Recreating Lost Books?

So in Ancient Magic, page 87 says:

The pediment beneath the temple contains the rooms now entombing Theon and Hypatia. In her rage, the ghost destroyed almost all of the hundreds of scrolls and tablets stored there. Other relics of the Library of Alexandria might have survived her wrath, however, ready for diligent magi to piece them back together.

What magic might be most efficient to piece ruins of books/scrolls like this back together?

Efficient? I'm not sure there's an efficient way. If this is doable with normal hermetic magic, I would go with something like this:

Scribing from the ashes
InIg 20
R: Touch, D: Year, T: Ind, Ritual

This spell is usually cast as a follow up to Tales of the Ashes, for interesting books and scrolls. For this spell to be possible, the caster must have been able to identify ashes belonging to a specific book. If he found a burned down library, with the cinders scattered, the gamemaster may decide that a higher level ritual is needed. As part of this ritual, the caster collects the ashes of the burned book and mixes them with other ingredients to prepare a special ink during the casting of this ritual. For the next year, this ritual allows the caster to see the book while using the specially prepared ink in sufficient details to allow the caster to scribe a copy in an empty book with that ink. The caster may still encounter difficulties with copying the book if the language of the former book is unknown to him, with undecoded labtext shorthand, etc. This might be known beforehand with just Tales from the Ashes if there would have been a book title to gauge the language or content.

(Base 3, +1 Touch, +4 Year)

Now if you're looking at efficiency, use this spell with a group target for a bookcase, or room for a small library which would give you InIg 30.

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If you actually have a bunch of the pieces of a book, then a more powerful version of the spell Repair Cracks and Tears (Cov, p. 99) would work. It is a CrAn spell, to which you would need to add He and Te Requisites to restore the ink, boards, and such.

The base spell is level 20. While the requisites might not increase the level (the spell is primarily to repair a book, the requisites are part of that), I would think that you would require a point or two of Complex.


First, by TME p.99f Magic Can Neither Read Nor Understand

Manipulating the words however gets no sense of the meaning therein.

So, Hermetic magic like a verrry advanced and utterly precise version of ArM5 p.141 Tales of the Ashes could only distinguish the ink from the parchment burnt - if possible at all.

Repairing a scroll torn up into little pieces with an advanced version of Covenants p.99 Repair Cracks and Tears Ritual might encounter fewer problems.

Magically coercing the ghost of Hypatia (AM p.86 box) to help might be the best chance. With ReMe a powerful magus might well do this, and have her reconstruct important books she once knew, or parts thereof, from fragments.


Wow, very cool suggestions guys! I will look into these some more in the morning.

Searching the site, I found this old spell, not sure if I completely agree with it, but a neat idea.

Creation of the Alexandria's Golden Treasures, CrAn(Im) 20 Ritual

This spell simply duplicates the book the caster is touching. Ink isn't copied directly, instead, color is infused into the parchment, mimicking the effects of iron-gall and similar inks. The produced colors are rather dull, however they provide an excellent template for a skilled illuminator to improve on. A faithful reconstruction requires a Perception + Finesse roll of 15+ (a roll of 21+ is required to replicate the fine details of superior scribing or illumination); a roll of 14 or less results in gibberish.

If the book is has wooden bindings or incorporates other materials, casting requisites might be necessary.

A version with Target: Group (level 30) is also available, allowing the duplication of multiple books at once (up to about 40 or so, but they need to be arranged in a single pile).
(Base 5, +1 Touch, +1 treated, +1 requisite)

Another "canon" version is pg of 101, True Lineages that looks useful. I'm not sure that Boosted Magic is a literal requirement for a spell like this, a magus could invent (with a large enough lab total) their own version.

R: Touch, D: Mom, T: Group, Level 50, Ritual
Requisites: Intellego, Terram
This spell creates a nearly perfect copy of the binding
and every page of a book you are touching, including illumination, creases, and damages. It requires an Intellego requisite to determine the shape and size of the pages, and a Terram requisite to create the ink.

