Medieval Scribes Discouraged Theft of Manuscripts by Adding Curses Threatening Death & Damnation to Their Pages – on Open Culture site…

I’ve concluded that one shouldn’t lend a book unless one is prepared to part with it for good. But most books are fairly easy to replace. Not so in the Middle Ages, when every manuscript counted as one of a kind. Theft was often on the minds of the scribes who copied and illustrated books, a laborious task requiring literal hours of blood, sweat and tears each day.

Scribal copying took place “only by natural light — candles were too big a risk to the books,” Sarah Laskow writes at Atlas Obscura. Bent over double, scribes could not let their attention wander. The art, one scribe complained, “extinguishes the light from the eyes, it bends the back, it crushes the viscera and the ribs, it brings forth pain to the kidneys, and weariness to the whole body.”

The results deserved high security, and Medieval monks “did not hesitate to use the worst punishments they knew” for manuscript theft, writes Laskow, namely threats of “excommunication from the church and horrible, painful death.”

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