Audacious Book Thieves Plunder London

A band of sophisticated robbers targets the UK’s literary treasures

The e-book will not suffice for Tom Cruise. It’s hardback or nothing.

This weekend in London, a band of well-read thieves pulled off one of the most audacious book burglaries in history. Three robbers targeted a warehouse near Heathrow Airport, home to antique editions of work by Galileo, Newton and other icons of intellectual history.

The theft is drawing special attention today, thanks to the high degree of difficulty. The bandits managed to elude motion-sensor alarms and then, with the utmost stealth, drilled an opening in the reinforced glass skylights before repelling 40 feet into the depths of the vault to retrieve the goods.

Their loot included a 1566 transcription of De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium by Copernicus and a 500-year-old copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy. In total, the stolen books are worth an estimated $2.5 million.

According to the Guardian, it will be no easy feat for the raiders to sell their booty. (Yes, the goal is to use all our buglary vocabulary today.) Chris Marinello, the CEO of London based Art Recovery International, told the paper that “the more publicity the crime gets, they more difficult it becomes to sell these items.” So it’s important to keep this unfolding crime in the news, and for booksellers and art dealers to keep a close watch on sites like like Artive.org and the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers’ Stollen Book Database, so that stolen goods aren’t able to freely circulate.

The next threat the books face is the prospect of being cut up and traded to unaware buyers in the art market. Let’s hope that the crooks are soon brought to justice — and that we get video footage of how they pulled it off.

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