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Mission Impossible: Thieves Stole $2.5 Million Worth of Rare Books by Copernicus, Galileo, Da Vinci and More

Feb 22, 2017 10:05 AM EST
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A group of three thieves stole around $2.5 million (£2 million) worth of antique books by some of the most celebrated figures in history from a west London warehouse sometime between Jan. 29 and 30.

According to a report from The Guardian, the heist was done "Mission: Impossible-style" as the trio of thieves drilled holes in the reinforced glass-fiber skylights on the roof, rappelled down 40 feet and dodged motion sensor alarms to get their haul.

The gang made off with more than 160 valuable publications, most of them from the 15th and 16th centuries. The collection included works by Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo, Isaac Newton, Leonardo da Vinci and Dante. Copernicus' De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium, which published his theory that the sun is the center of the universe and reportedly worth over $267,000, was one of the books stolen.

Laura Chester of the Antiques Trade Gazette told The Daily Mail that a number of the books were "incunabula," meaning a book published in the early years of printing.

A source close to the case explained that a collection like this was likely stolen to order as the thieves wouldn't be able to sell these books to reputable dealers or auction houses anywhere.

"We're not talking Picassos or Rembrandts or even gold bars - these books would be impossible to fence," the source said. "It must be for some one specialist. There must be a collector behind it. The books belong to three different dealers working at the very top of the market and altogether they form a fantastic collection."

A report from Fine Books Magazine supported this theory as the thieves were said to have pried open the containers to find the rare books. In the process, they ignored valuable merchandise like electronics and other books, suggesting the burglars were working with a "master list" of books that was ordered by a collector.

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