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Relieved Owners Get Back Rare, Irreplaceable Books Stolen in 2017

Nearly all volumes intact after daring warehouse theft
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 10, 2020 2:06 PM CST

(Newser) – In the sort of break-in usually executed by a Tom Cruise character while background music adds to the tension, rare books worth millions were stolen from a London warehouse nearly four years ago. On Tuesday, police announced that the books have been returned to the proper owners, leading one of them—who would've been well played by Peter O'Toole—to enthusiastically promise, "Tonight we drink like lions!" The hundreds of books were valued at more than $3 million and included works by Galileo, Isaac Newton, and the painter Francisco de Goya. Police said 83 of the books were damaged, the Guardian reports, mostly by water and mold; the spines of some of the volumes were broken. Only two of them are irreparable, per Sky News. Four of the stolen books are still missing, and London police asked the public for information on them.

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The books were in a warehouse in west London, on their way to a US book fair, when they were stolen. The thieves cut holes in the roof and rappelled into the warehouse, avoiding sensors connected to alarms. It took them five hours to pull up five large bags containing the books. Organized criminals smuggled them to Romania, officials said, where the trail eventually led to a concrete pit where the books had been wrapped up and hidden. Twelve men are being held in London in the crime. As they began inspecting the books for damage, the owners said they were filled with apprehension. "When we found our works in good condition, it was a great happiness for us," one said. Another said the reunion was like "finding a part of me that had crumbled or been stolen." The reason, he said, is that "you spend so much time searching and collecting the books—it’s not just a two-month job—and you choose the books because you like them, not only for their value." (Read more rare books stories.)

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