Copying books

I apologize if this has already been covered. I did a search and didn't find the answer...

Is there any mechanical reason in 5th Edition that a mage can't just say abracadabra and copy a book? I understand the game balance reasons, but I can't find any in game explanation.

We're thinking of introducing an enchantment for protecting books (designed by Notatus along with the Aegis, what a smart guy!). The enchantment would be "not entirely integrated into Hermetic magic" of course. It would cost a nominal amount of vis and would protect the book from any use of In or Me used on it (even as a requisite). By explanation, it ties into the mythic power of the words themselves to prevent them from being changed or copied (or something like that...).

What do you think of this? I don't know if this is a problem with other groups, but it's come up a couple time (with different players) in our game.


How does the spell fit into the platonic forms? How does it "know" what it is copying? How is Me involved? The book has no mind, if anything, you'll be using An, He, Im, maybe some Te?

when using Cr to create something, you generate the perfect example of an object, the template for that object... with CrAn(He), you'd just get a blank book.

My issue is that every book is different, you cannot just snap and Cr an exact duplicate of a book. You could, perhaps, create a blank book with a CrAn(HeTe) ritual...but it would be expensive in comparison to just buying blank books or making your own. Maybe, if you had supplies and a blank book, I can see a ReIm(HeTe) ritual where you duplicated the efforts of a scribe/illuminator, tracing your finger across one book as you traced your finger along the blank book...but this, too would be a difficult process, and probably more efficiently done by mundane means.

But just (rhetorically) click your heels three times and Cr(In)An(HeTeIm) bang! A puff of spent vis and a copy of Principia Magica is sitting right next to your original? The magic doesn't "know" and can't do that; it has no way to do so, at least not that I can see...

If you can show me how you think it should work otherwise, I'm open to the discussion, but from the baseline look at the F&T, the idea that spells don't impart skills or knowledge, I just don't see how Hermetic magic can do it. There has to be some sort guidance involved in the spell.


Intellego magic is more than capable of providing the information that you require. With Intellego it is possible to assess all mundane properties of an object. Why can't it then be copied?

As for the forms, Creo magic is capable of producing the characteristics (categories...) of an object as well as the underlying form. In fact, it can be argued that it is producing the perfect example (form and substance) of Principia Magica...

As a counter example, Mutantum mages can alter a book so that it has the words of another book until the spell ends. If your argument were correct, they would be unable to do this with Hermetic magic. (See HoH: True Lineages)


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Going solely by the core, no apparant reason presents itself. If you go with the extended canon, the Craft Magic rules insist on extremely high Finesse rolls to copy a book, something that would put it outside the reach of most magi. Regardless, the truth is that books are just easiest to copy by scribes. Why bother casting a spell to copy a book, and risk failure, perhaps twilight, and perhaps incur loss of raw vis? Just give it to a scribe to copy and you'll have your book next season. Easy.

I once did a detailed analysis of magical book copying. It comes down to - yes, you could do it, but why bother? If you want to, you can read it here.

Edit: Regarding an enchantment to forbid copying the books, I don't know how that would be done Hermetically. I'd be pleased personally with your solution, basically just arbitrarily saying "it works". I'd note that Guardians of the Forest does indeed allude to such an enchantment protecting the Great Library, IIRC.

I'll take a crack at this.

We enchant the room so range personal target room, (You could make an argument regarding range touch from the restrictions that personal range can effect no greater than individual targets, p. 111, but I feel that personal should be the range for an item effecting itself) constant duration for 2 magnitude and four levels, and the base 4 perdo mentem guideline "diminish a single mental characteristic".

Final level base 4 + 2 duration, +2 target, 4 levels= 24 + whatever you want to add for penetration.

You could play with the parameters and make a book that zaps the copying ability of anyone who touches it, (or perhaps is in the room when it is touched) but one could certainly find a way to get around this by having someone else touch it. If one had access to the Bjoernaer sensory magic mystery then you could make a better attempt at it.

No need for fancy or convoluted enchantment concepts to prohibit copying of books, IMO. The simplest solution (and Hermetics is, again IMO, all about finding the most economic and effective solutions for any task done magically) is to instill an effect that blinds anyone attempting to copy the book in question.

If you can't see, you can't copy, end of.

Instill a constant (or triggered upon opening the given tome) InMe effect to detect intent of the reader and put a linked trigger in the blinding effect and you've got your solution.

I was thinking primarily of Hermetic books. To copy these without errors requires that the copier has Magic Theory (though that may have been 4th edition...hmm...). Most mages have better things to do with their seasons than copying books and the typical apprentice has little skill in scribing.

