Isambard Wilkinson, Madrid - Saturday May 08 2021, 12.01am, The Times
The library in Madrid took more than four years to report the theft of Galileo’s Sidereus Nuncius
Thieves are believed to have stolen nine 17th-century works by Galileo, worth millions, from Spain’s national library.
The revelation comes weeks after it emerged that the library in Madrid took more than four years to report the theft of a pamphlet by the Italian astronomer and continued to display a forgery the thief had left behind.
The attempted cover-up of the theft of Sidereus Nuncius, the first published systematic scientific study of celestial bodies using a telescope, valued at €800,000, prompted a government investigation. It has since found that four other works by Galileo are missing, an official has confirmed.
The culture ministry recommended that the search for “five books authored by Galileo Galilei should be sped up as much as possible . . . in order to report their disappearance immediately to the state security forces or bodies”.
However, El Pais newspaper discovered official documents suggesting that a further four Galileo works were missing. Among the nine believed stolen are Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (1632) and The Assayer (1623). The documents state that the library has a list of 14,809 missing works. Of these, 54 published before 1830 are worth more than €5,000. The library said it had sent the list of 54 to police last month.
Police are still investigating the theft of Sidereus Nuncius. In 2007 César Gómez Rivero, a Spaniard living in Argentina, admitted stealing two maps published by Ptolemy in 1482. Records also indicate that Rivero accessed the Sidereus Nuncius in 2004. Police have not named a suspect in its disappearance.
The government recommended that the library put in place a protocol to deal with lost books, outlining “the procedures to be followed and the maximum time limits within which such actions must be carried out”.