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[BKARTS] Scotland Yard catches up with book thief
Scotland Yard catches up with book thief
London, July 15. ? Eight important 17th and 18th century books stolen
from a German library have been recovered with the help of a British
bookseller and Scotland Yard?s Art and Antiques Squad.
Science, travel and natural history antiquarian volumes worth more
than £100,000 were smuggled out of the 270-year-old Lower Saxony
State and University Library of Gottingen, apparently during the
buliding?s recent renovation.
A German man who offered three of the volumes last month to Mr Tim
Biro of Collectable Books in London, specialising in pre-1800
printing, was arrested and charged. German police tracked him down
through his e-mail address after they were alerted by Scotland Yard.
The books have been recovered but some of them are badly damaged. The
alleged thief had attempted to obliterate the library stamps with
chemicals or a razor.
Before being contacted, Mr Biro was aware of the theft through an
email bulletin circulated to all members of the Antiquarian
Booksellers Association and the International League of Antiquarian
Booksellers, a network of about 2,000 dealers worldwide, as well as
the Art Loss Register and auction houses.
Mr Biro said yesterday that it was ?extremely gratifying to try to
increase the security of our trade?, was first contacted via an e-
mail from a man using an English name, Mr Michael J Wilkens. The
books relate to the area of Mr Biro?s specialisation and he realised
that they were likely to be those missing from Gottingen. He replied
to the e-mail, asking to see the books, and contacted Mr John
Critchley, secretary of Antiquarian Booksellers Association who, in
turn contacted the Art and Antiques Squad.
Mr Critchley said: ?Scotland Yard, who were extremely helpful,
forwarded Mr Wilkens?s messages to Gottingen, and sent out a message
on our security chain, as well as that of the international league?s,
to alert members to be on the lookout.?
The most important of the eight titles is a 17th-century natural
history book in Latin, Nurnbergische Hesperides, worth about 45,000£.
The others include accounts from the 1770s of Captain Cook?s voyages
and two volumes on exploration in South America.
They were initially offered to Asher and Co in the Netherlands, who
had also read the e-mail bulletin. Suspicions were confirmed by the
sight of the books? partly-erased library stamps.
The ?seller? said he worked in security and had received the books
from someone who owed him money. He disappeared on realising that the
police were about to be called, saying that he would contact the
library to return the books, which he never did.
Mr Steiner contacted the library: ?They confirmed that the books were
theirs.? He said thieves needed to understand, that the mailing-list
between booksellers was circulated immediately.
Mr Jonathan Potter, president of the Antiquarian Booksellers
Association, said Mr Biro had taken the right action: ?As soon as we
receive information from a library that something has gone missing,
we?re able to advise our members confidentially. The problem is that
often libraries don?t know until it?s too late that things have been
Mr Joachim Migl, the librarian at Gottingen, said during the
building?s renovation work, it was impossible to keep a check on
people entering and leaving.
? The Times, London
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