This image of a Baroque inscription in the library of the Salamanca University was donated a while ago by Wang Wei to Pei Di (or vice versa), and now as it has been found among the images waiting for being framed, Pei Di (or Wang Wei) decided to scan it for the common good, before hanging it at the entrance of his library.

The text of the inscription is as follows:

Excommunication – with absolution exclusively reserved to His Holiness – is imposed on whichever person taking away, stealing or in whatever other way expropriating any book of paper or parchment from this library, without being able to be absolved until completely restoring them.

Weighty words. But not as weighty as those of the inscription which – as Mario Jaime Señoranis Durán writes it in his article „Maldiciones para los que roban libros” (Maledictions against book thieves) in the Boletín de la Biblioteca y Archivo Histórico del Honorable Congreso Nacional (La Paz, Bolivia), issue 5 (2005) 2 – some centuries earlier threatened the readers of the Monasterio de San Pedro in Barcelona – probably in Latin, although the author only reports its Spanish translation:

Para aquel que robare un libro de esta biblioteca, que en su mano se convierta en serpiente y lo desgarre. Que quede paralítico, y que estallen sus miembros. Que languidezca en dolor, aullando por misericordia, y que su agonía no cese hasta que se hunda en la disolución. Que los gusanos de los libros roan sus entrañas como el gusano que no muere, y cuando finalmente se vaya al castigo final que las llamas del infierno lo consuman por siempre y para siempre.

(Whoever would steal a book from this library, may it change in his hands into a snake lacerating him. May he be paralyzed and may his members burst apart in pieces. May he be tormented by an intolerable pain and howl for mercy, but may his agony not cease until his body is completely dissolved. May the bookworms fret his entrails like a worm that is unable to die, and when he finally goes to the last judgement, may the flames of hell consume him for ever and ever.)

“Has the world made any progress by means of the books?” Perhaps this much, yes.

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