A 17th-Century Book With a Hidden Compartment for Poison Is Selling for $11,000: Critical Linking, May 24, 2019

Critical Linking, a round-up of the most interesting bookish news and links from around the web, is sponsored by the audiobook of Birthday by Meredith Russo.


“The secret storage box masquerading as a manuscript was likely assembled sometime in the 19th century, Atlas Obscura reports. It uses the leather binding of Sebastião Barradas’s Opera omnia, vol. III—a theology text from the mid-17th century—as its shell. Two hundred years or so after the original book was published, someone pasted together the pages and hollowed them out to make room for a discreet apothecary lab. A shelf holds four glass bottles measuring 10 centimeters high. Tiny drawers are labeled with the names of poisonous plants—such as hemlock, foxglove, and Devil’s snare—in German, suggesting the book safe was crafted in Germany. On the inside of the front cover, a memento mori illustration depicts two skeletons above the Latin Bible quote “Statutum est hominibus semel mori,” which means, “All men are destined to die once.””

Putting this secret poison compartment book on my birthday list this year. 


Netflix will adapt Erin Entrada Kelly’s Newbery Award-winning novel Hello, Universe into a family film. Playwright and screenwriter Michael Golamco (Always Be My Maybe) will adapt the book and Forest Whitaker and Nina Yang Bongiovi (Fruitvale Station, Roxanne Roxanne) of Significant Productions will produce.”

I’m so ready for this!


“German authorities are handing over to Israel a trove of 5,000 documents kept by a confidant of Franz Kafka.”

This whole Kafka paper ownership story is a ride.

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