Man guilty of antique horticultural books theft

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A man has been found guilty of stealing antique books worth £40,000 from a world-famous library in central London.

Southwark Crown Court heard William Jacques stole 13 volumes of Nouvelle Iconographies des Camellias from the Royal Horticultural Society's library.

Jacques, 40, of no fixed address, was arrested on Christmas Day in 2009 in Selby, North Yorkshire.

The thefts were alleged to have taken place from the Lindley Library between June 2004 and March 2007.

Sentencing was adjourned until 20 July.

The volumes, by Ambroise Verschaffelt, contain an array of coloured plates of camellias by the 19th Century Belgian author and explanatory text.

'Tome Raider'

The Royal Horticultural Society's Lindley library, in Vincent Square, holds books, journals, pictures and art on practical gardening, garden history, garden plants and design dating back to 1514.

Jacques, who earned the nickname Tome Raider after stealing £1m of rare books in the late-1990s, drew up a "thief's shopping list" as he continued his life of crime, the court heard.

He was previously jailed for four years in May 2002 by a judge at Middlesex Guildhall Crown Court for 21 counts of theft.

In the latest case, he would use a false name to sign in to the library before stuffing valuable books under his tweed jacket and fleeing.

Start Quote

The sentence he is to get will be measured in years, not months”

End Quote Matthew Holland QC Recorder

Gino Connor, for the prosecution, said the crime was a "systematic, carefully planned theft committed by a man who knew precisely what he was doing".

"We are not dealing with Penguin books, we are dealing with very valuable books," he said.

Jacques was highly intelligent with an understanding of rare books, the court heard.

He studied at Cambridge University and was a member of both the British Library and the London Library.

But staff said they started to become suspicious about him after noticing he would always wear the same clothes - a tweed jacket and glasses - on visits to the library.

On one occasion the defendant "was seen to place something inside his jacket and walk away with his left arm stiff against his jacket as if holding something," the court heard.

Recorder Matthew Holland QC said Jacques understood "that the sentence he is to get will be measured in years, not months".

The judge said he wanted to give Jacques time to reflect on his situation and urged him to consider revealing the location of the stolen books.

"My principal concern is the recovery of these books," he said.

"These are antique and antiquarian books that have a real academic value to the institutions that lose them, which is quite independent to the financial value."

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