"It was traditional, particularly before the invention of the printing press when books were all hand written manuscripts, to letter a curse into the book to prevent theft. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to have worked very well, as the books also had to be chained into place. Even chains had limited effect. Witness the many ancient libraries where there are still chains in place -- but no books.
Here are a few examples...
Thys boke is one
And God's curse another;
They that take the one
God geve them the other.
He who steals this book
may he die the death
may he be frizzled in a pan...
This present book legible in scripture
Here in this place thus tacched with a cheyn
Purposed of entent for to endure
And here perpetuelli stylle to remeyne
Fro eyre to eyre wherfore appone peyn
Of cryst is curs of faders and of moderes
Non of hem hens atempt it to dereyne
Whille ani leef may goodeli hange with oder.
Steal not this Book my honest Friend
For fear the Galows should be your hend,
And when you die the Lord will say
And wares the Book you stole away?
A variation on the same theme...
Steal not this book, my worthy friend
For fear the gallows will be your end;
Up the ladder, and down the rope,
There you'll hang until you choke;
Then I'll come along and say -
"Where's that book you stole away?"
From the Monastery of San Pedro, Barcelona, a blanket curse for the entire library...(I really wish this one existed, but unfortunately, it appears that it is apocryphal -- there is no monastery in San Pedro. It's so nasty though that I include it anyway.)
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 for ever & aye."
Recently I began to organize my own collection with loose leaf page dividers labelled by themes and or artists.,
One of the themes I chose was threats and warnings. Here is part of what I included .
Philip Reed was an illustrator and book designer who lived in St Joseph Michigan .He and his wife Nancy operated a woodcut stationery and bookplate business.Shown above are two of the nineteen universal bookplates he designed.
Ref . P.57 Bookplates in the News 1970-1985 by Audrey Spencer Arellanes
The artist's initial's look like UD.I do not recognize them.
Roger Place Butterfield
Mr. Butterfield, a former national affairs editor for Life magazine, was the author of ''The American Past: History of the United States from Concord to Hiroshima, 1775-1945.'' The book presented 1,000 drawings, political cartoons, pictures and photographs with connecting text by Mr. Butterfield.
Stanley Dressler Lovegrove was an artist who lived in Pennsylvania
A pencil notation on the reverse side indicates she designed her own bookplate,
Malcolm M. Ferguson (1920-2011)
The late Mr. Ferguson was a bookseller in Concord Massachusetts. His bookplate was designed by a German prisoner of war after WWII based on "two or more Weird Tales -one being William Fryer Harvey's
The Beast With Five Fingers plus another by my late friend,August Derleth"
Ref letter letter from Mr. Ferguson dated Oct 2nd, 2006
I saved my favorite for last.Perhaps it's the touch of red but I would not borrow a book from this owner whoever he is.
Stay Tuned for Part Two
Labels: Threats and Warnings on Bookplates