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David Slade, aged 59, admitted taking the books over a period of several years from 2001 after he was hired to catalogue the Rothschilds’ family book collection.

Driven by his need to pay off debts, he was jailed two weeks ago for 28 months after a court heard that it was debt rather than greed that drove him to crime.

Suspicions arose after Slade stretched out the cataloguing contract for years beyond the 18-month period it was supposed to have taken. An audit showed some of the valuable collection was missing.

Police raided Slade’s Bristol home and turned up a number of stolen volumes. The court has ordered all the unsold books to be recovered and has also ordered the buyer of a stolen copy of T.E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom to return it to the Rothschilds.