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Friday, 23 August, 2002, 07:16 GMT 08:16 UK
Audacious raid on Dickens museum
One of the three first edition copies of Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol
Nobody appeared to have witnessed the theft
Thieves have escaped with three first editions of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, worth up to 30,000 each, in a daylight raid on a London museum.

The books were stolen as visitors looked around the Dickens House Museum during opening hours on Thursday, 15 August.


It is really sad and rather ironic that it is Dickens' book of goodwill to all men

Andrew Xavier
Museum curator
They were taken from a locked cabinet using glasscutters, police said.

But an attempt to cut the glass of a cabinet containing copies of The Pickwick Papers was unsuccessful.

Nobody appeared to have witnessed the theft, despite it taking place while the museum was open to the public, curator Andrew Xavier said.

"It is really sad and rather ironic that it is Dickens' book of goodwill to all men," he said.

One of the three first edition copies of Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol
The museum is in one of Dickens' former homes
"What is even sadder is we have now had to take certain items off display."

Those items would be put back after security was stepped up, Mr Xavier said.

"This sort of thing happens and makes the experience for our 25,000 visitors a year a little less enjoyable."

The books, taken between 1545 and 1615 BST, were probably stolen to order, he said.

It is estimated that they are each worth between 20,000 and 30,000.

Artefacts

The museum is at 48 Doughty Street, Bloomsbury, where Dickens lived from 1837 to 1839.

During his time there he worked on The Pickwick Papers, his first full-length novel, and Oliver Twist.

The museum houses various other exhibits including the hall clock from Dickens's last home, Gad's Hill Place and family portraits.

Now owned by the Dickens Fellowship, it also contains many of his letters and his velvet-topped desk.


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