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December 26, 2016

Medieval Book Curses

Most Genealogists love books. Many of my Facebook friends drool over shared photos of amazing floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and rooms completely devoted to books.

In Medieval times, books were hand-printed and drawn by scribes. They worked long difficult hours, often bent in excruciating postures. Hands cramped. Backs and necks went into painful muscle spasms. Books were a treasure - expensive and often one of a kind. So it is not surprising that scribes and book owners devised methods of protecting their work.

They came up with an ingenious way - writing curses at the beginning and end of a book. The curses included "excommunication from the church and a horrible, painful death. Steal a book, and you might be cleft by a demon sword, forced to sacrifice your hands, have your eyes gouged out, or end in the fires of hell and brimstone.” [ November 09, 2016]

An example of one of these Medieval curses is

This book belongs to none but me
For there’s my name inside to see
To steal this book, if you should try
It’s by the throat that you’ll hang high.
And ravens then will gather ‘bout
To find your eyes and pull them out.
And when you’re screaming, "oh, oh, oh!"
Remember you deserve this woe.

The curses were meant to stop readers from ripping out a page, stealing the book, or scribbling within the book. This practice was so wide-spread that a book has been written about these Medieval curses.  Anathema! Medieval Scribes and the History of Book Curses. by Marc Drogin available on and

Read this fascinating story at Protect Your Library the Medieval Way, With Horrifying Book Curses

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