book curse turned blessing

July 25, 2012 at 8:02 pm Leave a comment

Our anonymous Oxford shenaniganner sends us another beauty:

Upon his death in 1715, William Brewster divided his substantial library between the Bodleian, Saint John’s College, Hereford Cathedral, and All Saints Parochial Library at Hereford.  Among the nearly 300 chained books was the first Vernacular Livy (Venice: 1493) [pictured] which was left to All Saints.  As with many books of the era, the Livius was graced with a book curse which remains just below the All Saints wood-engraved bookplate, reading:

 “Qui libru[m] istu[m] furatu[r]
a domi[no] maledicat[ur]”

At some point in its history, some library patron had added his own Mediæval version of shenanigans, capitalising on the fact that the “a” in “maledicatur” had been left slightly open, and the “l” following it was left quite short, and hence, with three short penstrokes, the anathema which promised God’s wrath to whomsoever might dare pilfer the volume was made anew:

“Qui libru[m] istu[m] furatu[r]
a domi[no] benedicat[ur]”

promising that God would “speak kindly of” anyone who would steal this book.

For more information on book curses, try Marc Drogin’s Anathema!: Medieval Scribes and the History of Book Curses (1983), available at a library near you.

Entry filed under: academic libraries, books, perpetrated by students or patrons.

library cat shenanigans library perfume!

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