Deep underground, 20ft below the sandy-coloured stones of Oxford, mile upon mile of shelves lie dusty and empty. The entire contents of the New Bodleian Library – one of the most ancient and precious collections in the world, founded by Thomas Bodley in 1598 – have vanished.
It is a sight to instil fear into any scholar. Four editions of the Magna Carta; the First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays; and a document from the court of King Alfred that is reckoned to be the oldest in the English language. Three million books, a million maps, and countless priceless documents. All gone. But there is no need to worry: they have not been stolen, or teleported by culture-envying aliens. They have just been taken to Swindon.
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