British Library looses 9000 books

The British library

The British library has admitted to losing more than 9000 books, some of which have not been seen for 50 years.

Amongst those missing are Renaissance treatises on theology and alchemy, a 1876 illustrated edition of Alice in Wonderland, a medieval text on astronomy, first editions of 19th- and 20th-century novels, and a luxury edition of Mein Kampf produced in 1939 to celebrate Hitler's 50th birthday.

One item has been previously valued at £20 000 and has not been seen for two years (an essay entitled Of the Lawful and Unlawful Usurie Amongest Christians, by 16th-century German theologian Wolfgang Musculus).

The Library believe that most, if not all of these books have not been stolen but misplaced (must be an awfully big sofa!) and most volumes are said to still be somewhere amongst the 150 million items spead across 650 kilo meters of shelving.

The Library's head of Records, Jennifer Perkins stated that the books were usually noted as misplaced when someone makes a request for them. There are a number of reasons that a book may not be found including simply misplaced on the wrong shelf, missing labels or the catalogue record being out of date.

When you consider that over 3.5 million books are taken to a reading room every year, the figure of 9000 does seem somewhat smaller, an opinion reflected by the library security firm SA Secure. Keith Rathmill of the company said - "It is a huge collection and no building is secure. 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."