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Friday, November 18, 2016

Book Curses

If you do not return this book to its rightful owner, may the fleas of a thousand camels infest your armpits.  I have no idea where I, many years ago, first heard this book curse, but I loved it. 

This curse came to mind when I came across an article on the topic of medieval book curses.  A book curse was a widely employed method of discouraging the thievery of manuscripts during the medieval period because creating a book could take years. 

“A scribe would bend over his copy table, illuminated only by natural light, and spend hours each day forming letters, by hand, careful never to make an error. To be a copyist, wrote one scribe, was painful: ‘It extinguishes the light from the eyes, it bends the back, it crushes the viscera and the ribs, it brings forth pain to the kidneys, and weariness to the whole body’”  ( Whether they worked or not is unknown, but it was a time when people tended to believe in such curses.

Apparently, there is a book about such curses:  Anathema! Medieval Scribes and the History of Book Curses by Marc Drogin.  I would love to have a copy, but has a new copy listed at $277.94 (CAN)!