Read

If you stole a book in the Middle Ages

  If you lose a book in the university library today, you may need to pay a fine of 3 to 10 times the price of the book; if you lose a rare book, or if you do it repeatedly, intentionally or unintentionally, you may be blacklisted , lose the eligibility to borrow books. But if you lived in medieval Europe, the consequences of losing a book were far worse.
  Manuscripts painted in gilt and gold are the main carrier of medieval cultural heritage, and the production of manuscripts is extremely expensive and labor-intensive. Take the Book of Kells, an Irish national treasure written in the eighth and ninth centuries, for example. The kraft paper used in it was taken from about 185 calves. Since the cowhide is repeatedly soaked with lime juice or dung water to soften and remove the hair roots before writing, this number can balloon to 1,200 if the production time is tight. Some contemporary artists experimented with book-making using medieval materials, and found that it would take 50 hours to complete a single page of the Book of Kells, which is far less complicated than a manuscript of the Book of Kells. It takes a month. Considering the medieval writing environment, which depended on sunlight and was heavily weathered, it would have taken years to complete the entire book.
  Manuscripts are not only more expensive than real gold, but are often the only way for a monastery or group of people to read a certain work, and are the result of several years or even ten years of desk work by scriptwriters. Losing a book means not only the loss of material wealth, but also the loss of a unique key to a certain knowledge. From this you can understand why the few medieval libraries open to the public had iron chains hanging from every seat, and the title pages of many manuscripts were written with phrases or short poems of “guardian curse”, so that it almost formed a independent literary tradition.
  For example, the Latin “curse of the book” of the 12th-century German “Arnstein Bible” reads: “If anyone steals this book, may he die, may he be scorched in a frying pan, may epilepsy and heat If the disease knocks him down, may he be turned on the wheel of punishment, and may he be hanged. Amen.” In the 14th century Netherlandish encyclopedia “Blossom of Nature”, there is a copy of a “death oath to protect the book”, telling borrowers to He solemnly swears that once the borrowed book is not returned, he will die. Only one female borrower, who called herself a “midwife”, had the courage to sign below.
  In addition to the plethora of “curses of book guards” that claim that book thieves will be directly expelled from teaching, one can also find quite a few poetic versions with similar effects, such as: “This book belongs to Rochester Abbey, and if anyone steals it, Hide it, hide it, or destroy, scrape, delete this inscription, may his name be removed from the book of life”; or this version of the imaginary stolen book itself avenging the book thief: “Whoever steals Books or people who don’t return the book, the book will become a snake and devour you, and your internal organs will be swallowed by bookworms.” It is forbidden for book thieves to delete the information of the “inscription” (that is, the curse of protecting the book). The recurring appearances of these curses, which appear to be a bluff in modern times, were a real deterrent in the Middle Ages, effective to the extent that book thieves often wanted to delete it to escape the curse.
  Some “book-guarding curses” even come in the form of short poems, such as this angry curse poem from a transcriber: “This book is finished and placed in front of the king/Humble transcriber, not to judge/ If you take this book, no matter who he is/May he never see the face of Christ/Whoever dares to steal this book/May he be cursed and die on the side of the road…”
  If you feel these bloody The “guardian curse” doesn’t meet the medieval church’s ethical codes of patience, forgiveness, and love for one’s neighbor as oneself, so think about the harsh working conditions of the transcribers (poor lighting, poor stationery, low error tolerance, long hours, low wages, etc.) Not at all), and the painstaking effort they put into writing and decorating a manuscript. Perhaps you can somewhat understand why they chose the only weapon in their hands, the “words” themselves, to defend the fruits of their labor and the source of knowledge for their communities.
  There are even some “curses” against animals that are equally brilliant. For example, a 12th-century manuscript depicts a vivid scene of a transcriber raising his fist to drive away a mouse, and the parchment scroll reads in Latin: “You damned rat, you always make me angry, may God destroy it. You!” Although cats are often kept in monasteries to kill rodents, cats themselves are not fuel-efficient lamps. In 1420, a Dutch scribe found that half of the parchment he had copied was wet with cat urine at night, so he had to leave the remaining half of the page blank and draw a cat and two fingers pointing directly at the urine stains. Added this aftermath “curse of the book guard” for the entire cat family: “The blank here is not a lack of text, it is because a cat urinated here at night. Curse the evil cat who urinated on a dirty book at night, and curse others for it Lots of cats! Be careful next time, don’t spread the book out where cats haunt at night.”

error: Content is protected !!