Magically copied books

Would it be possible to magically transfer text to another book? If so why not do this instead of writing and why does this spell not exist?

Do you have Transforming Mythic Europe? If so, start at p.98.

Edit: There is also Twinning the Tome (HoH:TL p.101-102), which need not be Mutantum. But this can be quite expensive.

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Amusingly, my first thought was a rego spell to teleport all the ink inside a book into another book.

Then I realized he meant 'copying' and not 'stealing' when he said transfer.

Anyway, as mentioned, it is a thing people have looked into, both vis-copying and vis-free. The first part is very vis expensive, and the second ... well, its best described in Transforming Mythic Europe. That book is full of 'Lets Break the Game' scenarios.


The provisions that books can't be copied with magic (at least without spending vis to copy a book) I think is more a game balance issue than anything else. A spell to move ink on to a page with an intelligo requisite to copy an open book, wouldn't be much more than level 25. A young aquam specialist or nearly any slightly experience magi who decides they want to learn the relevant spell could copy a book in less than a day. The consequences of quick book reproduction is massive.

The game design answer is any spell to copy writing, the information in the writing is worked out by the reader. Writing by itself has no meaning. P149 core rules "Note that writing does not contain any information of itself".

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Such a spell is ReAq The Copyist's Puissant Quill on TME p.100. It requires an Int+Finesse roll, as does all craft magic. The Ease Factor is 9 to 15 depending on the quality of the book containing the copied page. Botches result in subtly messed up pages and insidiously failed books.

Some math for variants of craft magic is on TME p.100f Copying an Entire Book.
The resulting optimization is p.102 The Superb Scrinium. It still requires a magus with high Finesse to operate properly. Players with much time at their hand can optimize it further.

For the same reason why most magi employ mundane cooks rather than enchanting hordes of automata-chefs. It takes far less effort to create wealth with which to pay for the services of mundanes.

By ArM5 game rules, it takes a mundane scribe roughly the same time to (carefully) copy a book than it takes a reader to study it (the optional Covenants rules alter this somewhat for really sophisticated books, but not enough to make a significant difference to what I am saying). And of course, most books are eventually read by several readers. This means that it takes a surprisingly small number of mundane scribes to keep the Order fully supplied with all the books it may need.

Of course, magic may occasionally be employed, whether in a critical situation or by a vain magus. But it's simply not the most sensible way to do things the vast majority of the time.


Yep. Exceptions are e. g. situations, where political texts shall be distributed within the Order to prepare the decisions of Tribunals - especially the Great Tribunal. The party supplying more copies in time might get an advantage.

Pure magic copying of books is expensive and difficult, generally requiring Vis or high Finesse with every use. However there is a better way. Have mundane scribes do the copying with the assistance of enchanted items, which only requires a single outlay of Vis rather than every time. The scribes do the copying using the normal rules, the enchanted items serve to improve the quality of the materials, help find errors, and do things that could improve the speed of the work.

There are a bunch in Covenants, TME and my Covenant Collection thread, though we have added a few more since it was posted.

Some of the things you can do without Finesse:

  • An enchanted 'Test of Fastness and Fading' to confirm the quality of inks before use. Good to have if your scribes use some exotic inks for a project.

  • An enchanted 'A Simple Test for the Completeness of Books' to check the condition and history of books. A variation for checking the quality of pages before use would actually be more useful for a copying operation.

  • An enchanted 'The First Furrow Guides the Second' will provide a faint illusion of the page to be copied onto a blank page, making the work "tracing" rather that copying. Useful for both Scribes and Illuminators.

  • An enchanted 'The Copyist's Critical Eye' will provide review for errors. The version in my thread is much more complex and automatically turns the pages, generates illusion highlights of errors, and adds a dot of ink (picked to contrast) under errors to find them easier for correction (as the text box in TME, p.101). You could just do it with the first effect though.

  • Small containers with variations of 'Ink of Nobelest Metals' can be used to short term change any metal into the consistency of ink. Great for adding varies metal leaf or writing to a document. You can make a version of this for nearly anything with appropriate Forms.

  • Enchanted forms using Muto Form (Aquam) to change a material Momentary to a liquid. Lets you take a collection of 'good' quality scraps and pieces or an oddly shaped piece that would normally not be usable, then turn them into a board or sheet of material.
    [Note that this has many uses outside of books and there are more advanced uses for this for things, including the ability to make hybrid boards that are like modern 'epoxy filled' using any two materials.]

