The special powers of books are not just in their words
For centuries, some persons have imbued books with powers beyond their use to educate or entertain. And perhaps no book has been seen to have greater power than the Bible. St. Augustine wrote that the Gospel of St. John was laid upon the heads of people suffering from fevers. "In the middle ages and beyond, this particular biblical book was still judged to have particular protective powers, and tiny manuscript versions, intended to be worn or carried on the person for maximum efficacy, survive as witness to this belief. Around 1600, residents of Nottingham were being encouraged to buy copies of the Gospel as a preservative against witchcraft, at the considerable sum of ten shillings. Bibles were used for registering births, curing the sick, making decisions, predicting the future, and warding off devils. The historian David Cressy even reports on a Bible attached to a pole used as a battle standard in a local conflict," according to Emma Smith in a fascinating book, "Portable Magic: A History of Books and Their Readers."
Smith continued that these uses of the Bible don't require it to be opened or its pages turned: they are about the book as a material block possessing special powers. By contrast, the parallel tradition of bibliomancy -- the term for the practice of consulting a book opened at random for prophetic wisdom -- imbued books with the magic power of divination.
The practice was popular in early modern Europe, and first drew on classical, or pagan, texts, before later adapting to use Bibles or other works. People were especially fond of Virgil's works and believed that if you randomly opened one to a given passage, you would be wisely advised on such questions as whom to marry. Virgil was deemed an appropriate source to consult about the future because he was often credited with predicting the coming of Christ and the sack of Rome. Magical powers hung around his mythical biography: In medieval legend he was said to have been the tutor of the magician Merlin.
At other times, people simply laid hands on hymnals, which was thought to make one a better singer. Go ahead and try this at home.