Marcas de fuego

I’m planning on taking a History of the Book course this summer 🤞 so while tweets like this will always catch my eye, I’m now also thinking about potential research topics. (It’s six months away, but I know you understand my enthusiasm.)

I’d never seen a branded book! This is the danger of checking in on Twitter before sitting down to work. I saw this tweet from John Overholt and before I knew it, I was down an internet rabbit hole.

A quick search lead me to this fascinating blog post by Elspeth Healey, special collections librarian at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library at the University of Kansas, “Collection Snapshot(s): Marcas de fuego.”

Healey’s post begins,

Today we share two examples of “marcas de fuego” from Spencer Research Library’s collections. In colonial Mexico, “marcas de fuego” (that is, “marks of fire” or fire brands) identified a book as belonging to a particular religious order or institution. This identifying emblem (or sometimes a set of stylized initials or a name) would be burned into the edge of the text block of a book using a hot metal instrument.  The scholars and librarians associated with the Catálogo Colectivo de Marcas de Fuego (Collective catalog of fire brands) date this practice from the second half of the 16th century into the first decades of the 19th century.

Click to keep reading!
Two books featured in the Spencer Research Library’s post (source)

The Spenser Research Library links to another recent post about marcas de fuego by Michael Taylor of the Book Club of Washington, “Marks of Fire: The Branded Books of Colonial Mexico.”

A stack of books with marcas de fuego, the lead photo in the post from the Book Club of Washington (source).

Taylor’s post begins,

In a recent post, I shared several examples of book curses, a colorful method of deterring people from stealing books that was used in the European Middle Ages and even the early United States. A different but no less distinctive method was used in colonial Mexico.

Click to keep reading!

Have you ever seen a branded book?

What an unexpected delight to learn about marcas de fuego today. I felt compelled to drop everything and write a quick post to share this book history with you. Now I must get back to work. But first, I’m going to read Taylor’s article about book curses.

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