Quotes about Bookworm Insects

Welcome to my page of quotations about bookworms and insects that damage books.  SEE ALSO:  Bookworms (People), Smell of Books, Bookshelves  —ღ Terri

A moth ate a word! To me it seemed
A marvelous thing when I learned the wonder
That a worm had swallowed, in darkness stolen,
The song of a man, his glorious sayings,
Thoughts of the mighty; and the thieving guest
Was no whit the wiser for the words it ate.
~“The Book-worm,” an Old English riddle  [a.k.a. “Book Moth” —tg]

Thou patient grub, that through this volume old
Thy labyrinthine way hast bored—
Not for the wealth of wisdom stored
Between its oaken lids—not for the bold
And soaring fancy—not or the gold
Of human sympathy outpoured,
Like treasures from some secret hoard,
Upon its ample pages stained with mould…
~T. J. Chapman, “To A Bookworm,” c. 1887

O Roman punch! O potent Curaçoa!
O Maraschino! Maraschino O!
Delicious drams! why have you not the art
To kill this gnawing Book-worm in my heart?
~Thomas Moore (1779–1852)

There is a sort of busy worm
      That will the fairest books deform,
      By gnawing holes throughout them;
      Alike through ev’ry leaf they go,
      Yet of its merits nought they know,
      Nor care they ought about them.
Their tasteless tooth will tear and taint
      The poet, patriot, sage, or saint,
      Nor sparing wit nor learning:—
      Now if you’d know the reason why,
      The best of reasons I’ll supply—
      ’Tis Bread to the poor vermin…
~John F. M. Dovaston, “Bookworms,” Fitz-Gwarine: A Ballad of the Welsh Border in Three Cantos, with other Poems, Legendary, Incidental, and Humorous, 1816

They dwell in the odour of camphor…
These worshipful tomes of mine…
Blind-tooled and morocco-jointed,
They have Bedford’s daintiest dress,
They are graceful, attenuate, polished,
But they gather the dust, no less…
Montaigne with his sheep-skin blistered,
And Howell the worse for wear,
And the worm-drilled Jesuits’ Horace,
And the little old cropped Molière…
~Austin Dobson (1840–1921), “My Books”

      ‘Bookworms’ are now almost exclusively known in the secondary and derivative meaning of the word as porers over dry books; but there was a time when the real worms were as ubiquitous as our cockroaches. They would start at the first or last page and tunnel circular holes through the volume, and were cursed by librarians… They were dignified, like other disagreeable things, with fine Latin names…
      In our days, the most audacious beast is the cutter-out of plates… Towards him we feel a ferocity that is merciless. We should like to extract a tooth without anæsthetics for every plate he has purloined. ~“The Sufferings and Death of Books,” in Chambers’s Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art, 1890

Even books, prints, and other precious treasures have their insect enemies. The larva of Crambus pinguinalis will establish itself upon the binding of a book. A mite eats the paste that fastens the paper over the edges of the binding, and so loosens it. I have also observed the caterpillar of another little moth take its station in damp old books, committing great ravages; and many a black-letter rarity, which in these days of Bibliomania would have been valued at its weight in gold, has been snatched by these destroyers from the hands of book collectors. The little wood-boring beetles Anobium pertinax and striatum also attack books, and will even bore through several volumes. M. Peignot mentions an instance where, in a public library but little frequented, twenty-seven folio volumes were perforated in a straight line by the same insect, in such a manner that passing a cord through the perfectly round hole made by it, all volumes could be raised at once. ~William Kirby & William Spence, An Introduction to Entomology, 1815  [A little altered. It’s the swift silverfish that are the book bugs at my house! —tg]

Take my advice… Never develop a passion you can’t afford. It’ll eat your heart away like a bookworm. ~Cornelia Funke, “Fire and Stars,” Inkheart, 2003, translated from the German by Anthea Bell

Bookworm Insect Quotations
Original post date: 2015 Jun 30
1st major revision: 2020 Apr 17
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