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9 medieval curses that scared book thieves
9 medieval curses that scared book thieves
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Imposing a curse on book thieves …

Threatening to go to the gallows may seem overly cruel for stealing a book, but this is just one example of a long tradition of book curses. Before the invention of the printing press in the West, the cost of one book could be enormous. As medieval scholar Erik Kwakkel explains, stealing a book in those days was more like stealing a car today. Today there is a car alarm, but then there were chains, chests and … curses.

The hour of reckoning for book thieves …

The earliest such curses date back to the 7th century BC. They are found in Latin, languages ​​of various peoples of Europe, Arabic, Greek and other languages. Curses existed in some cases even during the era of printing, gradually disappearing as books became cheaper. Here are some examples of such curses that were supposed to fall on the thief who stole the book.

1. "Death in a frying pan, epilepsy and pestilence …"

Curse for book thieves: "Wheeling, falling, pestilence …"

Arnstein's Bible, which is kept in the British Library, was written in Germany around 1172. One can see in it a particularly vivid torture, which was supposedly guaranteed to anyone who dares to steal the Bible: “If someone steals it, let him die in agony, let him be fried in a pan, he will be attacked by epilepsy (ie epilepsy) and fever, and let him be wheeled and hung. Pestilence to him. Amen".

2. "Worst Ending"

Curse for Book Thieves: Worst Ending

The French curse of the 15th century, described by Mark Drogin in his book Anathema! Medieval scribes and the history of book curses "sounds like this:

"The one who steals this book will hang on the gallows in Paris, And if he does not hang, he will drown, And if he does not drown, he will be fried, And if he is not fried, then the worst end will befall him." …

3. "Gouged out eyes"

Curse for book thieves: "Gouged eyes"

Mark Drogin also rewrote the 13th century curse he saw in a manuscript in the Vatican Library.

“The finished book lies before you, do not criticize the humble chronicler. Whoever takes this book will never appear before the gaze of Christ. Whoever steals this book will be killed by a curse. And whoever tries to steal it will have his eyes gouged out."

4. "Condemned and Cursed Forever"

Curse for book thieves: "Condemned and cursed forever."

The 11th century book curse that scholar Erik Kwakkel found in an Italian church offers would-be thieves the opportunity to do good. It reads: "Anyone who takes this book or steals it, or in some evil way removes it from the Church of Santa Cecilia, can be condemned and cursed forever, unless he returns the book and does not repent of his deed."

5. "Well-earned grief"

Curse for book thieves: "Well-deserved grief."

The following bookish curse was written using a combination of Latin and German (at least that's the case in Drogin's notes):

“If you try to steal this book, you will be hanged by your throat high. And the crows will then gather to peck out your eyes. And when you scream, Remember that you deserve this grief."

6. "Cursed from the mouth of God"

Curse for book thieves: "Cursed from the mouth of God."

This curse of the 18th century was found in a manuscript found in the monastery of St. Mark, Jerusalem. It was written in Arabic: “This is the property of the Syrian monastery 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."

Curse for book thieves: "I want you to drown yourself."

The New York Academy of Medicine houses a 17th century culinary manuscript.In it you can see the inscription: “This is a book by Jean Gembel. And let the one who steals her drown himself."

8. "The gallows will be your lot."

Curse for book thieves: "The gallows will be your lot."

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 is the book that you stole."

9. "The holy martyr will be the accuser"

Curse for book thieves: "The holy martyr will be the accuser."

In The Medieval Book, Barbara A. Schilor recorded a curse from northeastern France found in the 12th century History of Scholasticism. “The monk Peter gave this book to the most blessed martyr Saint Quentin. If someone steals it, inform him that on the Day of Judgment the most holy martyr himself will be an accuser against a thief in the face of our Lord Jesus Christ."

BONUS

The subject of desire

One of the most difficult book curses found on the Internet reads: “For the one who stole a book from the library, let it turn into a Serpent in his hand and rip it apart. Let the paralysis hit all his limbs. He will plunge into pain and cry, begging for mercy, but nothing will stop the agony. Let the bookworms gnaw on his insides, but he will not die. And finally the Flame of Hell will devour him."

Alas, this curse, which until now has often been described as real, was in fact a fake. In 1909, librarian and writer Edmund Pearson published it in his almanac. The curse was supposed to date from the 18th century, but it was actually a product of Pearson's feverish imagination.

The book thief is still alive today

Modern fans of literature are of great interest paintings on the pages of old books: the work of Ekaterina Panikanova.

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