The invention of the printing press in the mid-fifteenth century was revolutionary because, for the first time ever, it allowed books to be created more quickly and efficiently.
But in the days before books could be mass-produced, the process of creating them was very tedious and grueling work.
Only a few pages per day could be completed by hand-copying. Scribes would carefully form letters on parchment during the light of day, not wanting to take any risks with candles. They had to be sure not to make errors of any kind.
Because of the amount of effort that went into making them, books were very valuable and highly sought after by thieves.
As a result, scribes went to great lengths to protect their work.
In the beginning, or sometimes the end of books, scribes would write dramatic curses threatening thieves with pain and suffering.
If a book were damaged or stolen, the wrath of God and other methods of torture would befall the perpetrator.
During that time period, curses were taken seriously, and people believed in them. No one really wanted to risk experiencing an agonizing death.
Marc Drogin is the author of a book called Anathema! Medieval Scribes and the History of Book Curses. It contains the most thorough compilation of book curses to date.