Robert over at 101 Books recently posted a “pet peeve” about people who borrow books and don’t return them, a common complaint among book people. Book thieves tend to rank right up their with evil doers like Count Dracula, sucking the life out of your bookshelves one book at a time.
Just tonight, I was browsing through many lovely used books at Dog-Eared Books in the Mission District of San Francisco and came upon a “true crime” story called The Man Who Loved Books Too Much. Intrigued, I picked it up. But when I read the following inscription in the front pages, I knew it was destined to go home with me:
“For him that stealeth, or borroweth and returneth not, this book from its owner…let him be struck with palsy, & all his members blasted…Let bookworms gnaw his entrails in token of the Worm that dieth not, and when at last he goeth to his final punishment, let the flames of Hell consume him forever.” –Anathema in a medieval manuscript from the Monastery of San Pedro in Barcelona
Think of it! If that Spanish monk’s dire curse was inscribed in all books, self-policing would become the norm. The public libraries (especially in San Francisco) wouldn’t be missing half their collections, book-borrowing friends would no longer hide in guilt from their book-lending friends, and we’d all be saved from the flames of hell—well at least with respect to this one deadly sin.
Now, you’ll need to excuse me, the room is feeling a little warm. Must find those two books I borrowed from old boyfriends over twenty years ago and return them posthaste.
P.S. The book mentioned above, written by Allison Hoover Bartlett, is the “true story of a thief, a detective, and a world of literary obsession.” I’ll let you know who ends up with all the books.