I've known a few players that would consider the vis cost of creating a book with a Creo ritual to be reasonable if it would save his character a season or two scribing.

As for the difficulty in using Rego, my current mage character has a minimum finesse roll of 12 (with the virtue Cautious with Finesse) and I've seen write-ups with better scores than that. It may not be for every mage, but it isn't a problem for some...

I only asked about all of this because the RAW seems to imply (repeatedly) that magically creating a book is impossible. I could never find any good reason for that to be the case, but I could see the game setting/balance reasons for it.

To create a reason for the impossibility of copying of Hermetic books in Mythic Europe we have been considering introducing a commonly known ritual spell that prevents such copying. It would be "not fully Hermetic" in nature allowing it to be too good for its cost (much like Aegis of the Hearth). Since it wouldn't be fully integrated similar magics could not be used for other applications ("because Notatus was a super genius and your not"...). It seems like a good compromise.


There is a canon spell for copying a book (Twinning the Tome, HoH;TL, p 101) which invoked 5 additional magnitudes for game-balance and little other reason. One or two would have seemed sufficient, given the cost in Vis and the fact that the copies are arcane connections to each other.

That said, it's just much easier to employ some scribes, especially some scribes who've been taught the rudiments of magic theory. Offering them some extra pay to spend one of their "Free Seasons" learning a bit of Magic Theory is just plain useful, and a scribe who can be made to see the benefits of magical aid is a fun companion or grog.

Complexity is one good reason against being able to copy it straight away. Copying every little part that makes up thousands of words on dozens, possibly hundreds of pages...

Doing it one page at a time, fine, but as said already, it wont take that much shorter time than letting a skilled scribe copy it, and a scribe dont need to be a magus, just any scribe capable person tought a score of 1+ in Magic theory.

This spell creates an arcane connection between the two books and an ongoing magical effect. I was just interested in "simple" copying... Most of the extra levels are for the continuing effect.

But, who is going to teach Magic Theory to the scribes in the first place. A season of learning a spell to copy books will last your lifetime and the spell can be passed on to another mage in the form of a lab text. The scribe will soon age and be unable to continue his work. This strikes me as far more inefficient than you seem to think.

I do think that such a scribe would make for an interesting person in a covenant and may use just such a person in mine, but that isn't really the point that I was trying to bring up...


Rego craft magic already has clear guidelines for doing "a days work in a moment" (or a months or a seasons...). This clearly covers recreating a text that a craftsman would take a season to write.

Also, being able to take five minutes out of your busy schedule to make a copy of a valuable book can be a very useful ability. What if you don't have a season or two to wait for the copy? What if you only have access to the original for a limited period of time? I can come up with several other scenarios where this would be very important.

And if you are part of a very wealthy covenant (in money rather than magical resources) you wouldn't even need a particularly high finesse score to accomplish copying a book since you wouldn't mind destroying the odd pile of bookmaking supplies or two... An Intellego spell to check the quality of the copy and you are good to go.

I'm not saying that every mage or covenant would want to magically produce books. I'm just saying that there doesn't seem to be any rulebook reason that they can't. In some sagas this could be a very powerful ability. In others it would be (according to the comments in this thread) nearly useless...

I take it from the general comments that most people on this forum feel that restricting the magical copying of books is not necessary. That's fine. It's one of the things that I started this thread to find out. :wink:


The use of magic to copy tomes faster than normal is a perfectly logical extension of the Magi's wish to use their time more effectively. In the 4th Ed. Sagas I've dealt with, it's a routine spell which spread quickly once introduced. The link I saw described spells not unlike those to which I refer.

As for training scribes in Magic Theory, the truth is that in 5th Ed. there is a much greater incentive to train them than in previous editions. With the sheer volume of materials which could be produced, most Covenants of any significant size would rival the largest monasteries in terms of their output, employing dozens of scribes and scholars, many of whom would have been taught Magic Theory.

Um ... What ongoing effect? It's an instantaneous Creo ritual. The Arcane Connection is a consequence of their being the same thing, magically duplicated. I strongly suspect the extra levels are there as part of the authors desire to reduce the level of magical conveniences used in the game and belief that the spell is over-powered.

Making the teaching a season's service for a magus or apprentice would be the easiest option (bearing in mind that you can teach many people at once), but for our Saga, we actually have a dedicated teacher who teaches Latin, Artes Liberales, Magic Theory and Scribing to our more educated coven-folk. It became necessary after an unprecedented number of births coupled with a lot of orphans after a local war, and is remarkably useful four our apprentices - it means their seasons teachings are about magic, not the basics needed before that. And, finally, a simple text on Magic Theory which you require the scribe to study would do it.

