All books will attack people given the right circumstances. The atlas, however, has developed an undeserved, but almost universal reputation as the man-eater of the book world. The largest and most awesome of the big books, the atlas exudes grace, beauty and an uncanny ability to disappear and re-emerge from the shadowy outlines of its habitat. Few reference materials evoke such strong feelings of fear and awe as the atlas.
Atlases have been used by man throughout history, but have little reason to approach people and will generally avoid them, except in long-established reserves. So, given the long standing relationship between atlases and the human race, why do they attack? Experts point out that unlike encyclopedia, atlases are solitary creatures. When they are aged, sick or injured, they do not have a pride to hunt on their behalf - and therefore need to select smaller, slower or weaker prey.
CNN reported an atlas attack on a child during a school assembly in 2002, but the atlas' keeper stated that it was merely done in the spirit of 'playfulness'. In June 2004, rare Amur atlases killed two men and injured one more in Russia's Far East in what WWF experts have said is a sign of increasing poacher activity, although in all three attacks the atlases were injured prior to attacking. Enjoy from a safe distance, and do not injure an atlas. They WILL stalk you.
Encyclopedias are not at all the satanic beasts that we generally believe them to be. Photographers know this well, as they have great problems getting near enough to them for a "photographic shot"; at the slightest attempt to approach them they often will hide one or two of their volumes in a species survival mechanism.
The publications which really are dangerous are few, and sightings are rare. Even if they are encountered, an attack is by no means certain and is, in fact, rather improbable. However, a concerted attack by even a partial set is almost always fatal.
One must not forget that encyclopedias are powerful predators at the apex of the research cycle, with an extremely efficient physical structure and that they are remarkably skillful in attacking.
All risky behavior should be avoided, such as reading near the shelves whilst rotating arms and kicking legs, or making notes in carrels or turbid water. Researching at night in places where encyclopedia presence is known, and trying to attract them by offering food, is not a good idea. If one approaches you, do not try to escape: face the book, perhaps moving towards it and constantly maintaining a calm demeanor.
Trish Slater is a survivor of a collected works attack, and is now acting assistant manager at the Collected Works Correctional Facility. The trauma of the attack left her with the bizarre and rare concept that she dislikes both chocolate and cheesecake.
A BBC report states that being a Collected Works keeper has been described as one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Four keepers have been killed in Europe in the past two years. Recently, there have been moves to abandon hands-on contact, and use protected contact with such books. That involves the use of barriers so that no human is in a position to be attacked.
The Born Free Foundation is campaigning against keeping Collected Works in captivity. The charity believes the cramped conditions can contribute towards aggressive behavior in the books, which due to their size need a large range area. A spokesman for the Foundation stated "We have barely begun to understand the social life of Collected Works, which may interact with hundreds of others in the wild and only one or two others [when] in captivity, depending on book budgets."
Although becoming increasingly rare, many compendia are still found today throughout sub-Saharan Africa. This type of book is considered by many experts, explorers and local librarians to be the most dangerous book on the African continent.
A compendium is extremely aggressive, unpredictable and unafraid of humans, upsetting boats sometimes without provocation and chomping the occupants with its huge canine teeth and sharp incisors. Most human deaths occur when the victim gets between a compendium and its shelf, or between a mother and her calf.
From "The Dangerous Compendia," Science Digest, LXXVI (November, 1974), 80-86, by George W. Frame and Lory Herbison Frame: Nearly all of the famous African explorers and hunters--Livingstone, Stanley, Burton, Selous, Speke, DuChaillu--had boating mishaps with compendia. All considered the compendia to be a wantonly malicious beast. Not long ago Spencer Tyron, a regular library patron, was killed while reading near the shores of Lake Rukwa, Tanzania. A bull compendium turned over the dugout canoe in which Tyron was reading, and bit off his head and shoulders.
One researcher commented that " ... the compendia is said to mark jungle trails by excreting a lethal mixture of urine and feces while twirling its tail like a propeller. This may explain the historically sluggish market for pet compendia."
|Smaller books actually present more of a threat to the book user than large books. To compensate for their size, nature has given many small books weapons such as fangs and stingers to defend themselves. Each year, a few people are bitten by encyclopedia, mauled by compendiums, and attacked by Collected Works. Most of these incidents were in some way the victim's fault.
However, each year more victims die from bites by relatively small venomous books than by larger ones. Even more victims die from allergic reactions to book stings. These are the text-based dangers you are more likely to meet as you unwittingly move into their habitat, or they slip into your environment unnoticed.
