Every year, there are countless rare book thefts. Below is a sampling of reports from around the world, from ancient times through 2009. (Those with * are covered in depth in the book.)

California, 1988
In 1988, when California Polytechnic State University campus police sought 87 overdue books checked out in the name of Jerry Gustav Hasford, they found much more. Hasford, who won an Academy Award for co-writing the screenplay Full Metal Jacket, had stolen 800 books from libraries around the world. He protested his innocence, saying to reporters after one court appearance, "In the immortal words of Richard Nixon: I am not a crook." In 1989 he was sentenced to 6 months in prison, handed a $1,100 fine and ordered to return the books to the libraries from which they were stolen.

Spain, 1836*
Don Vincente was a 19th century monk who pilfered from the library of his cloister in northeast Spain, as well as from several other monasteries. One particular volume obsessed him: Furs e Ordinacions Fetes par Los Gloriosos Reys de Aragon als Regnicols del Regne de Valencia, ("Edicts and Ordinances for Valencia") printed in 1482. In 1836, upon its owner's death, the book was offered at auction. Although don Vincente offered all the money he owned, Augustino Paxtot, another dealer, outbid him. Three nights later, Paxtot's house went up in flames, and the next day his charred body was found. Soon, the bodies of nine learned men were found, all of whom had been stabbed to death. When don Vincente's house was searched, the Furs e Ordinacions was found, along with books that had belonged to the other victims. He confessed to strangling Paxtot and stabbing the others only after the magistrate assured him that his library would be well cared for once he was incarcerated. In court, when the judge asked the accused why he hadn't ever stolen money from his victims, he replied, "I am not a thief." Of having taken their lives, he said, "Every man must die, sooner or later, but good books must be conserved."

Boston, 1986
In September, 1986, Ralph Coffman, a Harvard PhD who was head of Boston College's rare book collection, stole several cartons of books from the college, loaded them into his girlfriend's Jeep and drove to Sotheby's in Manhattan, where he delivered the goods to be sold at auction. The extraordinary value of the items, including 11 incunabula (books printed before 1501) drew the suspicion of the auction house, and Coffman was apprehended. He had been a student of Puritanism and after leaving his wife said he felt guilty and wanted to be caught. He was sentenced to three years in jail, 1000 hours of public service, and psychiatric counseling.

France, 2002
Stanislas Gosse, a teacher at a Strasbourg engineering school and former naval officer, managed to break into the Mont Saint-Odile monastery repeatedly and steal 1,100 ancient books. To enter, he used a forgotten map, a secret passage, and a hidden entrance through a cupboard, baffling priests and detectives from 2000 to 2002. Inside, for hours at a time, Gosse picked out volumes by candlelight. He was caught after police installed a hidden video camera, which recorded Gosse filling three suitcases with books. He told the court, "I'm afraid my burning passion overrode my conscience. It may appear selfish, but I felt the books had been abandoned."

Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1969
A thief hid in a men's room on the top floor of Harvard's Widener Library. After the library closed, he climbed out the bathroom window onto the roof, took a rope from his backpack, lowered himself to a window, broke it, climbed in and shattered the case holding the bible, slipped it into his backpack, went back out the window, and tried to climb up his knotted rope to the roof. One problem: he didn't realize that the 2-volume bible weighed 70 pounds. He couldn't climb with his booty, and the rope was too short to reach the courtyard six floors down. He hung there for a while, then fell, landing on the bible and injuring himself. He was caught shortly thereafter.

England, 2009
David Slade is well educated and knowledgeable, a bookseller since the age of 17—and the former president of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association in the UK. Sir Evelyn de Rothschild had hired Slade to catalogue the family's book collection. While doing so, two or three days a week, for four years, he'd help himself to books, each very valuable and finely crafted by one of the private presses of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Since he had a reputation as a reputable bookseller, he was able to sell them at auction houses. While doing a routine audit, Rothschild realized that many of his books were missing. On February 2, 2009, at Aylesbury crown court, Slade was sentenced after admitting he stole the books. They were worth over a quarter of a million pounds.

France, 1800s*
Gulielmo Libri, an Italian count with a prophetic name from a family of old Tuscan nobility, was responsible for a loss of stunning proportions. A mathematician, journalist, teacher, adviser to the French government, and authority on the history of science, he moved easily in French, Italian and English academic circles, and in 1841, he was put in charge of cataloging historical manuscripts in France's public libraries. As the cataloger of these vast holdings, he knew which manuscripts had not yet been recorded, and these proved irresistible to him. Many of them were priceless, 93 of them dating from before the 12th century. In the end, his collection's worth was estimated at 600,000 francs (over 1.5 million Euros in today's world). He was finally caught in 1850, and sentenced to ten years solitary confinement, after which he returned to Italy, where he lived for the rest of his life.

