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Valuable Books Stolen in Russia

November 13, 2002

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ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) _ Thieves posing as scholars stole a first edition of Isaac Newton’s main work and two other valuable books from reading rooms at leading libraries in St. Petersburg, Russian officials said.

A copy of Newton’s ``Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy″ published in London in 1687, and a 1913 illustrated edition of poems by Russian futurist Konstantin Bolshakov were stolen from the Russian National Library on Nov. 6, authorities said Tuesday.

Library official Anton Likhmanov said two people came to the library that day and submitted passports and higher education certificates required for a temporary pass to the exclusive institution. They then ordered the two books and never returned them, he said, adding that the passports turned out to be fake.

On the same day, an 1813 edition of English philosopher Robert Owen’s ``New View of Society″ was taken from the reading room of the Russian Academy of Sciences Library, also in St. Petersburg. Likhmanov said the two robberies may have been committed by the same people.

St. Petersburg police said the theft at the Russian National Library was reported four days after library officials say it took place.

It was unclear how the thieves were able to remove the books, but security at the libraries is not very tight. They lack electronic alarms that go off when books are removed, relying on a system in which borrowers receive a card which they must have stamped when they return their books and show to a guard as they leave.

Officials at both libraries said they did not know how much the missing books were worth, but emphasized they are valuable.

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