Using Magic to Cheat Libraries

That's a very idealistic point of view. Which you gradually back off from in your following post, too.

See the point? By controlling access to the library Durenmar can compel contributions to it, payments in Vis - and certainly also important political favors.

GotF p.55: "At his (scilicet: the librarian's) discretion, Durenmar may occasionally trade tomes on a like-for-like basis. Needless to say, the greatest summae are only ever traded with highly trusted magi or covenants, if at all." But its your campaign, of course - so go ahead with what suits you, canon or not, and if you think that this magus of yours deserved the consent of the librarian to copy the books he copied, so be it. Just keep in mind that copies from his copies can be traded as well as copies made by Durenmar.

That'a a rethorical question, isn't it? The obstacles I see - and they are not sky-high: permission to study in Durenmar is quite easy to get - are not motivated by maintaining just the library's prestige, but mainly Durenmar's bargaining power and political position. If somebody e. g. were ever allowed to copy the highest level summa on Vim in Durenmar, advanced Vim studies could be done as well at his covenant as in Durenmar itself.

Kind regards,


Just as kings have soliders, coin, and food, all various resources that define the power of a king. Covenants power is defined in part through the magics they can access in books. This privledged information can be traded for vis, components, even soldiers or food if necessary. To make it free would be to loose a valuable resource and weaken a covenant.

DURENMAR is a covenant, not a Bonisagus Magi. The COVENANT of DURENMAR is not obligated to keep the Oath of Bonisagus Magi. This may be a point of conflict if a covenant is made up mainly of Bonisagus magi, but it is a conflict that should be resolved through storytelling rather than saying 'everything is free.' As Berengar pointed out, little to nothing is free at Durenmar.

Sure, there are lots of reasons to forbid the use of magic in a library. My point was that forbidding people to memorize books wasn't one of them.

In reply to Lebo77, Tuura and Berengar both argue that covenants would block study out of self-interest. I agree with Lebo77. Before there were covenants, there were magi with an interest in reading the works of others, and propagating their works to others. Before anybody set up the Order's first library, magi would have considered the possibility of censorious librarians, and done something to stop it. If books were easy to memorize and copy, then the situation at Durenmar could never have come into being in the first place. Thus they aren't easy to memorize and copy: the spell under discussion is inherently difficult.

(It's interesting to note that people who download music for free — circumventing copyright laws — actually spend more on music than those who don't. Arguably, music industry attempts to block online music trading is discouraging sales. Likewise, a covenant that allowed memorization might become more esteemed, and richer, than one that put walls around knowledge.)

We rather argue that covenants do require compensation for access to their libraries, especially for copying from them.

Not quite. Before Bonisagus' discoveries there were magi hiding not only their knowledge but themselves from each other - if they were not out to kill each other outright. After Bonisagus' discoveries, there were covenants where magi lived together.
Trianoma's strategy about Bonisagus' discoveries was political from the beginning: sharing these discoveries was never free, but you had to join the Order of Hermes, and cooperate. In particular, those founders who could - not Mercere - shared their magic with Bonisagus in return, allowing him to integrate it with Hermetic Magic. So the Durenmar librarian will remind a young rebellious magus just weaned from apprenticeship, wanting books for free, and erroneously calling him censorious, that the founders did not even get the basics of Hermetic Magic for free.

You might wish to take a look at medieval economics some time: these are invariably economics determined by scarcity of resources. Medieval people indeed are sharing willingly, but firmly expect returns of the favors: failure to comply leading to ostracism at best. The more valuable the resources, the more rigid the regulating customs and laws. Especially you might wish to look up the letters between Tenxwind and Hildegard von Bingen about letting poor people enter Benedictine monasteries.

Kind regards,


Any sources in English that you could recommend?
All the sites i have found so far are in german , which i speaketh not , alas.

I say that you are both (The tree of you :stuck_out_tongue:) are right. It all depends on the convenants. An open and flourishing Convenant ( Summer ) might be more open & sharing. Autumn convenants might have the best tomes but that also come at high prices & winter convenants might be unstructured & scary places to study in addition to beeing high priced or even unaccessible.


Well, they do. But would they, if things were different in a certain way?

