Sunday, November 28, 2010

Day 261/365 Secret Passages

I've always wanted one of these....

And with all the bookcases in my house, I'd need a GPS to find my way through all the secret passages.

One particular passageway exists in a convent in Italy. A convent that found some 1,100 particularily vintage volumes missing from its bookshelves a few years ago. Each time another book vanished, the police were called, however, there was no evidence of forced entry and no traces of the thief.

It was obviously someone borrowing Harry Potter's Invisibility Cloak.

Not until a hidden security camera was installed was the thief revealed to be a simple booklover, who was afraid the older antiquarian volumes were not being stored properly, much less being read.

He had studied an 8th century map of the convent and discovered a long-forgotten passageway thought to be used to spy on medieval monks. By first climbing up an exterior wall to the attic, a steep, narrow stairway could be reached. The dark stairway led to a secret chamber directly in back of a cupboard in the library where a hidden mechanism released an access panel.

Said booklover then spent leisurely hours perusing the ancient volumes by candlelight, choosing some to store in the attic and some to remove to his home.

Some of the books date back to the fifteenth century. Our booklover took excellent care of the books in his possession, even restoring some of the volumes.

His own words to the court:

"I'm afraid my burning passion overrode my conscience. It may appear selfish, but I felt the books had been abandoned. They were covered with dust and pigeon droppings and I felt no one consulted them any more."

I can so sympathize with this man. If I ever found a map with a secret passage into a library, let's just say I'd end up in the cell next to him. I am so tired of seeing books ignored while endless rows of computer terminals are installed..... but that's another post....

At any rate, the convent's lawyers asked only for community service, recognizing the extraordinary care our booklover had extended to the collection. But the court imposed a monetary fine (the whole making-an-example thing I guess).

Afterwards, the convent hired him as a teacher. He is now free to come and go in the library at anytime.

Mostly through the front door.

1 comment:

  1. I love secret passageways and have always wanted one as well. Of course, scenes from Clue & Young Frankenstein comes to mind when I see images like this. :)
    That's wonderful that they hired him as a teacher. Sometimes civil disobedience is exactly what is needed.