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Steal not this book my honest friend: Threats, warnings and curses in the Edwardian book

O'Hagan, Lauren ORCID: 2020. Steal not this book my honest friend: Threats, warnings and curses in the Edwardian book. Textual Cultures 13 (2) , pp. 244-274. 10.14434/textual.v13i2.31604

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This paper explores the role of the book inscription as an important rite of property in Edwardian Britain (1901-1914). In particular, it uses a multimodal ethnographic approach to examine the use of ownership marks as threats, warnings and curses, and explore how they were employed by their owners to deter potential malefactors. It reveals that these inscriptions were discursive acts that operated on a cline of politeness that stretched from mitigated to stronger ownership claims. However, while in the Medieval period, book curses carried a serious threat of punishment, by the Edwardian era, most were written out of adherence to social tradition, thus their force lay in performing rather than describing a future act. This suggests that in the early twentieth century, book inscriptions were strongly linked to their owners’ social class and functioned symbolically to index ownership, property rights and power.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Publisher: Indiana University Press
ISSN: 1559-2936
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 22 November 2019
Date of Acceptance: 10 December 2018
Last Modified: 04 May 2023 09:25

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