A tweet by Tinkering Librarians @tinkeringlib on August 23 caught my eye with its link to this article Protect Your Library the Medieval Way, With Horrifying Book Curses on Atlas Obscura, a website exploring hidden spots around the world.
In the Anne Arundel County Public Law Library we hope that no one ever takes anything from the law library without asking but when anything goes missing, the curse I first saw in Mel Hirshman’s Maryland Bar Journal column (July/August, 1994, p. 52) comes to mind. Mel Hirshman was Bar Counsel for the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission for almost 30 years. This column , “By Special Request (Sad Information From Our Law Librarians),” reported on the problem with books missing from Maryland law libraries. It included the curse found on the door of an ancient monastic library in Barcelona, Spain:
For him that stealeth a book from this library, let it change into a serpent in his hand and rend him. Let him languish in pain, crying aloud for mercy and let there be no surcease to his agony til he sink in dissolution.
Let bookworms knaw his entrails in token of the worm that dieth not, and when at last he goeth to his final judgment, let flames of hell consume him forever and aye.
So next time you are tempted to “borrow” something from a library permanently, beware of the library curse.