Poxy Pilfering

The delightful Lee Harris (he of the Angry Robot horde) retweeted this link on Twitter this afternoon, and I just had to share it. Because I’m nice like that.

The article’s from a medieval blog – or strictly speaking, a medievalist blog, because they, like, didn’t have the internet back in the 1300s and had, like ohmigod, never even heard of Dooce – and it’s all about the earliest form of copy protection: the good old-fashioned book curse.

This Middle English curse is written as if spoken by the book itself:

Wher so ever y be come over all
I belonge to the Chapell of gunvylle hall;
He shal be cursed by the grate sentens
That felonsly faryth and berith me thens.
And whether he bere me in pooke or sekke,
For me he shall be hanged by the nekke,
(I am so well beknown of dyverse men)
But I be restored theder agen

[Wherever I might end up over all,
I belong to the Chapel of Gonville Hall;
He that feloniously ferries me and bears me from thence
Shall be cursed by this great sentence:
Whether he bears me in a pouch or sack,
On account of me he shall be hanged by the neck,
(I’m too well known by many men [to not be noticed])
Unless I be returned there again.]

–Found in a breviary held in the library of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge

It’s a fun entry – mostly because there’s little as vengeful as a pissed-off monk who’s spent the last six months bent over a lectern illustrating this damn manuscript by candlelight, thank you very much, only to get to the end and realise that he’s gone and spelled “God” wrong on page 32.

It looks like a great blog, worth looking at for anyone with even the vaguest interest in the medieval. I’ll be checking back, anyway, and I’ll definitely not be pinching anything from the library.


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