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William Simon Jacques

Maggio 2009
La sua specialità? Rubare libri antichi dalle biblioteche e rivenderli all’asta. Oggi nessuno sa dove sia, ma alla British Library il livello di guardia è alto...

di John Rigg

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The British Library
The British Library
William Simon
William Simon

The Gentleman Thief is a famous figure in both fiction and reality, but Britain’s most prestigious libraries don’t like William Simon Jacques. This notorious criminal has stolen rare books from London’s British Library worth more than £1,000,000: one example is Galileo Galilei’s Sidereus Nuncius.

A GENIUS

Jacques studied at Cambridge University and he is a chartered accountant. He has the IQ of a genius and is a master of disguise. The English newspapers love him: they gave him the nickname Tome Raider.” But he isn’t so intelligent after all. He was caught in 2002 and spent four years in prison. In May 2008, the police arrested him again after he stole books from the Royal Horticulture Society’s Lindley Library, but he escaped and the police haven’t found him yet.

EMBARRASSING

How could Jacques steal such rare books for so many years? He uses his education to obtain librarians’ confidence, and uses false names and disguises, so that nobody can identify him. For example, at the Lindley Library he used the name Mr Santoro instead of his real name. Another important reason is that library curators don’t often inform the police when books are stolen. Antiquarian bookseller Jolyon Hudson explains: “Libraries are the curators of the nation’s knowledge. They’re too embarrassed to admit losing such important books.”  Jacques sells the books with the help of auction houses like Christies of London and specialist book dealers. The police caught him in 1999 because a London book dealer saw that he was trying to cover library markings.

MYSTERY

Where is Jacques now? Nobody knows. “He’s still working somewhere,” says a police spokesman. “A leopard doesn’t change its spots.” The tabloid newspapers describe Jacques as a gentleman thief, but not everyone agrees. The opposite of a gentleman is a scoundrel, and there are many people who say Jacques is exactly that: a scoundrel. His Cambridge University tutor Ian DuQuesnay angrily says: “What William Simon Jacques does is equivalent to splashing paint on the Parthenon.”


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Glossary

Gentleman Thief - ladro gentiluomo.

fiction - fantasia.

libraries - biblioteche.

worth - del valore di...

chartered accountant - ragioniere iscritto all’albo.

master of disguise - maestro dell’arte di camuffarsi.

nickname - soprannome.

Tome Raider - gioco di parole con Tomb Raider.

education - cultura, istruzione.

confidence - fiducia.

bookseller - libraio.

knowledge - conoscenza.

they’re too embarrassed to admit losing - si vergognano troppo di ammettere di aver perso...

auction houses - case d’aste.

book dealers - commercianti di libri.

to cover library markings - coprire i timbri della biblioteca.

a leopard doesn’t change his spots - il leopardo non cambia le macchie del pelo.

tabloid newspapers - i giornali popolari.

agrees - è d’accordo.

scoundrel - mascalzone.

tutor - professore (nelle università inglesi, incaricato di seguire un piccolo gruppo di studenti).

splashing paint - sporcare di vernice.