It’s everything a movie producer could ever ask for: Thieves rappelling down from a skylight to avoid motion detectors; a criminal mastermind known only as “The Astronomer”; Scotland Yard. All of them embroiled in a successful—at least, so far—heist of more than 160 rare books valued at over $2.5 million.
The Guardian reports that a team of highly organized criminals broke into a London warehouse in late January to swipe rare titles, owned by multiple parties, that were being held in storage en route to a California book fair. The heist was facilitated by the crooks drilling holes into a skylight, then using ropes to inch down to prevent alarms from going off. Works from the 15th and 16th centuries have been reported missing, including volumes written by Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton, and Galileo.
Closed-circuit cameras captured the thieves making deliberate searches of boxes known to contain the valuable items, meaning they were well-prepared for what they might find. Because the books are so distinctive, it would be virtually impossible to sell them without raising suspicion; authorities suspect an ethically-challenged collector known as "The Astronomer" may be behind the score.
If true, it wouldn’t be the first time a love of books led to a brazen robbery. In 1990, an Iowa man named Stephen Blumberg was caught after he had spent two decades amassing nearly 19,000 books from libraries and museums. The collection was valued at $5.3 million. Blumberg served four and a half years in prison.