There are a number of mystery cults and other groups that specialize in obtaining lost magical knowledge from spirits or the dead. However, I haven't seen much on efforts to recover destroyed books.
How might one go about this? For example, if one were sifting the ashes of the Library of Alexandria, could one use creo herbam / animal to recreate a destroyed text from its ashes? Would this work if you had only a fragment of the text instead?
For that matter, could one produce copies in that manner, by writing a page, then tearing it up and using creo on each fragment to reproduce the original?
This all assumes that the fragment is an inferior version of the original, and could thus be "perfected" back to an intact state. This seems to be consistent with the concept that man-made alterations to natural objects are now inherent in the object - such as the example on Criamon magi that they could reform a pearl drilled with a hole to serve as a button, but that the hole would remain. Presumably, if one had carved a letter on the pearl, the same principle would apply.
I presume that this matter has been discussed before, and likely written about somewhere. Would someone please be kind enough to summarize the discussion?
There is no Form that covers "written knowledge". If you used Creo on a damaged book, all you would get would be blank pages, or what the caster thinks should be there.
See the Creo blurb about (IIRC) the fact that you could create a mosaic of the Founding of the Order, but if your knowldege of the events is incorrect, so will the mosaic.
Similarly, Hermetic magic cannot perform translations of written texts, except through the mind of someone who understands that text.
A book (or anything, really) that's been destroyed is lost, as far as Hermetic theory is concerned; while it has existed in the past there's no way to recover that knowledge without violating the Limit of Time. That said, there are a few possabilities.
*If the book has not been completely destroyed, but only badly damage, it is possible to repair, using CrAn. This will result in a reduction of Quality, the exact amount should be determined by the extent of the damage.
*The loss of the physical book does not imply the lack of the knowledge within the book; there may be ghosts or long-lived mystic beings who remember enough of the text to create a working reproduction.
*Criamon magi will tell you that they can restore the book by banging themselves on the forehead with a skillet until Twilight shows them the answer, but they are probably lying. Avoid them.
*If all else fails, remember that only Hermetic magic is bound by the Limit of Time. There may be a non-Order method of restoring the book. Of course, by working with unaffiliated wizards you're risking being Marched, but this was a highly important text, worthy of devoting several seasons of adventure to, yes?
Interesting. A book could be seen to be a "more perfect" version of its forms. Thus Creo could heal it. I suppose Intelligo magic could sense this too. This could be seen as exactly the same thing as healing a tree, or repairing melted armor.
This could be very changing to a saga, especially if you enjoy putting "ruined" books in an adventure to show what sort of a place certain magical locations used to be without giving out too much "l33t". Maybe you have books in your covenant library that are listed as "damaged" and thus lower quality and level which could then be healed. Books may be seen to lose quality over long periods due to decay, this magic certainly could reverse that as well.
I would suggest, unless you began your saga with this as a general practice, that this might require a "break through" in Hermetic Theory, a Mystery Cult ability/virtue, or just something that very few know about and guard well.
I found this bit interesting by Erik Dahl:
...I'd rule that the more damaged the book, the greater the intricacy cost for mending it, from +1 magnitude for a few torn pages, to +5 for a book that is so ruined it cannot even be opened. Pages that are missing completely cannot be "healed," much like other healing spells do not reattach severed limbs, though if at least a fragment of the page remains, it may be reconstructed in this way.
I like this as a way to allow characters to repair a book that you WANT them to repair while establishing an easy to adjudicate way to stop them from repairing everything.
I think perhaps it's worth remembering that, while players may want an easy way out to repair books, eg by using a spell, that the other side of the coin is maintaining books as a rare & precious resource in ArM.
In support of the latter, 5e deliberately excludes the "written word" from most Forms (esp Mentem), and from reconstruction spells (you get what you expected - nothing useful if you didn't already know the contents).
this leaves finding books and finding pristine copies as tasks for stories, and means that a book in a lost tongue is an intrigue and puzzle.
It's perfectly reasonable for sagas to rule that spells can fix eeither of these problems - but them books lose some of their story value...
Consider the spell Tales of the Ashes (InIg 5): "Lets you see what the ashes you touch originally were, and how and when the object was burned. The latter two are divined from markings and signs in the ashes."
I take it that most people in this thread would say that if this spell were cast upon the ashes of a letter or book, the SG should only reveal to the player that the ashes had been a letter or a book. That is, the player wouldn't be told the contents of letter or book. (This is a pretty restrictive reading of "all mundane properties.")
Would you be similarly restrictive with specifics about the origins of other ashes? Forgive a somewhat gruesome example, but suppose a PC magus casts the spell on a funerary urn. Do you think the proper SG response should be "a human body" rather than "your uncle Frank?"
In the case of the spell Tales of the ashes I would describe the object as it was before it was burnt.
So if cast on the ashes of a dead person I would dscribe the person, and if the caster recognizes the person as his dead uncle Frank he knows who the ashes belong to. If he hasn't seen his uncle frank in forty years he might not recognize the image as his uncle.