An OAP mastermind thief with a taste for historical artefacts has been jailed for stealing an ancient world map used by Sir Isaac Newton even though cops never found it.
The man, identified as Norbert S. from the town of Witten in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, was sentenced to 20 months in prison for stealing the map on 28th July 2017 from the Tyrolean University Archive in Innsbruck, Austria.
The court heard that the thief has a criminal record with 22 counts of theft after he tracked down old books and maps in libraries and stole them when left unattended.
Judge Dr. Barbara Monstadt said that the defendant visited libraries during holiday periods when there were not many people around.
She said: “He looked for a place in the reading room that was discreet. He completed the user request with his real name, but we also know that he logged into libraries with various aliases.”
Judge Monstadt said there was “no reasonable doubt” Norbert S. stole the beautifully illustrated map from the Innsbruck archive.
The illustration was cut out of the book ‘Rudolphine Tables’, written by famous mathematician and astronomer Johannes Kepler in 1627.
The historic book, which contains a catalogue of constellations and planetary tables, was handed to the pensioner while he was carrying out research in the archive’s reading room.
He was reportedly unsupervised the whole time and took the opportunity to cut out the page containing the copperplate print map.
Even though the map has a University Library stamp on the reverse, it is estimated to be worth around 30,000 EUR (25,935 GBP) on the black market, although a university spokesman said that its value in historic terms is priceless.
Witness Dr. Claudia Sojer testified in court that the defendant was the only one who had the book in the reading room on the day it was cut out and stolen.
He had to register himself with his passport information, but left the library with the signed paperwork which Dr. Sojer found “suspicious”.
She then “Googled his name” and realised that the defendant appeared on an internet search with the term ‘book thief’.
Dr. Sojer immediately examined each page of the book and found that the map had been removed.
It is still unclear where the missing map is as Norbert S. denied the accusations in court and said that the map was already missing when he opened the book.
Newton used Kepler’s work as a basis for his theory of universal gravitation some 60 years later.
The map inspired Newton to combine Kepler’s laws on planetary motion with Christiaan Huygen’s new law of centrifugal force.
Newton was convinced that planets obey the same physical laws as observed on Earth and that there must be an unseen force influencing them.
According to Kepler’s observations, planets moved in an elliptical orbit, and Newton wanted to find out what force made them do so. When he saw an apple fall from a tree, he realised that the answer was gravity.