I don't deny that such a spell would be useful, but Vis is expensive. Even the lowliest ritual costs 4 pawns of Vis, roughly 40 Mythic Pounds. No scribe, even if he's scribing onto plates of gold and using ink made of angel's blood, costs that much.


I don't know, angel's blood is pretty expensive... :imp:

No problem for the "hermetic xerox" spell. If the vis economy of your saga would supoiort it, go for it. Given that paying copyists is much easier than spending vis on the books (even without the massively overstated complexity indexes) not much problems there :slight_smile: The good books tend to be under cow & calf agreements anyway, so...



Sorry, I must be getting the spells mixed-up. I know that there is a spell in True Lineages that creates a link between the two books where any change to the original is immediately reflected in the copy. The spell was sometimes used to maintain contact between the owners/bearers of the two books. Not having all of my books handy, I assumed that was the spell you were referring to. Sorry for the confusion.


Thanks for all of the replies.

This came about from my recent re-reading of the covenants book (looking for ideas). In the section on libraries and books there was a section on aiding or replacing scribes. Nowhere in that section was there any reference to copying whole books. There were a lot of spells related to making the life of a scribe easier, but none for actually replacing the scribe entirely. Looking back over my Ars Magica books, I found that there weren't even any references to this being done. It seemed significant...

I was just wondering if this was a conscious decision of the part of the authors and the line developer or if it was just coincidence.

I was also wondering how other people handled the question and whether or not it had even come up in games.

Sit vis vobiscum,


It's a deliberate choice. Books are treasure in Ars Magica, and are used ot gain XP. You can't make them easily for much the same reason that in D&D, your character can't cast spells to make gold that counts for XP. That's the out-of-game reason: it breaks the setting really quickly. Seriously, I did model this for the Tremere when I wrote them, and the idea that magi have their weird manorial lifestyle is hard enough to justify now without adding that by living the way they do they -also- make themselves comparatively weak in combat against properly organised magi.

In game? The Finesse roll is too high. This is not an insurmountable problem, in theory. It's not like breaking a Law of Magic or anything. One day, magi may well be able to just do this. Hermetic culture won't look even vaugely similar to what it does now, because once you can target text you don't actually need to keep it in books. You can put it in anything, and use that anything in lieu of a library with a suitable magi item as a reader.

That is to say, there's no reason, once you can target text, that you'd want to go to all the bother of all the requisites required to make a book when you can instead imbed the text in a durable object, even if in magicoform or microform, and read from that object.

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This is much closer to what I was thinking when I started this thread. It seems to me that once books can be easily copied using magic, large changes to the Hermetic culture could easily follow.

The most obvious example is in illegal uses of the magic. Given a few minutes in an unprotected library a mage could "download" the entire contents. The library would have to become the most heavily guarded part of the entire covenant...

Or, "My fellow members of the Order of Hermes, I present to you that the entirety of House Bonisagus is actively depriving us of our magical power by hoarding books that could be easily distributed to every member of the order and, by their own doctrine, should be!"
(Ok, so that may be a little extreme, but it's still valid.)

Add to this the fact that books are not the sacred way of transmitting information in the Order (just the most common one). Covenants presents several alternatives to the traditional book and the idea of the "virtual" book has been presented in a few different places.

It wouldn't be all that hard to create a magical device that stored the image of every page of a book and could create images of those pages on command for study. Given that the number of pages that could be thus stored increases by a factor of ten with each increase in spell magnitude, the number of pages that could be held in one item becomes ludicrous.

Every mage could have his or her own PDA analog including every book that said mage ever came in contact with...

These and more can be yours for the low, low price of allowing magical copying of Hermetic texts...

I'm not saying that this would necessarily happen, just that being able to target texts seems to open up a lot of possibilities that may not be good for the setting. And that's without even going into the books as experience points issue mentioned above.

This is why I was suggesting a (not fully Hermetic) enchantment specifically for books that would prevent targeting the information in the books. I thought that it would give an in game setting reason for restricting the spread of "scribal magic". However, most of the people responding to this thread have not seen this as a problem. This could be another one of those "it sounded good in theory" things...

We may decide to introduce the enchantment into our saga anyway. At the moment, my character is the only one with the skills to pull off the copying and I really don't think that he should be doing it. So far, I've just chosen not to, but I'd rather have an in game reason. Also, we have to address these issues soon because a couple of the other players in the game are being heavily influenced by the way that my mage has been using his magic. It won't be long before they have the skills to do it too and they will be asking the same questions, probably with less restraint...

Sit vis vobiscum,


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