Louisiana State University's Libraries Special Collections posted an article titled “Curses! Foiled again!” How To Keep Your Books Safe, 18th-Century Style. During the medieval period, many book owners and library facilities used curses (yes, like Harry Potter world kind of curses) in order to dissuade people from stealing materials. Mind blown. This, of course, led my circus brain into a search frenzy, stumbling upon old protection strategies for library books. We have come a long way. From chaining books to shelves to inserting RFID chips into book covers, these library security techniques are nothing short of fascinating. I'm glad the library has eased up quite a bit in the 21st century, practically giving books away to those who appear slightly interested.
The image above is a 1616 copy of Erasmus's Adagiorum printed in Wittenberg, Germany. LSU has owned it since 1871.
The curse reads:
Gerard Cooper his Book,
God give him grace therein to look.
Not only look, but Understand,
For Learning is better than House & Land.
When House & Land is gone & spent,
Then Learning is most excellent.
Steal not this Book, my honest Friend,
For fear the Gallows will be your end.
Steal not this Book for fear of Shame,
For underneath stands the owner’s Name.
Gerard Cooper his Book
November the 4th, 1704
And then, there are the chains. To this day, there are few libraries with chains on their books (for history purposes). It's apparent that this system worked for the time. I mean, I doubt people carried bolt cutters in their back pockets (impossible). This is far from today's collections, where librarians are encouraged to promote their materials, leaving them in areas easily accessible to patrons of all ages. The written word is not quite as valuable today as it was in centuries past. I'd say we've become spoiled to the ease of access to materials and taken for granted the numerous copies available of a single title.
Maybe I'll add a curse or two to my favorite titles for good measure. Though, it's more likely that I'll lose my books than have them stolen.
Nevermind, if my books are stolen, I'll just get new ones (you see what I did there?).