Michigan State University Libraries

The Mystery of the Wire Loop

The Crime

Over the last several years, books with a small wire loop have been found in at least three libraries across the United States. Initial inquiries found no satisfactory answer for their presence. Speculations ranged from some sort of security device (either to physically tie the book in place or as an early electronic detection system) or as a method of attaching a bookmarker to the textblock. None of these suggestions seem plausible given the nature of the device.

This is a query for more information about these devices. It is hoped that when other conservators have seen these loops or will in the future, they will forward this information to the presenter. This information will then be examined for an explanation and a catalog of books containing the loops will be created. A future report will hopefully reveal the solution to the mystery of the wire loop.

Physical Description of the Culprit

All of the loops seen so far are similar in size and design (click for images of the Loop):

The Victims... thus far

Click on title for details...

Alexander Wicksteed. Ten Years in Soviet Moscow. London: John Lane, The Bodley Head Ltd., 1933.
Last sighted at: Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI

Lord Edward Gleichen. A Guardsman's Memories. Edinburgh, London: W. Blackwood & Sons Ltd., 1932.
Last sighted at: Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH
Investigator's Note: The same title at Yale University had not been looped.

George E. Boxall. History of the Australian Bushrangers. London: T. Fisher,1908.
Last sighted at: Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ

There has been at least one other sighting in Arizona, but the title was not recorded.
At the 2005 AIC conference, several people indicated they had seen the Loop in their Libraries, including Harvard, University of Texas and Duke. Stay tune for more information and sightings.

The Investigation... Past, Present & Future

The books identified with these devices to date have been published in London by various firms between 1908 and 1933. Other than that no definitive connections have been found. Further research needs to track such factors as printers, binders and the provenance of each volume. In one case, two different copies of the same book in different libraries did not both have the loop. The copy without the loop also showed no signs of ever having had one.

Your help is needed to catch the wire loop. A postcard is available below to help gather information about recent sightings. In addition, there is a web survey form which asks for more detailed information.

Help with the Investigation

If you see the Loop in your library or any book, please let me know. Fill out the online survey or call (517-432-8828) or email (alstrom@msu.edu). Thank you for your help in solving "The Mystery of the Wire Loop."


These pages are maintained by
Eric Alstrom and last updated on Wednesday, February 10, 2010.
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