Tuesday, March 09, 2010

How to Use This Book (Or Else)

More authors ought to do this. Instead of writing a boring old dedication, write a curse. In a 1518 manuscript of the Gospels, Psalms, and a work called Thekaras, a scribe named Theophilos Iviritis wrote:

I beseech all who come across this book not to dare cut it up shamelessly, in order to take it apart and remove either the Gospels or the Psalter or Thekaras or any other office or part, or even a single leaf, but let it remain intact, just as it was written and bound by me. Should the binding become worn, may it be rebound just as it is now. If anyone should act against what I say, the curse of my sinful unworthy self be upon him. And may whoever owns this take care not to leave it lying idle on the shelf but always make full use of it; for this is why the book was written, so that he might not suffer the same condemnation as he who hid the talent. And if he should neglect his own salvation, let him give the book to another who cares greatly about being saved so that he might use it to gain the riches of heaven and to pray for my wretched self, who is responsible for a thousand wicked deeds and is unworthy of either heaven or earth. May the Lord have mercy upon me and deliver me from eternal damnation; therefore, I beseech you, all the holy fathers, to pray for me.
The Apocalypse famously contains a blessing on the one who reads it (probably referring specifically to the lector, the person reading it out loud in the church meeting) and a curse on anyone who tampers with it. Probably too heavy-handed a tactic for some, but it does promote that whole author-reader interaction thing.

(HT: Evangelical Textual Criticism)

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