12 Tales of Book Thievery

As devoted book lovers and defenders of libraries, there are few things that upset us more than people who steal books. We read about a recent case of book theft in China this week, detailed after the jump, which compelled us to explore a brief history of shocking book thievery. Greed, desperation, and delusion have compelled ordinary citizens and literary insiders to snatch rare books and manuscripts for dubious purposes. Most of these stories about stolen titles read like a gripping thriller, but the following tales of book theft are sadly all too real.

Photo credit: John Meckley
Photo credit: John Meckley

In humanity’s quest for the ever-elusive meaning of life, people have done some extreme and downright stupid things in search of an answer. Take a man in Nanjing, China, for example. He stole 800 science, history, and poetry books. “I couldn’t comprehend the meaning of life,” the thief known only as Mr. Lee claimed. “I was hoping to find the answer by reading those books.” Lee swiped the texts from his local bookstore over a span of six months, often combing the stacks up to four times a week. He would sell the books after reading them. It’s hard to believe that in those thousands of pages Lee didn’t learn stealing was wrong.