View Full Version : Curse your library

Cyril Tourneur
11-04-2008, 06:29 AM
Trawling the Endicott Studio blog archives ( Endicott Redux (http://endicottstudio.typepad.com/endicott_redux/) ) to see what I've missed, I found this great post about bookplate curses ( Endicott Redux: Curses! More Bookplates (http://endicottstudio.typepad.com/endicott_redux/2006/10/curses_1.html) ); it's a brilliant idea, setting forth on your bookplate in evocative verse just what will happen to book thieves, page-folders, spine-breakers, dog-earers, margin-scribblers and other book abusers should they mistreat your library. I love this one:

Who folds a leafe downe
ye divel toaste browne
who makes marke or blotte
ye divel roaste hotte
who stealeth thisse booke
ye divel shall cooke.

Or this:

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 forever & aye.

Here's a more modern (and rather gentler) one:

By him who bought me for his own,
I'm lent for reading leaf by leaf;
If honest, you'll return the loan,
If you retain me, you're a thief.

Neither blemish this book, nor the leaves double down,
Nor lend it to each idle friend in town;
Return it when read, or, if lost, please supply
Another as good to the mind and the eye.

The post links to a nice collection at the Virginia Commonwealth University Library site ( VCU Libraries | Preservation | Book Curses (http://www.library.vcu.edu/preservation/curse.html) ) (where all the above examples came from), which in turn links to an e-mail to the Exlibris list ( curses on thieves of books (http://palimpsest.stanford.edu/byform/mailing-lists/exlibris/2002/03/msg00235.html) ) containing even more.

here's a sign posted in the Salamanca library. Rough translation: His Holiness reserves the right to excommunicate any persons who steal, take, or in any other way remove any book, parchment, or paper from this library, without the possibility of absolution until the above should be completely reinstated. Nice.


11-04-2008, 09:28 AM
An account of what happens when, “not given back as it had been given, the law of the book is broken,” from “The Library of Byzantium” (1988), by Thomas Ligotti:

The subterranean structure, at whose center Fr. Sevich now stood, ascended in a series of terraces, each bordered by a shining balustrade made of some golden metal and each travelling the circumference of the inner chamber. These terraces multiplied into the upward distance, contracting in perspective into smaller and thinner circles, blurring together at some point and becoming lost in clouds of shadows that hovered far above. Each level was furthermore provided with numerous and regularly spaced portals, all of them dark, hinting at nothing of what lay beyond their unguarded thresholds. But one might surmise that if this was the library of which the priest spoke, if this was a true repository of such books as the one he had just removed from under his cloak, then those slender openings must have led to the archives of this fantastic athenaeum, suggesting nothing less than a bibliographic honeycomb of unknown expanse and complexity. Scanning the shadows about him, the priest seemed to be anticipating the appearance of someone in charge, someone entrusted with the care of this institution. Then one of the shadows, one of the most sizeable shadows and one of the closest to the priest, turned around . . . and three such caretakers now stood before him.

This triumvirate of figures seemed to share the same face, which was almost a caricature of serenity. They were attired very much like the priest himself, and their eyes were large and calm. When the priest held out the book to the one in the middle, a hand moved forward to take it, a hand as white as the whitest glove. The central figure then rested its other hand flat upon the front of the book, and then the figure to the left extended a hand which laid itself upon the first; then a third hand, belonging to the third figure, covered them both with its soft white palm and long fingers, uniting the three. The hands remained thus placed for some time, as if an invisible transference of fabulously subtle powers was occurring, something being given or received. The heads of the three figures slowly turned toward one another, and simultaneously there was a change in the atmosphere of the chamber streaked with the chaotic rays of underworld starlight. And if forced to name this new quality and point to its outward sign, one might draw attention to a certain look in the large eyes of the three caretakers, a certain expression of rarefied scorn or disgust.

They removed their hands from the book and placed them once again out of view. Then the caretakers turned their eyes upon the priest, who had already moved a few steps away from these indignant shadows. But as the priest began to turn his back on them, almost precisely at the mid-point of his pivot, he seemed to freeze abruptly in position, like someone who had just heard his name called out to him in some strange place far from home. However, he did not remain thus transfixed for very long, this statue poised to take a step which is forbidden to it, with its face as rigid and pale as a monument’s stone. Soon his black, ankle-high shoes began to kick about as they left the solid ground. And when the priest had risen a little higher, well into the absolute insecurity of empty air, he lost hold of his walking stick; and it fell to the great empty expanse of the tower’s floor, where it looked as small as a twig or a pencil. His wide-brimmed hat soon followed, settling crown-up beside the cane, as the priest began tossing and turning in the air like a restless sleeper, wrapping himself up in the dark cocoon of his cloak. Then the cloak was torn away, but not by the thrashing priest. Something else was up there with him, ascending the uncountable tiers of the tower, or perhaps many unseen things which tore at his clothes, at the sparse locks of his hair, at the interlocking fingers of his hands which were now folded and pressed to his forehead, as though in desperate prayer. And finally at his face.

Now the priest was no more than a dark speck agitating in the greater heights of the dark tower. Soon he was nothing at all. Below, the three figures had absconded to their refuge of shadows, and the vast chamber appeared empty once more. Then everything went black.

11-04-2008, 10:11 AM
I used to inscribe my books with a monogram. It seemed widely believed by people in Lancaster (where I lived at the time) that the monogram involved a curse on people who stole my books. While this was entirely false, I don't think that I disabused people of the notion (it seemed useful). :rolleyes:

I wonder why there are classes of things which, if people borrow them, folk often don't seem to consider that the items need to be returned. Books are a good example. (And borrowers of books are a bad example). :mad:

I once painted a hieroglyphic inscription on a tobacco tin that did include a curse. Part of it meant: "As to that robber who seizes it..." Eventually, I left the tin on a train (one could smoke on trains in those days). I wonder whether the person who found it was a robber. Never mind, I suppose that robbers (as a class people) deserve whatever ill fate befalls them. ;)

11-04-2008, 01:00 PM
I just love this post!I'll try to translate some in greek without destroying the rhyme and if i fail i will make some curses of my own!

Btw Tobias...the first curse you include in your post (the one you say that you love) is given as an example by a lady who teaches Poe at the moment!

11-04-2008, 01:08 PM
Stealing books from the liberry is ill-advised:

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