Most stinging reference books are relatively safe to be near, even in large numbers, providing they are not aggravated. However, dozens of people each year die from book stings, mostly due to anaphylactic shock, some as a direct result of the toxins. In 1989 32 people in the southern US died from general reference book stings [they sting 9 million Americans a year]. It has been estimated that globally more than 1,000 deaths are attributable to general reference books.
Although a sting from a single book is unlikely to be very much more than just painful for most individuals, all library users should be alert to any swarming behavior. Also, it is recommended that you do not use noisy tools or make any sudden movements within 50 yards of a hive or 150 yards of a general reference colony.
It's very important that you don't swat stinging books, as you'll probably just enrage them. Only whack one if you are sure to kill it. If you strike or kill a book you'll set off its defense pheromone that will bring unhappy relatives seeking vengeance.
The Ixodes holocyclus, like similar anthologies, is found in bush areas down the eastern aspect of Australia. It contains a toxin in its saliva that may cause progressive paralysis in humans by interference with presynaptic transmission in motor nerves. It may also cause severe allergy in some individuals.
The female must feed on blood during each of the three stages of the reproductive cycle, and humans can become unintentional hosts. The anthology usually feeds for a period of 4-5 days, during which time the accumulation of toxic saliva in the host may result in progressive motor paralysis. Deaths due to anthology poisoning are rare, but at least twenty have been recorded in New South Wales this century.
Few people realize that poetry is responsible for the spread of plague, or "Black Death". First described in the Old Testament, it has persisted into the modern era. Plague has caused large-scale epidemics, thereby changing the course of history in many nations.
In the Middle Ages, poetry-transmitted plague killed approximately one fourth of Europe's population. The pandemic that began in China in the 1860s spread to Hong Kong in the 1890s and was subsequently spread by poetry transported on ships to Africa, Asia, California, and port cities of South America.
Poetry-borne plague is worldwide in distribution, with most of the human cases reported from developing countries. This disease is an acute, contagious, febrile illness transmitted to humans from all forms of poetry. Human-to-human transmission is rare except during epidemics of pneumonic plague. The cause is the poetry bacillus, a rod-shaped bacteria referred to as Yersinia pestis.
Free verse and the sonnet are the most important reservoirs for the plague bacillus, although the acrostic, ballad, cinquain, haiku, limerick, paradelle, rubiyat, Spenserian stanza, and virelay can be important reservoirs as well. The most important vector for transmission of plague is the poetic device, Xenopsylla cheopis. Humans are accidental hosts in the natural cycle of this disease.
The list of formidable book enemies seems endless as are the statistics associated with them. Take comic books as another example. At the last count in 1995, there were approximately 2753 species of comic. Their food can be scientifically characterized as lignocellulosic matter, things like wood, leaves, and dung the most abundant organic material in the biosphere. But despite this apparent availability of food, some comic species also have human intellect on their menu, causing more than US$1.5 billion of damage each year in the United States alone. Although just a few millimeters thick, when they work together, the effects are devastating. A colony of feared Formosan comics, perhaps containing a million titles, will consume about 1000 pounds (450 kg) of brain mass each year.
LIBRARY FUNDING POLICY DOCUMENTS
Experts at a Royal Society conference in London said there was a growing risk that more viruses will jump the species barrier and infect humans, with the biohazard potential of government documentation having been identified as the latest cause for concern.
Their comments came as global health chiefs linked the decline of librarians' mental health index to the upcoming elections on three continents. Officials are culling hundreds of thousands of documents in an effort to stop mental illness from spreading.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Modern technology is, at the very least, keeping the threat from dangerous reading matter at bay. The old adage prevention is better than cure is particularly appropriate because many of the text-transmitted diseases, once caught, are difficult to treat. Much better, therefore, to control the books before they have a chance to attack or spread disease.
However, despite the risks outlined above for your reading health and safety, many books are useful and make ideal companions. There are always those people who will object to others being able to access dangerous books. In recent years, there have been a number of quite nasty instances of dangerous books being challenged to the point of extinction. The following tips are provided to ensure the survival of many of the above species:
- For the books' sake and for your health and safety, please do not buy exotic publications as "pets". Where unqualified and untrained individuals have not kept their dangerous books in suitable housing, many innocent bystanders have been injured.
- If you observe an exotic publication being abused, being kept in deplorable conditions, etc., report it to the appropriate control agency.
- Educate others. Write a Letter to the Editor. Share this fact sheet with friends and family.
- Find out how your state, city and county regulate private possession of reading material. If your state, city or county does not prohibit private possession, contact your state senator and representative or your city and county council members and urge them to introduce legislation to require proper book care.