Saturday, May 26, 2007

Atlas Recovered: The Details

As promised, more details about the recovery of the 1823 Tanner Atlas. The AP reports that the atlas, snatched in late April from the Rockland County Historical Society, was recovered when a former employee of the Historical Society attempted to sell the book to a rare book dealer in Philadelphia. The employee's name has not yet been released, but he "is expected to surrender to Clarkstown Police next week. Police are withholding the person's identify until the suspect is in custody." No charges have been filed yet.

New York book dealer Donald Heald, who has a copy of the Tanner atlas available for sale at $85,000 (the Rockland copy has been appraised at $65,000) describes the book as "quite rare - there have only been six sold at auction in the last 30 years." He adds "I'm glad the person was arrested so quickly. I hope it sends a signal that these special books are difficult to sell. We're a small community, we all belong to the same antiquarian book organizations and we usually know when something has been stolen."

Today's Lower Hudson Journal News has some more details in a report by Christopher Lieberman. The Philadelphia shop involved was the Philadelphia Print Shop, where co-owner Christopher Lane received an email from the suspect asking if the shop would be interested in purchasing the book. Lane says "It's a very rare atlas. I realized immediately there was a possibility it had been stolen." Two hours later he saw an email bulletin about the theft and contacted the Historical Society and police.

After weeks of email correspondence, the suspect agreed to bring the book in for Lane to examine, and did so on Thursday. From the Journal News report: "'This person walked into the shop,' Lane said yesterday. 'I told him we need to go to the back room and he should go down and take a left. I went the other way,' Lane said, laughing. 'Inside the room were five police detectives.'"

A successful recovery - now the question is whether the suspect will actually face any kind of punishment for his crime. That very much remains to be seen.