Russia sentences secret agents over theft of Gutenberg Bible

Gutenberg Bible at the British Library Gutenberg's invention of the movable printing press revolutionised the written word in the 15th Century

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Russia has sentenced three agents belonging to its Federal Security Service (FSB) for trying to sell a rare 15th-Century Bible, officials say.

Colonel Sergei Vedishchev was given more than three years in a penal colony for stealing the two-volume Gutenberg edition from Moscow State University.

He had offered it to a collector for under $1.15m (£700,000; 1.07m euros), a fraction of its estimated value.

His two accomplices received lighter sentences for trying to find a buyer.

The three men were caught in a sting operation by their own agency.

'No art specialists'

The book, which was produced by German printer Johannes Gutenberg in the 1450s, was stolen from the Moscow university's safe in 2009.

Vedishchev and his co-conspirators were arrested last year at the meeting place of the potential buyer in a sting operation arranged by the FSB.

Court spokeswoman Irina Zhirnova said the book was "priceless" and that experts expected it to fetch at least $20.4m.

"These people were not art specialists," she said.

"It just happened that one of them got access to this rare book and then they set about thinking about how to cash in."

The book is to undergo repair work after a page was cut out for the buyer to check its authenticity, she added.

The 15th-Century Gutenberg Bible was the first real book to be mass-produced using movable type printing techniques.

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