New York, 1995
Daniel Cevallos-Tovar, an alchemist, was arrested in 1995 for stealing over 280 rare books on alchemy and the occult from Harvard and Yale. His alchemy lab in Croton-on-Hudson, New York, was struck by lightening and caught fire, so Cevallos moved his slightly damp books to a storage facility. When he neglected to pay the rent, the owner sold the books at auction—seventeenth and eighteenth century alchemy books, for $5 to $10 a carton. Eventually, word got out among the trade, and the FBI was notified. He was sentenced to 136 days in prison, 100 hours of public service, and two-years of supervision.

New York/The Netherlands, 1994*
In the spring of 1994, Dutch dealer Sebastiaan Hesselink received a phone call from a New York man who had a number of rare books and letters to sell. The man arrived at Hesselink's office and accepted his first offer, which made Hesselink suspicious. In order to stall, he told the man that because the banks had already closed, he could write a check, knowing that the man would prefer cash, and then suggested they meet the next day, when he would be able to offer it. Immediately after he left, Hesselink contacted colleagues in the US. It took only hours to discover that all of the materials had been stolen from Columbia University. Hesselink contacted Interpol, the FBI, and local Dutch authorities, and they set up a sting for four o'clock the next day. On time, the man arrived in Utrecht's central square with his bag of loot. Police, in bulletproof vests, had surrounded the area. After a number of Keystone cops-style blunders, they managed to arrest him.

Iowa, 1970s-1980s
For about twenty years, Steven Blumberg, of Ottumwa, Iowa, stole 30,000 books valued at about $20 million from libraries across the U.S. and Canada before he was caught in 1990. He'd been a clever thief, sometimes crawling through heating ducts in the middle of the night to get into locked rare book rooms. Living on an independent annual income of about $70,000, Blumberg was intent on protecting the books he felt librarians were neglecting. He was sentenced to 71 months in prison and fined $200,000.

England, 14th Century
Sentences were not always so light. In Henry IV's days, a man named Johannes Leycestre and his wife Cedilia made off with "'a little book from an old church." Their punishment reads: "Let him be hanged by the neck until his life departs." The fate of Cedilia, like most women of her time, was apparently not worth putting to pen.

Transylvania, Kentucky, 2004
On December 17, 2004, a young man called Transylvania University's special collections librarian, BJ Gooch, to arrange a visit to the rare book room. Once there, he told her he'd heard about their first edition of Darwin's Origin of the Species, but wanted to know what else they had, and even called a friend to join him. Soon, the friend arrived, clad in hat, scarf and sunglasses, which made it almost impossible to see his face. Gooch had a bad feeling about the pair, but didn't suspect what followed. As she reached into one of the drawers, they shot her with a stun gun, tied her up, and ran out off with several rare items, including the Darwin, two rare manuscripts, and sketches by Audubon. "I lay there on the floor, weak as a newborn baby while they ran off," she remembers. A few days later, the young men took the loot, worth about $750,000, to Christie's auction house. Their improbable story raised suspicions, and the two were caught, along with two other friends who'd planned the heist. All four were sentenced to time in prison.

Copenhagen, 2003*
A theft from the Royal Library of Copenhagen was uncovered in 2003 when a copy of Spanish poet Batholome de Torres Naharros' manuscript, "Propalladia," dated 1517, was sent to Christie's auction house in London. It was discovered that the book, along with twenty million Euros' worth of rare books—some of which had already been sold by Christie's—had been swiped over several years by a now deceased librarian who'd been stashing them in his basement. His wife, son, and daughter-in-law who'd started cashing in, were convicted in 2004 and sent to prison.

Cambridge, 1995
In March 1995, a Harvard graduate student asked for a certain book on Islamic architecture at the Fine Arts Library at the Fogg Art Museum. The librarian couldn't find it, but promised to notify the student when it returned. About a year later, a bibliographer in Islamic art and architecture was looking through the catalog of an English bookseller when he came upon a book missing from Harvard's collection. Over the next several months, the bibliographer, the English dealer and University police worked together and discovered that a man named Jose Torres-Carbonnel, a Spanish national—and the husband of the aforementioned graduate student—was responsible for pilfering almost 2000 valuable books, engravings and illustrations from Harvard's libraries. They apprehended the thief in his apartment the day he was to ship the goods back to Spain, where he himself was headed later that day.