On this day in history….3rd June 1978

On this day in history : 3rd June 1978 – The Guinness Book of Records officially becomes the most stolen book from British libraries – the second most commonly stolen book is The Bible….

Books on sex and witchcraft are also popular amongst the thieves…. In a 1996 poll the top books missing were ‘The Joy of Sex’ and ‘The Prophecies of Nostradamus’….

Rare books and documents are obvious targets for professional thieves – it is a problem that has become so epidemic that in 2015 librarians and lawyers held a conference in Euston to discuss the issue and to try and find a solution…. With tens and thousands of historic books having gone missing from heritage libraries worldwide – it was obvious library security had to change…. Most libraries had a good idea of the value of their books – but not always the content between the covers – and thieves were getting more sneaky….

An American thief used razor blades to extract pages from valuable books…. He stole 97 maps from six libraries in the US and Britain – being caught in the British Library in 2005…. Another wily thief smuggled rare volumes out hidden under his jacket – he was jailed for three and a half years in 2010 after stealing £40K worth from the Royal Horticultural Society….

Inside the British Library – Image credit : Jynto – CC BY-SA 3.0

It’s not always those trying to make a dishonest profit who are guilty of book snatching…. A wealthy Iranian millionaire businessman was jailed for four years after he spent eight years, between 1997 and 2005, cutting out pages from some 150 rare books to add to his own private collection…. He caused an estimated £1m worth of damage to books, some dating back to the 16th century, belonging to the British Libaray and the Bodleian Library, Oxford….

Of course the Internet has provided book thieves with a whole new marketplace – and so the crime continues…. Between October 2017 and August 2018 some 7,000 books stolen from the library of the University of Edinburgh and other similar institutions were sold online for approximately £40K by an entrepreneurial book thief…. He also earned himself a two year prison sentence….