A while back I made a post about bad books as food wrappings. A reference in John Webster’s To the Reader in his The White Devil reminded me that I’ve since found several other examples of the same idea.
Martial, Epigrams 4.86. Webster includes the Latin of the first two bolded lines in his address. The ‘tiresome tunic’ (tunica molesta) was a shirt smeared with pitch or some other highly flammable material that those condemned to execution by fire were forced to wear.
If you wish to be approved by Attic ears, little book, I urge and admonish you to please learned Apollinaris. None more meticulous and erudite, but none more benevolent and kind. If he holds you in his heart and on his lips, you will not fear the sneers of the ill-disposed nor supply mackerel with “tiresome tunics.” If he damns you, you may as well run straight to the bookcases of the saltfishmongers, fit for schoolboys to plough your backside.
Si vis auribus Atticis probari,
exhortor moneoque te, libelle,
ut docto placeas Apollinari.
nil exactius eruditiusque est,
sed nec candidius benigniusque.
si te pectore, si tenebit ore,
nec rhonchos metues maligniorum,
nec scombris tunicas dabis molestas.
si damnaverit, ad salariorum
curras scrinia protinus licebit,
inversa pueris arande charta
An earlier instance from Martial, 3.2
Whose present do you wish to be, little book? Hurry to find yourself a protector, lest hustled off to a sooty kitchen you wrap sprats in your sodden papyrus or become a cowl for incense or pepper. Do you fly to Faustinus’ bosom? You are wise. Now you may walk oiled with cedar, your twin brows handsomely adorned, 2 luxuriating in your painted bosses, clothed in dainty purple, your proud title blushing scarlet. With him to protect you, have no fear of Probus himself.
Cuius vis fieri, libelle, munus?
festina tibi vindicem parare,
ne nigram cito raptus in culinam
cordylas madida tegas papyro
vel turis piperisve sis cucullus.
Faustini fugis in sinum? sapisti.
cedro nunc licet ambules perunctus
et frontis gemino decens honore
pictis luxurieris umbilicis,
et te purpura delicata velet,
et cocco rubeat superbus index.
illo vindice nec Probum timeto.
And a later, more indirect version from 6.61 (citing only the relevant lines here):
How many good poets are food for moths and bookworms, and only cooks buy their accomplished verses!
quam multi tineas pascunt blattasque diserti,
et redimunt soli carmina docta coci!
And my last find, from Statius’ Silvae 4.9 (citing only the opening lines here):
JESTING HENDECASYLLABICS TO PLOTIUS GRYPUS
A joke on your part, to be sure, Grypus, to send me a little book in return for a little book! But it can be thought amusing only if you were to send me a follow-up. For if you go on jesting, Grypus, it’s no jest! Look, let’s reckon up. Mine is purple, fresh paper, with a pair of handsome bosses.1 Besides myself,2 it cost me a ten-as piece. But yours! Moth eaten and moldering, like the sheets that soak up Libyan olives or keep Nile incense or pepper or cook Byzantine tunny.
HENDECASYLLABI IOCOSI AD PLOTIUM GRYPUM
Est sane iocus iste, quod libellum
misisti mihi, Grype, pro libello.
urbanum tamen hoc potest videri
si post hoc aliquid mihi remittas.
5nam si ludere, Grype, perseveras,
non ludis. licet ecce computemus.
noster purpureus novusque charta
et binis decoratus umbilicis
praeter me mihi constitit decussis:
tu rosum tineis situque putrem,
quales aut Libycis madent olivis
aut tus Niliacum piperve servant
aut Byzantiacos cocunt lacertos,