Πέμπτη, Ιουλίου 25, 2013
A chance request in 2004 for a 19th-century German book about the Mississippi River was what alerted the National Library of Sweden that dozens of rare books from its collection had been stolen. Now that volume and another valuable antique book that contains early maps of America have been recovered and are being returned to library officials at a ceremony on Wednesday at the office of the United States Attorney in Manhattan. These books were part of sensational heist engineered by Anders Burius, a senior librarian dubbed the “Royal Library Man,” who committed suicide shortly after his arrest nine years ago. A crack in the case first came last year after a rare atlas from 1597 was recovered. Mr. Burius sold or consigned at least 13 of the books to Ketterer Kunst, a German auction house.
The two latest finds – a 19th-century illustrated text of the Mississippi River by Henry Lewis and a 17th-century French book on the Louisiana territory by Louis Hennepin – were purchased from Ketterer in 1998 by Stephan Loewentheil, a Baltimore book dealer who had no idea that they were stolen. Mr. Loewentheil had sold the books, but bought them back after learning about the theft in order to return them to the library, said Howard Spiegler, a New York lawyer whose firm represents the Swedish library. The pair are worth about $255,000, Mr. Spiegler said.
The Hennepin contains the first published description of Niagara Falls and the first published panorama of the Louisiana Territory. Thomas Jefferson once owned a copy, which helped interest him in purchasing the region from France in 1803. The Swedish library has been adding a collection of every item printed in the country – from a Bible to a bus schedule – since 1661.