Thursday, January 22, 2015
Posted by Sky Cosby at 6:04 PM
Monday, January 19, 2015
Friday, January 16, 2015
1991 -- US: BiblioKleptoManiac Stephen Blumberg goes on trial
for stealing $20 million worth of rare books & manuscripts, Iowa.
Stephen Carrie Blumberg (born St. Paul, Minnesota) is best known as a bibliomane who lived in Ottumwa, Iowa. After being arrested for stealing more than 23,600 books worth USD $5.3 million in 1990, he became known as the Book Bandit and was recognized as the most successful book thief in the history of the United States.
Blumberg lived on a $72,000 annual family trust fund. His compulsion to collect books developed in childhood when he became interested in many of the beautiful, but run-down Victorian homes in St. Paul he walked past on his way to school. Blumberg began removing doorknobs and stained glass windows from the old houses that were slated for destruction as part of a revitalization project in St. Paul. Blumberg amassed hundreds of these items during the course of his collecting years in addition to the books. His initial interest in Victorian architecture brought him into the rare-books stacks at the University of Minnesota. Blumberg initially took items as a way to create a reference collection for his own use.
Arrest and trial
At 2:00 a.m. on March 20, 1990 Stephen Blumberg was arrested for stealing more than 23,600 rare, valuable and assorted other books from 268 or more universities and museums in 45 states, 2 Canadian provinces along with Washington, D.C. Their value was placed at about $20 million, but was later changed to $5.3 million, the largest book theft in US history. In 1991, Blumberg was found guilty and sentenced to 71 months in prison with a $200,000 fine. On December 29, 1995, he was released from prison. The collection has been referred to as the "Blumberg Collection." The Rare Books and Manuscripts division of the Association of College and Research Libraries as well as Library Security expert William Andrew Moffett helped the Federal Bureau of Investigation to capture and convict Stephen Blumberg and identify the rare items he had stolen.
Blumberg's arrest came as a result of his "friend" Kenneth J. Rhodes turning him in for a $56,000 bounty he negotiated with the Justice Department. Rhodes and Blumberg had known each other since the mid-1970s. A known criminal, Rhodes accompanied Blumberg on several of his "road trip" collecting sprees.
During Blumberg's 1991 trial, Dr. William S. Logan, director of the Law and Psychiatry Department at the Menninger Clinic and a nationally recognized authority on forensic psychiatry, revealed that Stephen had undergone psychiatric treatment for schizophrenic delusions and tendencies. He was hospitalized numerous times during his adolescence where twelve psychiatrists diagnosed him variously as schizophrenic, delusional, paranoid, or compulsive. Dr. Logan also revealed that a history of psychiatric illness was in Blumberg’s family.
Dr. Logan reported during the trial that Blumberg’s thought was to preserve or rescue the materials he stole from what he believed was destruction. Blumberg believed that the government was plotting to keep the ordinary person from having access to rare books and unique materials, and so sought to liberate and release them in an attempt to thwart the government plot. Blumberg admitted that he saw himself as a custodian of the things he took. He said he would never sell them because he thought that would be dishonest. He envisioned the items would be returned to the rightful owners after his death, or at least to another repository that could care for them. Despite these findings, Blumberg was convicted in 1991 as guilty, without reason of insanity. After serving a 4½-year sentence, Blumberg was released and continued his collecting and stealing habits.
Upon meeting Blumberg in the FBI's stacks after his arrest, John L. Sharpe III from Duke University's library commented about his brief conversation with Blumberg that,
"What I felt...was that we in libraries have to operate on a trust system every time we bring a book to someone's table. This is what I think is so sinister about the whole thing. This man chose to debase that, to debase that commodity that is so essential in gathering information in an open institution. And I think he betrayed everything that we try to represent in making information available as freely and as uninhibitedly as possible. And I think that’s what really just enraged me, to think that this man took advantage of that kind of access."(511)
In 1997, Blumberg was convicted again of burglary of antiques. He was again arrested in July 2003 for burglary of a house in Keokuk, Iowa. He was subsequently convicted in early 2004. He was again arrested in June 2004 for burglary in Knoxville, Illinois. This violated his probation for the 2004 conviction in Keokuk, Iowa for which he was again arrested.
Some of the more precious objects Blumberg stole include a first edition copy of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin; A Confession of Faith, the first published book in Connecticut in 1710; 25 boxes of rare materials outlining the early history of Oregon including the Webfoot Diary; and the Bishops' Bible, a 16th-century volume. Blumberg claimed he put together 100 incunabula in three years, including the 1493 Nuremberg Chronicle bound in ivory calfskin. He also collected the Zamorano 80, a list of rare books established in 1945 by a group of prominent book collectors in a Los Angeles book club named after Don Augustin Zamorano, California's first printer.
Posted by Sky Cosby at 10:08 AM
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Friday, December 12, 2014
Thursday, December 4, 2014
Shakespeare’s First Folio – containing 36 of his 38 known plays and printed in 1623 – is one of the most valuable books in English literature. It’s also one of the most closely inventoried. Of the 800 copies thought to have been originally printed in the 17th century, 233 are believed to still exist today. And now we can add the 234th to the list.
This particular First Folio has lain dormant in the library of Saint-Omer, an obscure French town near Calais, for over two hundred years.
Medieval literature expert and librarian Rémy Cordonnier stumbled across the book while searching for items to use in a planned exhibition of Anglo-Saxon authors.
“It had been wrongly identified in our catalogue as a book of Shakespeare plays most likely dating from the 18th century,” Cordonnier said in an interview with The Guardian. “I didn’t instantly recognise it as a book of value. It had been heavily used and was damaged. It had seen better days… [But] it occurred to me that it could be an unidentified First Folio, with historic importance and great intellectual value.”
Cordonnier then reached out to American professor Eric Rasmussen for verification. Rasmussen, affiliated with the University of Nevada, was in Britain at the time to study at the British Library. Rasumussen quickly hopped on a train to France. After arriving at Saint-Omer, Rasumussen authenticated in the First Folio in a matter of minutes.
“This is huge,” Rasmussen said in an interview with The New York Times. “First folios don’t turn up very often, and when they do, it’s usually a really chewed up, uninteresting copy. But this one is magnificent.”
Needless to say, the book will become the centerpiece of the Anglo-Saxon exhibition at the library next summer.
In the meantime, don’t sit around waiting for the next First Folio to be unearthed. Their average rate of discovery? Once every ten years.
Posted by Sky Cosby at 8:45 AM