Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Medieval copyright Protection

Since I recently promoted three of world's free ebooks (two of which are amongst the most famous), I started thinking about copyright protection. It was part of the research I did for that article, where I looked into how authors had suffered when battling publishers for rights to their books.

Apart from the pitfalls of online publishing, I also stumbled upon some real-life curses used in the past to deter people from stealing or defacing books!! 
It was hilarious, and I couldn't help highlighting a few here for you to read:

Should anyone by craft of any device whatever abstract this book from this place may his soul suffer, in retribution for what he has done, and may his name be erased from the book of the living and not recorded among the Blessed.
--attributed to a 16th-century French missal belonging to a man named Robert 
Thys boke is one
And Godes kors ys anoder;
They take the ton,
God gefe them the toder.

[This book is one (thing),
And God's curse is another;
They that take the one,
God gives them the other.]
--found in various Middle English books.
For more great "Don't Steal Me" lines, check out
Most of these quotes come from the this book, the motherlode: Anathema!: Medieval scribes and the history of book curses
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  1. Books were so precious and rare in Middle Ages that people tried every method available to protect them. For a hand-written book with fancy pictures (also hand-painted) you could buy several villages - only imagine that! Thanks for sharing!

  2. What a fascinating post, many thanks for sharing these wonderful laws with us.

  3. @Anachronish @Petty - Thanks :)
    I had no idea that one book was that valuable - great info! Wish they were as revered by the masses today..

  4. That first one is just plain hilarious.

    "may his name be erased from the book of the living and not recorded among the Blessed." - Seems a little harsh eh?

    All in all it makes you wonder if all the fuss about DRM on ebooks is worth it. Looks like authors have always wanted to protect their work.

  5. I'm coming up with a post on DRM as is a hot button topic for me!
    I guess it always has been around though, and you can't get any more protective than wanting to banish someone from the book of the living :D

  6. Very fun, I think I might start putting the French one in the library books. Maybe that will keep the kids from coloring in them, spilling on them, and (oddly enough) eating them. :)


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