June 4, 2010

Bonaventure On Not Lending Books

St. Bonaventure captures the feelings of anyone who has ever been reluctant to lend a book:

[T]hose who are most importunate in asking for them are the slowest to return them; books return torn and dirty; he to whom they are lent, lends them to another without your permission, and this other sometimes to a third, and this third not knowing by now who owns the book is not in a position to give it back; sometimes again he to whom a book is lent leaves the place and is then too far away to bring it back; and if he manages to find someone to bring it back for him, this someone wants to read it before giving it back, or lends it, and ends up by denying that he ever had it; finally if a book is lent to one man others are angry that it is not lent to them too, so that one is forced to do without it oneself while waiting for it to come back dirty, or be lost altogether."

Bonaventure, Determinationes quaestionum, II, 21, as quoted in Etienne Gilson, The Philosophy of St. Bonaventure, trans. Dom Illtyd Trethowan, 61-62.


Br. Tom Forde OFMCap said...

One of our friars, a true bibliophile, has a librarian's curse which he threatened to attach to books. He also told me of the notice which once adorned a private library "Take the book, don't ask for a lend for I'd rather lose a book than a book and a friend." This friar has had copies of books, signed by their authors, go missing once lent. It is a penance we endure Bro.

caedmon said...

Every book loaned is opportunity to give up my need for things. A book, treasure that it is, is still not the Treasure I seek most.

Barb, sfo said...

Caedmon is right--but I'm not enough of a Franciscan to be able to live that way yet.
It is very hard for me to part with a book.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if St. Thomas had a sed contra to this.

Rachel Gray said...

From "God in the Dock", by C.S. Lewis:

My friend said, "I don't see why there shouldn't be books in Heaven. But you will find that your library in Heaven contains only some of the books you had on earth." "Which?" I asked. "The ones you gave away or lent." "I hope the lent ones won't still have all the borrowers' dirty thumb marks," said I. "Oh yes they will," said he. "But just as the wounds of the martyrs will have turned into beauties, so you will find that the thumb-marks have turned into beautiful illuminated capitals or exquisite marginal woodcuts."

Unknown said...

I lost a manuscript once...and it bothers me to today. It was a 4 Act play in free verse about the death of St. Francis of Assisi, titled: "Welcome Sister Death". I wrote it on the anniversary of Francis' birth in 1981 (as I recall). The two Vice-Chancellors of the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey agreed to do a reading of it in St. Francis Cathedral in Metuchen - the nice Vice-Chancellor would read the part of St. Francis, and the not-so-nice Vice-Chancellor the part of Brother Elias (whom I consider liable for the death of St. Francis from exposure and possibly starvation). They were type-cast! Unfortunately, the not-so-nice Vice-Chancellor, for whom I worked as the Supervisor of Maintenance for the bishop's residence (Ted McCarrick), fired me over a volatile encounter about an uncompromisable issue of justice related to a co-worker. So that sunk the play from being performed in St. Francis Cathedral....That Vice-Chancellor is deceased now, perishing in a single car accident on Christmas Eve some few years later.
But it wasn't the cause of the manuscript being lost. That was due to my landlord evicting me - justly - for non payment of rent and moving all my belongings to a storage facility. I was never able to raise the money to retrieve those belongings and the storage facility sold them all at auction. There was some opportunity to still salvage the play, since it is illegal to auction a tenant's personal papers...but I couldn't find it in the jumble, and down the drain it went.
The play itself lacked some dramatic intensity. I had it reviewed by a distinguished professor of literature and that was his take on it. Mine too. It deserves re-writing, a task I am gazing at now as the anniversary of Francis' death approaches 2021 (as I recall).
My research for the play included all the original sources - St. Bonaventure too! who was baptized by St. Francis which led to his name "Good Fortune". There were other characters in the play too...Brother Leo, Claire, and a knight friend of Francis who teeters back and forth between allegiance to Francis or the Emperor Fredrick (who is not in the play).
- Excuse me for writing all this stuff...my hope is the manuscript will show up in heaven, smudged brightly. Please Pray For Me. ty.