According to the above article, a team of three specialist thieves broke in to a high security west London warehouse and made away with more than 160 rare books, with a combined value of roughly £2 million. The thieves entered the building by drilling holes in the reinforced glass-fibre skylights, then used ropes to avoid tripping the motion-sensor security system. Once inside, they apparently stole to order, taking such items as a 1566 copy of Nicolaus Copernicus’s De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (worth about £215,000), a 1569 edition of Dante’s Divine Comedy and early works by Galileo, Isaac Newton, Leonardo da Vinci.
The stolen books are in many cases unique, and will be impossible to fence on the open market, which indicates that the thieves were operating on behalf of a collector with money to spare and a conspicuous lack of morals. Indeed, investigators have already spoken about such a person, known as The Astronomer, being behind the heist.
The theft of high-value rare books from heritage libraries and private collections around the world has been on the rise in recent years, to the point that the British Library organised a conference on ways to deal with the problem back in 2015
Aside from the luscious delight of that headline – “Tome Raiders”! – there are numerous gamable possibilities for these events. The Astronomer sounds like a closet supervillain in the making, and the recent thefts focus on books by Copernicus, Galileo, Dante and Leonardo da Vinci suggest some interesting adventures for a team of modern adventurers.
- The Astronomer has had his eyes on the stars. The conjunction is coming, and soon da Vinci’s portal device will spin up to speed, opening the gateway to the Infernal Realms. Armed with the map encoded in Dante’s book and the mathemagical spells of Isaac Newton, the Astronomer will descend into the Netherworld. But why is he making this journey, and what will emerge from the open gateway while he is gone?
- Copernicus’ book details the path of a singular comet, and predicts both the place and time of its impact with the Earth. Galileo’s work details an observance of the comet, recording the strange effects it had upon mankind the last time it passed close to us and speculating that it is made of an extra-terrestrial element of world-shaking possibilities. The da Vinci folio contains the blue-prints for a device to harness the power of the element, and the Astronomer means to be the one to control it.
- The Astronomer is not what he seems. In perusing his collection and studying the stars, he has uncovered the approach of a large fragment of Nibiru, the rogue planet from which once came creatures that humanity called gods. Worse, he has detected life upon that fractured rock, survivors of the cataclysm keen to resume their place as the rulers of mankind. Dante’s book is in fact a coded account of telepathic communications with these “gods”, and his vision of Hell is in reality an account of the future they will inflict upon us. The da Vinci manuscript contains details of a device that may save us from the predations of these super-powered aliens, if it can be assembled in time. The other thefts around the world have been perpetrated by followers of the gods, eager to see their masters re-take the world. Can the Astronomer stop them? Will the heroes believe him?