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Many years ago I read a story about a time-traveler who was rescuing works of art which had not survived a nuclear war; it ended with his machine being destroyed and causing the nuclear war. Anyone have a clue what this story is, or the author?

[Added from OP's comment:]

I read the story sometime in the 1970s or '80s; for some reason I had associated it with Robert Silverberg, but I haven't found anything by him that sounds close. It was an English-language story, and as I recall, the time machine was a sphere hidden underwater, and when he tries to escape with the works of art, the sphere is interpreted as a weapon and destroyed, which touches off the war.

  • Hey, welcome! Do you remember anything about this story? What language did you read it in? What context did you read it in? What country were you in? How many years is "many years ago"? How did you come across this book? Was it in a collection, published online, or what? Every detail helps, no matter how small! – Mithrandir Dec 22 '18 at 16:33
  • What year do you think it was published/when did you read it? (i.e, 1960's/70's) – Mikasa Dec 22 '18 at 16:53
  • Did he work for some kind of company? We had a question like this about two weeks ago... I'll link if I find it :) – Jenayah Dec 22 '18 at 17:00
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    How sure are you about the fact that the time-machine caused the war? Because when I think about artworks, nuclear war and time travel, I am reminded of a short story by Clarke. – Martin Handrlica Dec 22 '18 at 17:32
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    I read the story sometime in the 1970s or '80s; for some reason I had associated it with Robert Silverberg, but I haven't found anything by him that sounds close. It was an English-language story, and as I recall, the time machine was a sphere hidden underwater, and when he tries to escape with the works of art, the sphere is interpreted as a weapon and destroyed, which touches off the war. – Charles Oliver Dec 22 '18 at 21:15
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I think the story you are looking for is “The Past Master” by Robert Bloch, first published in 1955. Here's a short summary:

[...] the mysterious time machine of a visitor to our near future from the thirtieth century is mistaken for a secret Soviet weapon and thereby triggers nuclear war. The time traveler had journeyed back, in fact, to save masterpieces of fine art from being destroyed in that very war (which he knew from history had been caused by some “trivial incident, unnamed”).
Source: “Time Machines: Time Travel in Physics, Metaphysics, and Science Fiction” by Paul J. Nahin, 1999

And a blurb:

In a United States on the verge of atomic war with the Communists, a handsome, naked man—call him John Smith—walks out of the ocean with a bag full of money and, according to eyewitnesses, a mind to buy the Mona Lisa and a long list of other masterpieces.
Source: “The Big List of Time Travel Adventures: 1955”, storypilot.com.

  • Upon re-reading the story in "The Best of..." this is pretty clearly it. – Organic Marble Dec 22 '18 at 23:16
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    That's it! "The Past Master" is exactly the one I was looking for! Thank you so much! – Charles Oliver Dec 22 '18 at 23:52
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The Arthur Clarke story "All the Time in the World" matches many of the clues in your question, but not all.

  • The protagonist is recruited by time-travelers, but is not himself a time-traveler.
  • The protagonist is stealing works of art to preserve them.
  • The world is not destroyed by the time machine, but by a "super-bomb test".
  • Read many years ago (published in 1952)

Also the answer to this fairly recent question: Identify a short story involving art thieves given a device which can significantly slow time

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