News breaks this week that the British Library has ‘mislaid’ more than 9000 of its books. Not had them pinched, but actually lost them behind, I can only imagine, dusty bookshelves, cisterns in the public facilities or between cracks in floorboards – although I prefer to imagine that they made a canny break for it by launching themselves into a bin of dirty linen on its way to the launderette.
The relics included in the fugitive group include an essay by the 16th century theologian Wolfgang Musculus valued at £20,000, an 1876 illustrated edition of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and a first edition of Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, which is apparently worth £1,300 and hasn’t been seen since 1961.
The library’s head of records, Jennifer Perkins, told The Guardian that probably all of the missing texts remain within the library’s walls. But the most bemusing quote of The Guardian’s reporting on the story comes from security firm SA Secure’s Keith Rathmill, who is quoted as saying, “There’s theft from all libraries, but the British Library can think itself lucky it isn’t in a worse situation – it doesn’t attract the dregs of society.” Some of us might count the dregs of society as those who carve chunks out of priceless volumes provided for the education and enjoyment of the public, no?