While an effective method of quickly copying the contents of a book, the vis cost is generally considered prohibitive; Milvi instead use it to recover valuable books that have been stolen or lost, or to copy ancient works that are too fragile to move.

Thus, this version of the spell also allows for vis boosting, so that you can accommodate an arcane connection to the book without requiring you to learn another spell.
(Base 5, +1 Touch, +2 Group, +5 intricacy, +1 requisites; Boosted)

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I'm not sure I agree with your interpretation of that section. What you're quoting refers to a specific exemple that is found right after the phrase you quote, and which takes a different meaning:

"Manipulating the words however gets no sense of the meaning therein. There is, for example, a profound lack of a spell that can translate the written word from one language to another, even though there is a spell that translates the spoken word in exactly this manner. This is because the mind that
uttered a word can be interrogated for its meaning with Mentem magic, but written words are just artifices of ink and parchment that have no intrinsic thoughts behind them."

At no point would the magic spell I suggested above need to understand the information, it just needs to be able to relay what the item looked to the caster like before being burned. Interpreting the writing is solely dependant on the magus's language and artes liberales skills, and not the spell guidelines. Keep in mind that there are existing spells that can detect words in a book - they do not, however, make sense of those words. For a published example, see Books that Scream in Pain from covenants which can explicitly search for a given written word. My understanding is that it would only search for a word in a given language understood by the caster, and it would not find anything abbreviated, mispelled, etc. The same logic, in my mind, would also allow an intellego spell to read at a distance. Essentially, what you quoted is just paraphrasing what is already in the main book under Intellego Mentem guidelines.

At first, when writing this up, my first thought was to go - as you say - with a high complexity intellego effect. And then I realised that the guideline was "Sense all mundane properties of ash" emphasisis on the all, so I wasn't sure adding complexity made sense in that context, because either the spell was able to provide the information sought - or it wasn't. I haven't been able to find examples of intellego spells with added complexity, except when the guideline said it sensed one property and the spell revealed many pieces of information. I figured that, as with many intellego effect that involve for example communing, etc. the caster could get as much information as he could reasonably acquire in the length of time of the spell, hence why I went with the Year duration - also needed to have time to study or scribe - and made explicit that the caster still required the proper language skills to make any sense of the text that was previously burned.

The idea of using Repair Cracks and Tears is something I like, but which I hesitated at first on, largely because the book might be too far gone to simply repair like that. But now that I think of it, if instead of just adding complexity, if that was complexity added from requisites to intellego and ignem, that would have the advantage over what I designed to instantly produce the book as it was before it was burned. The downside, is that I would probably require a tough Finesse check, which could be an obstacle.


Repair Cracks and Tears does not require a Finesse check, since it is a "healing" spell. It even states that it heals/repairs multiple times in its description. It does not have any requisites which is why it is limited to leather and parchment.

The points of added Complexity in my first post is to represent the more powerful healing required based on how damaged the book to be repaired can be. The base for the spell is 5, with a +2 for books processed nature. That actually maps identically to CrCo damage "Healing a light wound" (base 15), giving us a useful guideline for magnitudes of Complexity. Ramping up all the way to "Heal all wounds" (base 35) could be matched by adding +4 Complexity. The two Requisites of He and Te are +0 and might not even be required depending on the materials used in the book. Rather than list them directly, including the commonly found line "Casting requisites of appropriate Forms for the target are required" with mention of Herbam and Terram would work.

So taking that all together, we end up with something like this...

Restore the Book from Fragments
CrAn 40
R: Touch, D: Mom, T: Ind, Ritual
This spell allows a magus to heal all the damage a book sustained, as long as at least a fragment remains, restoring it to the condition when newly manufactured. It is an expensive way to repair books, only used when the book can not be repaired by other means. Casting requisites of appropriate Forms for the target are required, commonly Herbam (for cover boards and some inks) and Terram (some inks, corner caps, and clasp).
(Base 5 [one hide], +2 treated animal product [parchment], +4 complexity, +1 Touch)


That spell needs some work, so let me try a breakdown of what needs to be fixed.