There's an interim there.

I guess the story that I think we would be telling if it were easy to copy would run like this:

Before Bonisagus, all magi distrusted all other magi. But each one, in his heart of hearts, wished that he could get along with other magi and share knowledge with them. Each one wished to gain fame for his achievements, and each one wished to learn from others. (If that weren't ever true, then even the parma magica couldn't have helped form the Order. If people genuinely didn't want, at any level, to get along with one another, being able to get along wouldn't make them get along.)

Then Bonisagus invented the parma magica and promulgated it. Suddenly, the dream of a community of magical scholars could become a reality, and a paradigm case of the sharing of knowledge — Bonisagus' offering the parma magica to anyone who would join his loosely organized Order — had been the formative event of the Order.

During the opening burst of optimism, a young magus brought to Bonisagus a spell that would allow for the perfect memorization of magical texts. At the first Grand Tribunal, that spell was broadly promulgated. It became part of the Code that all magi of the Order must allow any other magi of the Order to memorize any mundane book, and any book of magic not dealing with certain delicate topics (no killing spells, and perhaps no parma). Covenants never even began to compete over libraries, or even to have libraries, since no one actually needed physical books. (Surely the spell allowing me to copy your memories came along shortly after.)

And the young apprentice will note that the only price was joining the Order, and he's done that.

I certainly might, and thanks for the suggested source. But my basic point (this is a rerun of the wheat discussion) is that people will obsess over scarcity only so long as things are scarce. If we can make a spell that defeats scarcity, the local economics will no longer be determined by scarcity. I know that things in Mythic Europe are not as I describe them: that's the point. If certain spells existed, things in Mythic Europe would be otherwise than they are, so those spells don't exist.

All said and done:

  1. As one of you pointed out, there are other reasons why magi would not allow magic around their books, and
  2. Even the original spell was difficult enough that it could not become the basis of magical education; the level 40 version, especially as a ritual, is sufficiently difficult and costly that it could not become routine.

Of course we can invent a somewhat different Order. It might even be a good way to understand how the one presented in ArM5 works.

Considering Guorna the Fetid, I have my doubts that each maga felt that way. But I guess this is not important. Let's assume together that a majority of the magi often enough felt that way at least.

Few of the founders saw themselves as scholars. Certainly Bjornaer, Merinita, Flambeau, Diedne did not do so at all. And the interest of Criamon, Mercere, Tremere, Tytalus and Verditius in scholarship was in its practical applications.

The problem here is: at the First Tribunal AD 767 only the twelve founders and Trianoma met, and established the Order and the Oath while Bonisagus with the help of the others was still in the process of defining Hermetic Magic. At that time Durenmar covenant already existed, and became the model for the later covenants. So your 'young' magus - let's call him Tridecimus - would be founder number 13, and his contribution not a Hermetic spell, but non-hermetic ways to memorize knowledge.

You saw that this requires a major change in the history of the Order - but your idea is not impossible or inconsistent, and one could build an interesting alternative setting around it.

At which the librarian answers that the young magus is in obvious error: he joined the Order all right, so now he only has to contribute to the Order's knowledge, and then can access the library in proportion to his contributions. That's - of course - with the Order as is in ArM5.

Kind regards,


Frankly, I rarely look specifically for English texts on Mitteleuropean medieval history. IME you fare usually a lot better with French, German or Italian ones.

Here is one which might do, though:
Flanagan, Sabina (1998)
"For God Distinguishes the People of Earth as in Heaven": Hildegard of Bingen's Social Ideas.
Journal of Religious History 22 (1), 14-34.
doi: 10.1111/
It can be downloaded as a PDF from: ... 9809.00048

A thorough German text about Hildegard von Bingen, providing ample space for philological and historical investigation of her debate with Tenxwind, is: ... and_06.pdf

The letters in German can also be found in the document collection:
Hartmut Boockmann (1988)
Das Mittelalter
C. H. Beck, München
ISBN 3-406-33388-5
which I can wholeheartedly recommend to a wide public reading German and interested in the middle ages.

Kind regards,


Rather by chance, I found what you were looking for now.

