Thursday, January 01, 2009

Looking Back

As 2009 makes its arrival (in a bone-chilling way here in Boston: it's currently 6 degrees, with a wind chill making it feel like -13), The Guardian looks back at 2008 in books, an interesting compilation of last year's biblio-news.

Concerning other matters of interest (presumably) to you all, dear readers, here are some of the highlights and lowlights (mostly the latter, unfortunately) from 2008 in book crime. The hyperlinks on each person's name will take you to previous posts related to their crimes. Following the chronology is a list of thefts from this year which remain unsolved.

- The Transy Four failed in their bid to obtain reduced prison sentences when a three-judge panel on the Court of Appeals ruled that they should have received more prison time rather than less. (February) Unfortunately their trial judge ignored the appeals court and let her original sentences stand. (October)

- Eight books stolen from a Slovakian library in December 2007 were recovered in a Bupadest bookshop. (February)

- Jay Miller was sentenced to an eighteen-month prison term for the theft of rare books and antiques from the estate of retired Harvard professor William Ernest Hocking. (March) He was released from prison after only seven months. (November)

- Oliver Fallon, who stole materials from the Scottish Catholic Archive in Edinburgh, was sentenced to 300 hours of community service and ordered to pay a fine of £16,000. (May)

- Peter Joseph Bellwood was sentenced to one year in prison, to be followed by five years' expulsion from Denmark, and ordered to pay a 324,000 kroner ($67,000) fine for the theft of maps from the collections of the Danish Royal Library. (May) Bellwood is currently serving a 4.5-year prison term in Britain for thefts from the National Library of Wales.

- William Simon Jacques, suspected of stealing books from the Royal Horticultural Society in London, skipped bail and is believed to remain at large. (May)

- Raymond Scott, an eccentric British book dealer, was arrested after the recovery of Durham University's First Folio, which Scott took to the Folger Library for authentication. (July) Scott filed suit against the university claiming it's not their Folio (October), but was was later re-arrested in the First Folio case, and then again for stealing books from a Waterstone's shop (November)

- In the case of César Gómez Rivero, Spanish paper El Pais reported that two South American associates of Rivero had been identified, and that investigations continue. (August)

- Richard Delaney, who stole £89,000 worth of rare books and maps from Birmingham University, was sentenced to a one-year prison term (which the judge ordered suspended for eighteen months). (August)

- Eugene Zollman was indicted on charges that he stole Jefferson Davis materials from Transylvania University in 1994. The case was assigned to judge Jennifer Coffman, the same judge who ruled in the Transy Four case. Zollman's case is pending. (August)

- James Brubaker was sentenced to 30 months and prison and ordered to pay $200,000 in restitution to more than 100 libraries from which he stole more than 1000 items. (September)

- Edward Renehan, former head of the Theodore Roosevelt Association, was sentenced to an eighteen-month prison term, plus two years of supervised release and the forfeiture of $86,700 (which he'd received for the sale of letters he stole from the TRA's collections). (September)

- Several books stolen from a Vienna bookshop in October 2007 were recovered in Toronto, but the suspects in the case were not expected to face charges. Other books from the heist had been recovered earlier in Europe. (October)

- Joshua McCarty and two associates (Zachary Scranton and Angela Bays) were arrested in relation to the theft of two rare Ohio law books from the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center (September). McCarty and Scranton were later indicted (October). The case is still pending, so far as I can tell.

- Daniel Lorello, a former employee at the New York State Archives who stole items from the State Library, was sentenced to 2-6 years in prison (which I still think is an awfully wide range), ordered to pay $129,500 in restitution, to be divided among people who unknowingly bought stolen property, and agreed to forfeit his personal collection of historic artifacts and documents, valued at approximately $80,000, to the New York State Library and Archives. (October)

- Denning McTague, who stole Civil War documents from the National Archives in Philadelphia while working there as an intern, was released from prison after serving twelve months of a fifteen-month term. (October)

- Book collector Farhad Hakimzadeh was arrested on charges that he defaced more than 150 books at several British libraries in order to "improve his personal collection" with the illustrations and maps. (November) He'll be sentenced this month.

- Laessio Rodrigues de Oliveira was sentenced to five years in prison for the theft of several rare books from the Institute for Research Botanical Garden in Rio de Janeiro. (December)

- Lester Weber, former curator of the Mariners' Museum, was sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty to theft, mail fraud and filing false tax returns. Weber stole more than 3,500 documents from the museum and sold them on eBay (most have not been recovered). Weber's wife, Lori Childs, was sentenced to a fifteen-month prison term for filing a false tax return. (December)

The following thefts from 2008 remain unsolved (as far as I know):

- A large collection of maps and atlases, stolen from a London collector's office in December.

- A number of rare books stolen from a display case at Boston's Old South Church in September.

- A Mark Twain letter, reported missing after the Denver Book Fair in August.

- Four manuscript diaries from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, stolen at Boston's South Station in March.

Updates or additions always appreciated.

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