilia, may be condemned and damned forever, unless he returns the book and repents of his act.”

5. “Well-deserved grief»
The next book curse was written using a combination of Latin and German (at least this is the case in Drogin’s notes):

“If you try to steal this book,
you’ll be hung by the throat high up.
And the crows will gather,
to peck out your eyes.
And when you’re going to scream,
Remember that you deserve this grief.”

6. “Cursed from the mouth of God»
This eighteenth-century curse was discovered in a manuscript found in the monastery of St. Mark, Jerusalem. It was written in Arabic: “this is the property of the monastery of the Syrians in Holy Jerusalem. Anyone who steals or removes a book from this place will be cursed from the mouth of God! God will be angry with him! Amen».

7. “I want you to drown Yourself»

The new York medical Academy holds a 17th-century culinary manuscript. In it you can see the inscription: “this is a book by Jean Gembel. And let him who steals it drown himself.”

8. “The gallows will be your fate»

The owner’s inscription on a 1632 book printed in London contains a familiar motif:

“Don’t steal this book, my honest friend.
Fear that the gallows will be your end.
When you die, the Lord will say:
“Where’s the book you stole?”

9. “The Holy Martyr will be the accuser»

In the” Medieval book”, Barbara A. Shylor recorded a curse from North-Eastern France, found in the History of scholasticism of the XII century. “The monk Peter gave this book to the most blessed Martyr St. Quentin. If anyone steals it, inform them that on the day of judgment the most Holy Martyr will himself be the accuser against the thief in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

One of the most complex book curses found on the Internet reads: “For someone who has stolen a book from the library, let it turn into a Snake in his hand and tear it apart. Let the paralysis affect all its members. He will sink into pain and cry for mercy, but nothing will stop the agony. Let the bookworms gnaw at his insides, but he won’t die. And at last the Flames of Hell will devour him.”

Alas, this curse, which until now has often been described as real, was actually fake. In 1909, the librarian and author Edmund Pearson published it in his almanac. The curse was supposed to date from the eighteenth century, but it was actually the product of Pearson’s feverish imagination.

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