  • The modifier for "treated" should be +2 for books, since they are manufactured items.
  • The Imaginem requisite makes no sense and should actually be Intellego. This is a +1 requisite.
  • The Group target would allow up to 10 books, nor 40. Tractatus are 1 book each, while summa require multiple "books" at around 1 per 5 levels (actual number up to SG).
  • A Finesse roll is is required since this is craft magic, it is appropriate for tractatus (base 6 +6 season work +3 craft magic = 15) but low for summa (base 6 +9 year work +3 craft magic = 18).
  • It cannot produce superior scribing or illumination, given its description of dull colors. Dull colors are directly counter to superior scribing and illumination.
  • Since the spell does things like specifically infuse the parchment with color rather than producing ink, it was designed with the intention to not require other requisites (Herbam or Terram). All books it produces would be "Flap Bound" as found on Covenants, p. 88.

The end result is that it is higher level, extremely difficult to cast, and really only useful for creating poor copies that are best used as a template by craftsmen to create a fully functional copy from.

This spell is an example of massive over complication. It does not even produce a book, but only the pages grouped into gathers and binding that holds the gathers. Its target is both Part and Group (though only the highest needs be listed). +2 of the +5 intricacy are for the +2 required for the manufactured nature of the pages. It is so complicated because it is specifically designed to include all the odd details of the original.

This is a spell that would be of possible value to historians and other people who want the work to include all those little details. It is overly complicated for someone who just wants a copy of the book for normal use.

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I saw it as a rego craft copying spell, but I suppose this is Ars Magica, and there's more than one way to skin a cat. I could probably buy your +4 complexity explanation with optional casting requisites.

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Restore the Book from Fragments seems off to me. First of all, it should require both He and Aq, He for the cover, and for some books, for the pages themselves, and Aq for the inks, as many of them fall under Aq, a evidenced by the fact that most ink-related spells in AM are Aq spells. And possibly also Te, for gold/silver text.
That pushes you to CrAn(Aq,He,Te)65. And I'd still require a high Finesse roll to this. Though most Magi capable of casting this should have invested in Finesse.

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It is not craft magic or creation magic. It is healing magic, the same as Repair Cracks and Tears which does not require a Finesse roll. So that whole point of yours is a personal House Rule and completely irrelevant.

Inks individually might often have Aq as a requisite, but no spells that deal with ink already in a book have such a requisite. Again completely irrelevant.

As for the requisites, if you had bothered to read you would have noticed that I included them. They are a requisite that might or might not apply to any casting, so including them as +1 Requisites is... how do I say this politely... poor design.

Finally your math is off, since with your changes it would be 55. But then your suggestions are all completely off so I don't care.


It would need to "relay the looks" with a precision, which the (ArM5 p.141 box Intellego Ignem Guidelines) Base 3 guideline "Sense all the mundane properties of ash" in your InIg Scribing from the ashes Ritual is quite unable to support.
The image, page by page, of the text burnt is just not a "mundane property" of its ash.

As the base 3 InIg guideline does not apply in your spell, I just quoted the TME section's main statement: "Manipulating the words however gets no sense of the meaning therein.". It shows the impossibility to have an extended spell use philological means.
Its subsequent text - which you quoted above - applies to another example, whose importance to this discussion I do not see.

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I see how you would feel that way. I'm on the fence myself, about whether so much can be divined from ash. If I had to invent a list of mundane properties of ash to define what the guideline can do, I probably would have come to the same conclusion as yours and I would not have allowed sight of the original form - I would only have given a general idea of what the ash was from, and yet canon says you can see the original form. The only spell that exists that draws on that guideline is Tales from the Ashes, so i base myself from that spell. And "Lets you see what the ashes originally were" is different from "Gives you a vague impression of what the ashes originally were". How much you see is likely to vary from gamemaster to gamemaster and campaign to campaign, and if I base myself on how much information sight can carry as a sense - it tends to point in the direction of detailed information. You obviously would rule that the caster would only see that the original was a text, but I'm not convinced my gamemaster would rule the same and I think there is enough basis in canon by infering from the original applied guideline for a player like Heaven to bring that idea to the table for discussion with his troupe to see whether he can proceed that way, or whether he has to resort to other methods like the restoration spell, or ghost interrogation.

