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Archbishop Robin Eames talks to Noel Thompson BBC
"We have lost part of our heritage"
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Tuesday, 14 December, 1999, 23:54 GMT
Literary treasure stolen in raid

The robbers entered the libraray pretending to be researchers The robbers pretended to be researchers

The Church of Ireland Primate has appealed for the return of one of Northern Ireland's greatest literary treasures which has been stolen in Armagh.

Archbishop Robin Eames said generations would desperately miss the first edition copy of Gulliver's Travels by the Irish 18th century satirist Jonathan Swift.

It was stolen in an armed robbery at a Church of Ireland library in Armagh.

Two armed masked men tricked their way into the library on Tuesday, held an assistant libarian at gunpoint and took the book and a dozen other historical volumes.

The book was unique because it was annotated in the margin by Swift himself, who used it to make corrections and ammendments to his fantastic travelogue.

The book is also well known because a reproduction copy was recently put into print.

It was among about 20 items taken including two silver Corporation maces made in 1656 and used by the Queen to grant Armagh city status, illuminated manuscripts, miniature bibles, a miniature Koran and a 1611 Geneva bible.


Dr Robin Eames said the items are priceless because they could never be replaced.

He said: "They have dealt a devastating blow to our heritage. They have taken things that are absolutely irreplaceable. We couldn't put a value on them.

The public library was founded by Primate Richard Robinson The public library was founded by Primate Richard Robinson
"I don't know what mark-up they think they can use but I'm sure they won't listen to any appeal from me, but these articles will be missed desperately by generations to come if we don't recover them.

"The book has been one of our most guarded treasures for years.

It has been something which has been an attraction for tourists and students.

"These gifts which we have been looking after, are not just ours. We have kept them as trustees for Ireland and the City of Armagh."

Archbishop Eames appealed to the thieves, that if they had not realised what they had stolen and now knew that the book would have a limited market, to return it "by any means".

Church of Ireland librarian Harry Carson said: "How they can live with themselves I don't know."

'Difficult to pass on'

Detective Inspector Alan Todd, who is heading the investigation into the robbery, said that the possibility that the book was stolen for a specific black market buyer is one of a number of options being considered.

Ceremonial maces were also stolen Ceremonial maces were also stolen
He said: "We are looking at that possibility. We obviously don't want to have a closed mind at this stage."

Because the book was so well known and because of the media interest it would be difficult to pass it on through normal open black market channels, he said.

"Because of its unique nature somebody must know where this property is or may have been offered it for sale," Inspector Todd said.

But he added: "It is also possible that the people who stole these items didn't actually know what they were stealing."

The items are worth in excess of 100,000.

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