Colombian police are investigating the theft of a valuable first edition copy of Gabriel García Márquez's masterpiece "One Hundred Years of Solitude."

The book disappeared over the weekend from a guarded display case at Bogotá's book fair, which this year is honoring the late Nobel Prize-winning author.

The first edition is just one of 8,000 copies published in 1967 by an Argentine editorial house Sudamericana, and a signed copy like the one stolen in Bogotá can command as much as $23,000 online.

But the book's owner, Alvaro Castillo, says the true value is sentimental. The rare book collector says he spent years hunting for the copy before finding a copy in Uruguay. He then managed to get García Márquez, who died last year in Mexico City, to sign a dedicatory note.

"It's a very panful loss," Castillo told The Associated Press on Monday after pulling the rest of his book collection from the fair.

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Police are so far at a loss to explain how the book was snatched from the locked case. They are looking for clues on the recordings of a single video camera at the entrance to the "Macondo" pavilion, named in honor of the fictitious Caribbean town where "One Hundred Years of Solitude" takes place.

The chief prosecutor's office called the robbery a "serious attack on the cultural heritage" of Colombia and warned that those responsible for the crime face between 6 and 20 years in prison. Those purchasing the stolen book could also face years behind bars.

Meanwhile, the book fair's organizers are apologizing and pleading with the thieves to return the book, which they said would be next to impossible to resell because of its distinctive characteristics.

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