I was explaining that I believe the phrase you quote is not a new rule per se, but just an introduction to the remaining text which singles out translation as the impossibility - not actually detecting a word in written form. In my mind it's not a new rule, just a reminder of what is found under Intellego Mentem guidelines which also singles out translation as impossible, and points toward other arts to detect what is written "Note that writing does not contain any information of itself, and is generally Animal and Herbam or Terram, for the materials, not Mentem. To translate writing, you need someone who can read it, although you could read the translation from their mind."

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It is just a brief, easily quotable explanation of how the rules work - and worked already before.


I think the ability to tell what a book is with Tales of the Ashes is a reasonable interpretation of the rules. I personally would lean away from allowing it to ie, read an entire book from its remains, but but being able to say "Oh, this is a copy of Euclid's Elementa," seems reasonable to me. Just like you could identify which person that smoldering pile of ashes used to be, or what the painting once looked like before the fire.
It wouldn't, for example, translate a book in Arabic for a Stonehenge magus to read, but if it had Latin lettering, they may be able to get a sense of what they're looking at if trying to filter out chaff from good books.

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This - even with some amount of handwaiving - would at least require first hand personal knowledge of the book, the person or the painting before being burnt, right?
If you examine an unknown hamlet torched by dragon breath, Tales of the Ashes couldn't tell you, that one pile of ashes found is Frank the drunkard, who passed by from a hovel in the neighbourhood? It would be to you just a generic pile of human ashes and cheap dress with some liquor stains, right?

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Its up to you how much your saga allows, but I'd certainly let Tales of the Ashes reveal "This was once a human, dark skin and pale hair, scars on the left side of his face and a twisted left foot". And the grog with Area Lore can point out it's Frank the drunkard.
I feel if you can only get "Yea this was human", the spell isn't useful.

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Yep - this much handwaiving may make sense in a given saga. But it still requires the grog with specific Area Lore to identify Frank.

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I'm not sure why that spell should return a book, instead of a pile of hides or even dead animals, but whatever, it's a level 40 spell, it's supposed to be mighty.

I'd probably grumble around a bit asking for a T: Group (and maybe even R: Arc), and require all fragments of the book to be present during casting (unless R: Arc), if only to disallow people doing the same spell on two bits of a single book and ending with two genuine "healed" books.


Why would it create a pile of hides or even dead animals? It is paying the +2 upgrade for a highly process/manufactured product. Just dead bodies or raw hides would be +0, while processed and tanned hides would be +1.

The same with T: Group, why? Other than a single highly over complicated spell that no one but its creator would use, all spells that target books use T: Individual for a single book and T: Group when dealing with more than one book.

I can kind of but not really understand your worry about creating multiple copies of a book. First it is a very expensive spell. Second it is a healing spell.

Cost wise we are talking about a level 40 ritual that uses 8 pawns of vis per casting. Consider that the market value of most books created will be ~1 lb of silver if mundane or 1-2 pawns of vis if arcane. Even at half the vis cost, Repair Cracks and Tears is normally only used on books of extreme value such as Bonisagus' journals to retain his handwriting.

Additionally since it is a healing spell, tearing out a single page from a book and casting the spell on that page would have the same effect as cutting off someones finger and casting a "heal all wounds" spell on the finger (Hint: It is not create a clone of the original). Since it is a healing spell, requiring a reasonable effort gathering of the remains together for the spell to be cast should be expected. The name and "from a single fragment" part of the description are representative of how powerful the healing effect is, not some non-existent ability to use a healing spell as a photocopier.

If someone wants a magical photocopier version of the spell, that is Craft rather than Healing which would require a different spell with Finesse rolls. That spell would require a +1 Intellego Requisite and a Finesse roll with a target of 15~18 (15 Tractatus, 18 Summa).

EDIT: The spell was designed for recovering books from the remains of them in destroyed libraries. So you would identify the remains of a book you are looking for through other spells, gather them up, and cast this spell on those remains to "regenerate" the book from the ashes and fragments.