Translator note: this is the second part of the original post, where I added stuff I forgot and was recommended to me.
EDIT 9/6/14 (see how I was forgetting things?):
Master Antonio brought to my attention the severe lack of Milo Rambaldi on this post, and I can't agree more, especially because it lets me talk about to interesting characters.
On one hand we have Nostradamus. Books full of predictions of the future written in a cryptic and consufing way are something that should be more present in fantasy worlds, especially if the prophecies can't be totally trusted. That remembers me of more stuff about Terry PRatchett, this time with Neil Gaiman, in Good Omens: the idea of a 17th century witch had written a book of prophecies so accurate that her heirs (one of them the protagonist of the novel) could live up until that point profiting from interpreting the book.
On the other hand we have Da Vinci. What haven't been said about Da Vinci and his books?
And now that we talk about Da Vinci's notes, maybe more than one of you already know that he wrote them using mirrored script (from right to left, reversing the chracters accordingly). Some say that it was because he was left-handed and that made it easier for him, but there are also some that say that it was to make them harder to read. But of course there are people that say that Plato used to hide secret messages in their texts that can only be decyphered with musical harmony, so go figure.
Before leaving the topic of Da Vinci, don't forget that paintings can also be a valuable source of information, even if they are not written word. See you the next time I remember something!
EDIT 9/6/14 (yeah, more):
Master Tzmize has brought to me an interesting compilation by his own hand dedicated to spellbooks that can be used in World of Darkness. There are both historical ones with links to Wikipedia as well as ones from White Wolf with links to his own blog (my favorite one is el Salmo del Consolador). And now that we are talking abuot compilations, another specially useful resource is this Wikipedia article: "Books in the Cthulhu Mythos".
EDIT 12/27/14 (yeah, more):
Cool books from Telecanter.
EDIT 9/28/15 (wow):
Where are books kept? Famous libraries like Alexandria or Ninive. Some rulers had especially harsh ways to obtain new books... Ashurbanipal justified his conquests in part to obtain tablets with spells that helped him secure his reign. The lost library of Ivan the Terrible with incredible valuable books hidden in the tunnerls under the Kremlin. Books would also be one of the most valuable trasures of churches and cathedrals, which are already full of works of art and relics.
The ways in which books can be kept, like chaining them to shelves or bookrests -- you could easily tell if a book was stolen due to the mark left by the chain being ripped out. Also, keeping it in well closed chests with strong padlocks, that weight so much that it is very hard to take them. Or, if there wasn't enough money for that, a curse written on the first pages of the book would suffice, so it would affect anyone who found it and didn't try to give it back. In a fantasy world these curses would probably be a lot more scary.
I have always found funny those triangle-shaped niches that make it easier to store scrolls.
More formats: bejewelled books or books with fine decoration are luxury objects by themselves. Giant books carved in stone. Bamboo or wooden rods written on and bound. Dwarven books contained in the form of energy in power gems. Oral traditions or people that just knows one or more books by heart.
Indexes of forbidden books and how they are burned. The favorite pastime of Torquemada. Well, besides written them himself. Censorship can also play an interesting role, like parts of the books that are obscured or edited out.
The Burning of books and burying of scholars -- after a period of strong freedom of thought that breeds a pletora of schools it comes a strong state repression. Lots of lost books. It wouldn't be a bad time to start a Bookhounds of Vornheim campaign.
And another thing: the arcane librarian class in D&D3.5. A mage so versed in magical writting that it can cast spells without having learned them. After a while, they themselves can become books absorbing the writting, that is shown in their skin.
Information sources about magic in Slayers.
An essential part of the catalographic description of a book is the transcription of it's first page. [...] In this case the criteria are totally different: the whole page must be transcribed and with as much fidelity as possible. This fidelity has been taken to such an extreme, that there have even been bibliographers that have preferred the rigurous description, with notes about measurements, denomination of typographies, etc. to the page facsímil.
I have already discussed personal journals, but travel diaries like those of Marco Polo are also interesting. It is largely the format in which the setting of Yoon-Suin is presented.
EDIT 2/23/16 (it never ends):
This medallion is something you could perfectly find in a dungeon and is more valuable for the intel it can give than for being just another medallion.
|Vinokurov medallion, pass for the Yuan court palace. The text is written in the 'Phags-pa alphabet.|
Aren't you tired that your cultists always have a perfect version of the Necronomicon? Check these 16 reasons why it can't be hard to interpret a text.
As seen in that post, censorship of any kind is an important fact whendealing with books. Many adventures could spawn just from trying to get a uncensored version of a text, probably hidden somewhere to keep it from being found by the authorities, like that copy of El Lazarillo de Tromes and other works that were found in a house and changed a bit the interpretation of the text.
Speaking of censorship, here's something from Goblin Punch:
Yes, the Mouthless Order is is charge of making sure that long-lost information stays hidden. They're the ones that are waiting for you when you come out of the dungeon, willing to pay you handsomely for the ancient tome you just recovered, which they will then burn in front of you. (Those who refuse this generous offer are killed.) They are (partially opposed) in their mission by the Luminous Order, who work to recover lost knowledge, especially the lost history of the Church itself.Another thing that can give us information is the text that surrounds the text itself, that is, the paratext, things like the cover with it's year and place of printing, or the dedicatory, or the permit to print it, or the bit that said how much the paper of the book was worth, or the colophon, were, if it was a manuscript, it usually was indicated when the copy was finished, usually, thanking God.
Or also if a text has illustrations or not. Some times, like in the manuscripts we have of El Conde Lucanor, illustrations are mentioned and the space is there, but the pictures where never made. Or, usually, the editor would leave a mark in the shape of a shield or emblem, as mark of his house. It isn't much different to what happens now a days, it's just that back then they rocked more:
Book collections are also interesting. An obvious example are national libraries or great city libraries, although they are relatively news. And they always have a rare book room that can be accessed by anyone: you need to prove that you are an investigator, and in some you may even be required to provide proof of your address to get credentials. It is great.
Speaking of things, not so long ago, New York's library has liberated a lot of maps, so you maybe would like to check them out.
Another case are archives where some author's writtings and related stuff are kept, for example, the one for Miguel Hernández. It is interesting because town councils have to pay the family to keep it and not so long ago it had to be moved because the poet's hometown decided that it wasn't profitable.
Or sometimes a collectionists appears and takes just everything because he likes it, like Archer Milton Huntington. He came to Spain on the first years of the 19th century and started buying old codices, paintings, laces and anything that smelled like Spain. He even bought the whole library of a noble that was drowning in game debts. He took it all back to America and founded the Hispanic Society of America, that is still today one of the main places to look for codices and manuscripts. This is the kind of unexpected and extreme event that can make the PCs a fortune or leave them beaten down if they don't know how to react.
Or, for example, a rich NPC that buys any text related to a topic that he is obsessed with is always a good idea.
If someone from the 17th century saw The Book Barn, they would have a heart attack. Half a million books left there without any order:
Back then paper was so expensive that people used to take notes on books. Probably not many people ever saw so many books together in their life. Speaking of that, sometimes a book can be more important due to who it belonged rather than what it is. Imagine all the things an interesting guy could have been writing in the margins of his books lacking other way to do it.
Speaking of not having something at hand. Have you heard about nictography? It is a kind of tachygraphic writing that is made with a device that allows to write in complete darkness with its own alphabet. I wonder if someone who has to spend a lot of time underground and needs to save torches and lamp oil would see any use for something like that...
Thanks for reading. Valmar Cerenor!
PS: do read the original comments, where there are more cool things!