Anne Clark has held an introductory course on Christian history at the University of Vermont in 2001, and translated the letters for the benefit of her students.
They are here: ... tac124.pdf

But access is restricted, so you have to remember well the Durenmar librarian, be very nice and say please to Associate Professor Anne Clark of the Religion Department Faculty of the University of Vermont (see

Kind regards,


Opening the Mind of the Tome
InIm 40
R: Touch, D: Moon, T: Group
Perfectly creates a memory of the contents of one book within the mind of the caster. The memory remains perfect for the duration of the spell and then fades normally.
(Base 1,+1 Touch, +3 Moon, +2 Group)
Contributer: Ed Campbell.

The InIm description says you can perfect your memory of an image encountered. I wouldn't consider an entire text to be an image encountered. To me it makes more sense to make the spell CrMe
The target describes what the spell affects. It seems to me that the spell should affect the casters memory and not the text being memorized, and so target should be Individual as in the casters individual mind. Minds do not have sizes so Ind is sufficient irrespective of the size of the text commited to memory.
The range is the distance to the target. Since the target is the casters mind it seems to me that the range should be personal.
I would make the spell as follows:
Opening the Mind of the Tome
CrMe 20
R: Personal, D: Moon, T: Ind
Perfectly creates a memory of the contents of one book within the mind of the caster. The memory remains perfect for the duration of the spell but ends when the spell ends.
(Base 5, +3 moon duration)

For some reason I am as a GM uncomfortable with this spell. I much prefer the following reasoning:

Since the spell is now creo it is more useful as a ritual and can thusly result in permenant memory.
Opening the Mind of the Tome
CrMe 20, Ritual
R: Personal, D: Mom, T: Ind
Perfectly creates a memory of the contents of one book within the mind of the caster. Once the memory is in place, the magus can recite the entire text and replicate any illustrations. PeMe or PeVi can be used to destroy the memory. As the ritual is cast the magus magically reads the book. The pages rustle by as if caught in the wind. Once memorized the magus does not need an actual copy of the text to study or transcribe it.
(Base 5, Ritual makes it level 20)
Optionally the spell may require a casting total greater than or equal to the text Quality (+ level if the text is a summae) x 3 in order to succeed.
Or the base level can be increased if you think it's too low.
This is basically a rewrite of the 4th Ed. spell Memory Palace of the Sage.

I would suspect that magi who don't want their books magically memorized without consent would place watching wards on their books. I think I would.
Hail Eris!

Usually momentary rituals are just that, momentary. The memory will start to decay as normal & cannot be PeVi.


So at what rate does memory decay? Lots of memory techniques are taught and trained by scholars in medieval times. Creating a memory locus is part of the classical training in universities. Are memory techniques part of a magus' training?
If the spell is cast, for how long after is the memory suffeciently intact for the magus to study the memorized text or transcribe it without loss of information? And finally what is the base level of a CrMe effect that restores the memory of the memorized text perfectly?


1- So at what rate does memory decay?

I would say it depends on each person but the main thing would be that once decay occurs, you can no longer copy the book accurately.

2- Lots of memory techniques are taught and trained by scholars in medieval times. Creating a memory locus is part of the classical training in universities. Are memory techniques part of a magus' training?

I would say it is. Formulaic / ritual spells are existing proof.

3- If the spell is cast, for how long after is the memory suffeciently intact for the magus to study the memorized text or transcribe it without loss of information?

I would say that once the effect of the CrMe spell is gone, you cannot copy the book accurately. I would be nasty & apply -1 to quality of book for every day out of the effect.

4- And finally what is the base level of a CrMe effect that restores the memory of the memorized text perfectly?

I'd need the book for that but it is the same as restoring any memory to perfection. Then you need to add size (or Complexity) modification of atleast +2 since a book is such a big thing.

I would add as a side note that while under the CrMe effect, your mind is set around that memory. I would say that nothing else can be memorised for the duration of the spell & that every action is affected by this magically cristal clear memory. Having an occult lore book about diabolism memorised as so is sure to leave some profound traces...

It would be better to use a sun or Concentration (magical obj) durations so that it allows sound sleeping.

A moon or year duration could be used on apprentices to make sure they know the code :slight_smile: