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It was during the summer of 1997 that we experienced a large number of thefts from our rabbit warren-like premises. Books disapeared from the shelves at far greater rate than those which we logged in our till. In mentioning our problem to a friend who was holidaying in Spain we did not realise the consequences of his response.
He sent us a 'copy' of an ancient curse on book thieves belived to emenate from the Monastery of San Pedro in Barcelona. In a spirit of light hearted amusement we posted the copy throughout our shop and were dumbfounded that it worked. Thefts ceased & books were returned through the post with notes of apology. We wrote a short letter to the Church Times informing them of this phenomenon and asked if any readers knew of a similar curse that might induce sales.
We were much surprised when Thursday's copy of the Church Times arrived at our desk, delivered an hour early by the local newsagent with our story on the front page. All very good we thought and rather a laugh.
The following morning our newsagent delivered both the Times & Telegraph two hours early as they both contained lead stories about our shop and the bookseller curse. Tuning into Radio Four at 7.00 am we were much taken aback at our names being mentioned first in the press reviews and this was quickly followed by follow up telephone calls from the BBC, ITV, and other independent stations.
We decided not to open the shop due to the weight of press reporters at the front door that morning but took calls from several national newspapers. It was when faxes and telephone calls began to arrive from Spain, Ireland, the United States, Brazil and Mexico that we thought perhaps this story had gone a little too far. As well as enquiring calls and faxes we also had threatening messages from book thieves worried about their life expectancy.
On the following day we crept into our shop at 4.00am and pasted a 'NOT OPEN' sign to the door. Trying to avoid the reporters still gathered at our entrance we immediatedly took down all the 'curse' notices posted throughout the shop.
During the following week, calls and faxes died away, we took receipt of many parcels of stolen books - mostly not having been stolen from us, and we heartily wished we had never mentioned the subject.
For those interested, it reads as follows:
For him that stealeth a book from this library, let it change into a serpent in his hand and rend him. Let him be struck with palsy and all his members blasted. Let him languish in pain, crying aloud for mercy and let there be no sur-cease to his agony till he sink in Dissolution. let Bookworms gnaw his entraills 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 for evere and aye.