Of course, just remember that copying books is one laboratory task that clever mages can and should easily delegate to covenant scribes. Just ensure your scribes do take some lessons in Magic Theory and the four Realm Lores so that they do not insert errors when copying magical books, and you are in business. Mages have much better calls on their seasons than copying books and lab texts. Show me a magus that copies stuff on his own and I will show you a fool.
It must be a very, very poor covenant. In providing for a covenant resources, funding for specialists that can make and copy books is one of the most important items ever. I would rather prefer my covenant to be lacking in shield grogs and blacksmiths than in scribes, binders, and illuminators. Books are that important for Hermetic mages.
Too bad for him. That's what covenants hire scribes for, and sincerely IMO expecting PC mages to waste precious seasons in something so trivial as copying books would be abusive for a SG. Might as well expect mages to repair armor and weapons of the grogs instead of the covenant blacksmith.
Mages write or study books, they do not copy them.
But your position is self-justifiying, Wanderer. IF a SG rules that magical books cannot be copied by a non-magical scribe, i.e. that somehow Maqic Theory alone is insufficient to comprehend the subtleties of such texts, then the magi have no choice. Since there are no "mundanes" who can copy them, they must do the work themselves, or lump it.
It changes the game world, and texts become MUCH more valuable, but it's not particularly "wrong", and it avoids the "army of scribes" tactic that I bet many of have seen, flooding the market with Hermetic books, and making them that much less valuable. (This is how it often worked in earlier editions, and that was never a "bad thing", it just meant you paid thru the nose for what books you had.)
Mages DO study books- but why would any, ever, write something new when there are so many copies of good ones floating around that it's a buyer's market, apparently, and their costs not a significant obstacle? If a scribe can copy a book for peanuts, after a few decades every book worth anything will have been copied scores of times, until the market is saturated with even the best quality books.
I would expect very, very good justifications for such a ruling, and the one you mention looks like a thinly veiled excuse for "let's harass the mage PCs", which I would not let a SG get away with. IMO the canon 5th ed. rule makes sense in that it makes books sufficiently available to justify the existence of a thousand and more mages and apprentices, and the fact that useful magical innovations become widespread in the Order within a few generations. Covenant scribes make magical books no more widespread than mundane books in the Middle Ages, and it's not like the period was exactly awash with them. Moreover, you already have a signficant check in that your scribe needs to be proficient in any of five arcane abilities, according to subject matter, to write books without errors. At the most, I would accept that the scribe would need to be skilled in all of them to copy any kind of magical book. But mages already have so many onerous calls for their time in the lab, and only so many seasons before Final Twilight strikes them down. Copying book is the only lab task they can delegate, and the most unglamourous of all, stuff for tonsured monks.
This is just one more example of how ruleswise, 5th edition is so much more superior to the previous stuff. Scribes have always been necessary to justify the Order as it is, better to admit it in the rules, without assuming magical automata scribes and the like, as one was supposed to do under previous editions' rules. I deem it "wrong", in that it runs contrary to the realities of the setting, which assumes basic quality books to train new mages are easily available, amd new Hermetic discoveries become fairly widespread within a few decades. Also "wrong" that it smacks of a punitive intent in the rule.
IF a SG is really concerned at the best books getting excessive circulation, he can simply rule that either such books simply do not exist in the book, or still reap high prices, thanks to the Cow and Calf Oath. Obliging mages to endlessly slave in the lab to replace each and every summa, tractatus, and lab text that gets ruined or because one extra apprentice needs one extra copy of a primer is no way but abusive.
It discourages writing vain summae, but there will always be a market for tractatus and lab texts for new spells, rituals, and items, variants of existing ones, and variant initiation scripts. It makes difficult to create new really good summae that will upstage the previous ones as the Hermetic Authorictates, yeah. What's the matter ? Really good books will still see somewhat limited circulation thanks to the Cow and Calf Oath.
Scribes make sure there will be a relative (again, it's not like they have printing press, books are still rather rare by our standards) abundance of low and mid-level summae in all but the most impoverished covenants. But it's as it ought to be: apprentices should get most of their study from books, not waste the master's time, and young mages should study their low- and mid-level Arts and Arcane Abilities from books, not waste vis or the time of their elders.
Ok, some strong opinions and if I may say so, Wanderer, I am in favour of more scarce books than 5th Edition seems to suggest because it feels to me the right kind of scenario for ArM. When knowledge is power and knowledge is scarce, knowledge really is power.
On a slightly different topic, are there any suggestions on the prices of books, both in vis and coin? If yes, where can I find it?
It depends what kind of power, Yan. Scarce books may make some individual magi look more powerful amid a more scarce population of more mediocre magi. Abundant books means a more even distribution of might in a plentiful crowd of more powerful magi. I would quite definitely rather sacrifice the odd pinnacle for overall prosperity and have my mages be (relative) equals amid princes rather than kings of beggars.
Covenants has a whole section on the care, management, and circulation of books and libraries. Including guidelines (but not detailed price-lists) on book exchanges. Check Covenants pp. 93-97, is what you seek on Hermetic book trading. Also HoH: TL may be marginally useful as it details the vis-exchange system of House Mercere (pp. 85-89) which is the closest thing the Order has to a currency system.
Now the way i see it, not every mage is writing books and as certain covenants get into winter many of the middle level texts tend to get lost due to decay from neglect, no longer any need to trade for more stuff because the magi are all doing their pet projects before that last twilight roll. Only bonisagias magi are required to have their work copied. So you have vis, teaching, and training as well as books out there.
Any mitigating things like large scale wizard wars and/or schism wars would set the whole order back in lost books.
But in general, as the Ars time line progresses books would naturally become less and less of a commodity as more covenants spring up but that is offset as vis sources start to dry up. I imagine that as things get closer to the 1300 ad, vis is probably really hard to come by in some place that is very settled, such as Normandy.
Well, if you ARE going to rule that Magi need to copy the book, then, to be even handed, you must rule that illumination and such MUST be done by a Magi...
Heck, you could even rule that you must enchant said book with one pawn of Vis for each level of the book (or something like that). That would effectively end that...
The question does not end up revolving only around which "feels" right, but, more, how much time it takes away from the magi and their studies and pursuit of magic in general, and thus how "large" they can get in a given amount of time.
And that, ultimately, is up to each StoryGuide and each Troupe.