Did you know that Guglielmo Libri Carucci dalla Sommaja was born today in 1803? He was an Italian mathematician, historian, and teacher. Sadly, Libri is best known for his extravagant book theft. When he was just 20, Libri was appointed as a professor of mathematics. He found that he did not like teaching at all. He travelled to France, researched, and wrote histories of mathematics. Eventually, Libri was appointed as the Chief Inspector of French Libraries, which gave him access to many historical and valuable documents and books. In 1848, he fled from France to England with 30,000 stolen manuscripts and books.
We hope that you remember to be respectful of libraries today! Remember to think kind thoughts, use kind words, and do kind things. We Love You.
Libri was not a mediocre mathematician. While in France, he was elected to the Academy of Sciences and given the prestigious Legion D’honneur. He became friends with other prominent mathematicians such as Laplace, Poisson, Fourier, and Arago. Later, he would anger members of the Academy and be ostracized.
One of Libri’s methods of stealing books involved wearing a over-sized cape (even when it was not weather-appropriate). He would feign poor health so others would stay away while he was in the archives and then ‘borrow’ items that he never returned.
Libri received a tip that he was about to be arrested for his book mutilation and theft. The advanced notice allowed him to ship the 18 trunks’ worth of books and documents to England. He was charged and convicted in absentia and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
While he arrived in England penniless, Libri was soon able to live the ‘good life’. He held a few sales from his document ‘collection. Just two of the sales brought in more than a million francs; at the time the a workman’s average daily wage was just 4 francs.