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Thursday, 2 May, 2002, 13:48 GMT 14:48 UK
'Tome raider' jailed for 1m book theft
The British Library
Jacques stole rare books from the British Library
A Cambridge University graduate who stole more than 1m worth of ancient and rare library books has been jailed for four years.

Accountant William Jacques, 33, was nicknamed the "Tome Raider" by police after stealing the books and selling them at auctions.

In court he was said to have a near genius level IQ, and used his knowledge of the antiquarian book trade to stay ahead of the police.

On Thursday he was sentenced at Middlesex Guildhall Court for 21 counts of theft of more than 500 books and pamphlets.


If they had not been recovered, their replacement, I am sure, would have been impossible

Judge Derek Inman

The judge told Jacques he had hidden behind a "shabby cloak of respectability" as he spent years systematically plundering valuable collections without anyone noticing.

He took first editions dating back hundreds of years from Cambridge University Library, the London Library and the British Library.

Many of the books were then sold through auction houses in the UK and abroad.

Judge Derek Inman said the stolen books were "immensely valuable", not only financially, but because of their "extreme rarity, irreplaceability and historical importance".

"If they had not been recovered, their replacement, I am sure, would have been impossible," he said.

Cuban hideaway

Most of the works were subsequently recovered and included:

  • Galileo's Sidereus Nuncius published in 1610 and worth 180,000

  • Kepler's Astronomia Nova published in 1609 and worth 75,000

  • Two copies of Sir Isaac Newton's Principia Mathematica published in 1687 and worth 135,000

Jacques, from North End Road, Maida Vale, west London, was eventually caught after an expert became suspicious while examining a book that had been tampered with and sold at auction.

The day after police interviewed him, Jacques transferred 360,000 to three bank accounts in Cuba and flew out to the Caribbean island.

But seven weeks later he returned to England and was arrested.


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02 Aug 01 | Northern Ireland
Rare book returned to library
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