  • Enchanted presses using Muto Form (Terram) to give a 'Rock of Viscid Clay' Momentary effect. For good quality monolithic material this would only let you make them thinner and smoother. For things like paper which are made of lots of individual bits laminated together it would let you make them monolithic, thinner and smoother.
    [Note that this has lots of uses outside of making paper. You could make cloth for clothing or sails better for example. You could permanently attach ropes to sails. A variation could make ropes monolithic and not fray.]

  • Enchanted cutting tools using Muto Form (Terram) to give a 'Rock of Viscid Clay' Momentary effect. While only minimally useful for trimming pages, it can be very useful for trimming boards. A very fine tipped version could be used to "write" on a very hard page, which could then be further enhanced by filling the cuts with something made liquid by an 'Ink of Nobelest Metals' effect later.

Some of the things you can do with Finesse (not really recommended):

  • Enchanted 'A Useful Inculcator of Comments' (expand to ReHe(AnTe) for all inks) can allow edits on written material if there is a mistake in layout or you need to make an addition in the middle of something. [Note that this requires Finesse EF 6+ to use]

  • Enchanted 'Bind the Mundane Codex' (expand to ReAn(He) to include boards) would greatly speed up the binding process. [Note that this requires Finesse EF 12+ to use]

Something that Finesse is used but unimportant:

  • 'Thoughts Distinctly Burned' can fail Finesse rolls and still generate rough writing (a successful Finesse roll only makes it particularly precise and neat). You can make a device that writes the minutes of a meeting with this, ready for a Scribe to make a clean version later. Heck you could make an invested device that writes out a rough text version of everything it 'Hears' through an added Intelliego effect.

Thank you. I actually did not have TME. But it really should hapve been in the core rules instead of the current copy rules.

I don't believe that. Magical book would be too important to be copied by mundane scribes. They probably even can't copy a magical text either and you have to erase their memory or kill them after. I don't see that happening to cooks very often.

Mundane scribes can copy books about magic just fine. They will need a point or two in Magic Theory to avoid making mistakes, but that is not hard to learn.

p166 in the core rule book has the basic rules for copying texts,


Knowledge is power. Even more so in Ars Magica.
Besides how easy or not it is to copy book, there is the point where: How much the author does want to share it, and more importantly with whom ?
If a book could be copied for a handful of vis within a few hours, it becomes very difficult to control the flow. If you look at the setting in the books, you should realise that despite the initial intention of Bonisagus, his own house is keeping a tight control on who can access what (GotF: Durenmar library access). Most mages are described are reclusive, self-centered individuals, who could not care less about the power progress of their neighbours - or would event resent it (Hubirs of house Verditius for example).

There is a good reason why magically copying book is in a book called "Transforming Mythic Europe" - it will go against preserving the Status Quo and the privileges/power of certain mages/houses.

As one can say, it is not a bug, it is a feature: it gives PC an agenda to reform the system, to improve education, to make sure that all apprentices have access to the best books with the highest quality and any Tractatus of quality 12 or more is widely distributed. Within one generation, it would be reasonable to assume that all new mages enjoy the benefit of Good Parens (or more) for free, not because their pater/mater is spending more time, but just because they have access to much better learning tools.

Now, if you purpose is just to make sure that mages can quickly get the best books, you just have to handwave the lesser Limit (I believe) that restrict magic from granting knowledge - I am paraphrasing - and somebody through extremely lucky experimentation designed a CrAn(He,Te) of the level of your choice, that allows to create a perfect replica of a book the caster is touching.


Are there rules for governing improvements to quality and time to copy for using these spells?

Kinda sorta.

What I mean by that is not directly from the spells, but from the Workshop rules in City & Guild (C&G, p.65) and Lab rules in Covenants (Cov, p.106). You can have a lab (Scribes) and workshop (Bookbinder) built into the same location. There are multiple examples of this throughout published books (Hermetic Shipyard, Philosopher Lab in an Apothecary Workshop, etc).
[Non-Hermetic Labs (or at least the ones of Experimental Philosophers) have -3 Upkeep (A&A, p.71).]

As a Lab, the only thing we really care about is a Laboratory Specialization in Texts and the Upkeep. These are writing cells you build, with the need for one per Scribe working. Every 3 points of Text increases gives a +1 to Scribe for copying and Language for writing.

