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Police Locate Rare Audubon Antiquities

Police Locate Rare Audubon Antiquities
By Anna Badkhen

A man suspected by police of stealing a volume of books worth $2.9
million from the Russian National Library three years ago was arrested
last month, St. Petersburg police reported this week. According to
Yevgeny Feoktistov, deputy head of the city police's Department 12 -
which looks for stolen culture valuables - the 37-year-old suspect in
custody allegedly stole, smuggled abroad, and sold for $2.9 million a
set of John Audubon's "Birds of America" - four precious books with
435 hand-painted etchings of over 1,000 birds. Feoktistov said that
after allegedly stealing the volumes, the suspect, whom he would not
name, left for the United States. Shortly after that, he allegedly
fetched the $2.9 million at a Christie's auction in Berlin. "These are
extremely precious books," Feoktistov said at a briefing Thursday.
"They are painted by hand." According to Feoktistov, there are only
three other copies of the four volume set: one in the United States,
one in Great Britain and one in Moscow. The copy stolen from St.
Petersburg was pressed from the original etching plates made in the
United Kingdom between 1827 and 1848. "The book market, including the
book market in the West, has always valued antiques, but now it
especially values [books about] birds, bugs, spiders, and
butterflies," explained Nikolai Ivanov, head of Department 12.
According to Feoktistov, the book was located in London by Scotland
Yard several months ago and will be returned to the St. Petersburg's
National Library within the next month. The suspect, meanwhile, was
arrested by the St. Petersburg police upon his arrival in Russia from
the United States in January. He is currently awaiting trial in St.
Petersburg's notorious Kresty Prison, Ivanov said. "He is a
book-lover, a real book-worm," Ivanov said about the suspect. "He has
a great library at home. He has bought and sold a lot of books."
Ivanov also said at the briefing that his department helped the St.
Petersburg Federal Security Service detain two train cars with 50
17th- and 18th- century icons Wednesday night. Although he said he
could not provide any details, Ivanov said that three men have been
arrested in connection with the case. Ivanov said that in 1997, his
department, which consists of 15 police officers, has located and
returned "hundreds of millions of dollars" worth of stolen valuables.

(St. Petersburg Times)


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