A book curse was the most widely-employed and effective method of discouraging the thievery of manuscripts during the medieval period. The use of book curses dates back much further, to pre-Christian times, when the wrath of gods was invoked to protect books and scrolls.

In their medieval usage, many of these curses vowed that harsh repercussions would be inflicted on anyone who appropriated the work from its proper owner. The punishments usually included excommunication , damnation , or anathema . Excommunication was the lightest of the curses because, in the Medieval Catholic Church, it was a reversible state. Both excommunication and anathema required identification of the guilty party as well as action on the part of the Church. Damnation had the benefit of not requiring human intervention as it was a state that the Creator, not the Church, visited instantly upon the soul of the perpetrator. All three types of curses were considered to be effective deterrents against the book thief.

At the time, these curses provided a significant social and religious penalty for those who would steal or deface books, which were all considered to be precious works before the advent of the printing press .

One example of a book curse in the Benedictine nuns monastery of Sant Pere de les Puel·les in Barcelona reads as follows:

For him that stealeth, or borroweth and returneth not, this book from its owner, let it change into a serpent in his hand and rend him. Let him be struck with palsy, and all his members blasted. Let him languish in pain crying out for mercy, & let there be no surcease to his agony till he sing in dissolution. Let bookworms gnaw his entrails ... when at last he goeth to his final punishment, let the flames of Hell consume him forever.

In this particular case, the curse is a hoax written at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Most curses were written in the book's colophon by the medieval scribe. This was the one place in a medieval manuscript where a scribe was free to write what he wished so book curses tend to be unique to each book.

A significant subset of the book curse is the document curse. These curses were employed in much the same way as the book curse, but with one significant difference; while book curses almost always protected the physical book, document curses were generally worded to protect the text of the document that contained them, They were often found in wills, grants, charters and sometimes in writs.

Sor sup no scrip li poti
te er rum tor bri atur
Mor inf no rap li mori

wrote procure joys life supernal
May he who this book the of
steals endure pangs death infernal (90-1)

This book curse celebrates the accomplishment of the scribe in completing the copy which was a massive undertaking but also condemns the thief with damnation for stealing the text. The twining of the words in this way links visually the closeness of the two opposing activities: creating and illegally acquiring the text. In fact, both activities do have the common link in that they are inspired by a love of books and it is that love of books that is the thread between the two actions.

While book curses were effective form of protection against bibliomaniacs, their use also had a negative effect on the sharing of information in medieval society. Under fear of excommunication or even anathema, many monasteries refused to loan books at all and this habit of not sharing texts was translated into secular society.

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Patchwork Merchant Mercenaries had its humble beginnings as an idea of a few artisans and craftsmen who enjoy performing with live steel fighting. As well as a patchwork quilt tent canvas. Most had prior military experience hence the name.


Patchwork Merchant Mercenaries.


Vendertainers that brought many things to a show and are know for helping out where ever they can.

As well as being a place where the older hand made items could be found made by them and enjoyed by all.

We expanded over the years to become well known at what we do. Now we represent over 100 artisans and craftsman that are well known in their venues and some just starting out. Some of their works have been premiered in TV, stage and movies on a regular basis.

Specializing in Medieval, Goth , Stage Film, BDFSM and Practitioner.

Patchwork Merchant Mercenaries a Dept of, Ask For IT was started by artists and former military veterans, and sword fighters, representing over 100 artisans, one who made his living traveling from fair to festival vending medieval wares. The majority of his customers are re-enactors, SCAdians and the like, looking to build their kit with period clothing, feast gear, adornments, etc.

Likewise, it is typical for these history-lovers to peruse the tent (aka mobile store front) and, upon finding something that pleases the eye, ask "Is this period?"

A deceitful query!! This is not a yes or no question. One must have a damn good understanding of European history (at least) from the fall of Rome to the mid-1600's to properly answer. Taking into account, also, the culture in which the querent is dressed is vitally important. You see, though it may be well within medieval period, it would be strange to see a Viking wearing a Caftan...or is it?

After a festival's time of answering weighty questions such as these, I'd sleep like a log! Only a mad man could possibly remember the place and time for each piece of kitchen ware, weaponry, cloth, and chain within a span of 1,000 years!! Surely there must be an easier way, a place where he could post all this knowledge...

Traveling Within The World is meant to be such a place. A place for all of these artists to keep in touch and directly interact with their fellow geeks and re-enactment hobbyists, their clientele.

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