Building them, you take the Major Outfitting Flaw "Elementary" and limit the lab to Text. This means each can be setup in a season, has an Upkeep of -3 (or -5 if you apply the Non-Hermetic modifier) and takes up a 10' x 10' space. They cost 1.5 (0.5) pounds to setup and have a seasonal cost of 0.15 (0.05) pounds. If you Scribes later have some free time (seasons they are not copying) then they can setup a Greater Feature/Greater Focus. The only listed Features that help Text are Desk and Tablet, with Desk being the obvious choice (its text says "... designed for reading and scribing"). Those two will give +7 to a Text Specialization.
[Note that if the scribes lab is located in a building with magical lighting, the lab can get 'Superior Lighting' for free which adds +1 Text.]

So how do the enchanted items help out? Use the 'Magic Items for Laboratories' section, with every 10 levels of enchanted item granting a +1 Specialization. That works out to 1 pawn of Vis per +1 Specialization and 3 pawns of Vis per +1 Ability for seasonal activity. If you don't want to go through all the trouble of your Scribes setting up "Scribe Labs" then you could just take a +1 to seasonal Scribe/Language ability per 30 levels of enchantment.

The Workshop rules are not really needed for determining book quality since that is covered by Covenants (p.88, 'Summary of Quality Rules'). However some of the effects are useful to a Workshop making the materials used to create books. These enchanted items can serve as some portion of the "Total Labor Points" needed to increase the Innovation Score or the SG could just award a higher Innovation Score.
[Note that you should most likely apply some multiplier to the Levels to Labor Points, my Saga uses x5]

The Workshops you really want to build if going after high quality (rather than Quality) books are a Percamenarius and an Ink Maker.

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It seems like magically copying books should have been in the core rules...

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Mundane scribes will make mistakes just as the scribes did in the Middle Ages. Medieval Bibles are so full of errors that they had to rewrite them from start in the 18th century. I guess that this will be even worse when it comes to magical texts that may be more complicated and really depend on that you got it right. Also... we actually do not know what magical texts look like. Perhaps you really need to be a wizard to write them? Teaching Magic Theory to mundane scribes might also be a violation of the code unless you look them up or something...

The core book allows for mundanes to copy such books, as long as they have a suitable Ability (MT for Hermetic magic, (Realm) Lore for some stuff, etc.).

A character must have a score of at least 1 in the relevant Realm Lore, or the appropriate Ability, to copy a text about a Supernatural Ability without corrupting it.

A character must have a score of at least 1 in Magic Theory in order to copy a book about the Hermetic Arts or Parma Magica without corrupting it.

And Covenants goes into details about the standard being that a magus puts down the original stuff in tablets or similar and then a mundane scribe makes the actual pages from those. So the standard is to have mundanes do it, and as the standard it would seem at odds with being any sort of violation of the Code.

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That is what the rules say but the idea that medieval scribes do not corrupt texts is somewhat anachronistic. Also, given that it would be much more safe and fast to have a magical carbon copy. As you can do this this would be the most common way of do it in ME.

A small error in The Fables of Aesop would probably go unnoticed and just result in a different reading. An error in a spell text might blow up your lab, burn down the covenant and open a gate to hell. Why take the risk with using a claw-like mundane scribe when you can make a perfect magical facsimile?

We KNOW this:

  • Medieval scribes made a lot of errors
  • Medieval scribes were slow
  • Medieval scribes sometimes did not understand what they were copying

Mythic Europe is ASSUMES that:

  • Magic is dangerous
  • Magical texts are complicated and you need to be gifted and very intelligent to understand them
  • Magical texts are secret and should not be spread outside the order
  • A magical text can be compared to an instruction. It is easier to learn magic from a book than to figure it out for yourself
  • You can create a magical fascimile of a text realtively easy and fast and you can also magically check this fascimile

So why bother with mundane scribes?


You will have problems designing that with ArM5 Hermetic magic.

AFAICS , what comes closest to it is using TMRE p.26ff The Art of Memory, some of the spells there to improve memorization, and then use Hermetic magic to transfer such memories as HoH:S p.69 Episodic Memories between the memory palaces of two magi with improved memory palaces. But such books in memory latest disappear with the magus. :thinking:

More than using a mundane scribe? If Transforming Mythic Europe is canon I don't think so.