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Rare Copernicus book stolen from Polish library

Rare Copernicus book stolen from Polish library
07:28 a.m. Nov 25, 1998 Eastern

WARSAW, Nov 25 (Reuters) - A rare, first edition of a ground-breaking
book by 16th-century astronomer Nicholas Copernicus has been stolen
from a scientific library in southern Poland, police said on
Wednesday. It was the second theft in eastern Europe this year of a
copy of ``De Revolutionibus,'' a 1543 work in which Copernicus
presented his revolutionary thesis that it was the Earth which
revolved around the Sun. The book disappeared from the Polish Academy
of Science's library in the city of Krakow on Tuesday, police
spokeswoman Joanna Maciejewska told Reuters. The theft may have been
ordered by a private collector, she said. ``It is not that easy simply
to sell the book or offer it at an auction because it is so rare and
well known,'' she said. Another copy of the book was taken from
Ukraine's National Vernadsky Library in August and has still not been
traced. The value of the 200-page book, of which only about a dozen
copies exist, was estimated by librarians quoted by Polish newspapers
at 250,000 to 400,000 German marks ($147,100 to $235,000). ``But most
experts say it is simply priceless,'' Maciejewska said. The book was
probably been stolem by a man in his early 40s who used forged or
stolen identification documents to borrow it for research in the
reading room, she said. ``The man sat at his table for some time
examining the book and then told the librarian he was going to the
toilet,'' Maciejewska said. The man, who left behind his coat, never
returned. The library has no security guards. ``The librarian saw that
the book was lying on the table all the time but it later turned out
it was only the cardboard cover,'' Maciejewska said. Police were
working on a sketch of the man and would publish it shortly, she said.

($1-1.700 German Mark)

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.
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