|Photo from: New York Times|
There are a few things about this article that I felt the need to share. First off, most librarians I know of are passionate about literature and preserving the written word. So for a librarian to be the person responsible for stealing rare and historical publications just seems to be so wrong on so many more levels than simply that of stealing. Even if the person(s) he was selling these publications to was avid about preserving literature: having them in a library - accessible to the general public - rather than in a personal collection is a much better way of preserving literature. So shame on the librarian and shame on the buyer for taking something so rare and precious away from the general public.
Then for him to kill himself is just crazy. Not only did he kill himself, but he could have killed other people given that his chosen method involved cutting a gas line that blew up part of his apartment building. I can't imagine ever wanting to kill myself and theft seems to be such a minor offense - at least not worth the taking of a life. But I'm guessing he was pushed into stealing these books, I don't think he just woke up one day and decided I'm going to steal from the library. So maybe he was is much worse trouble with people much worse than the Swedish government.... Who knows - that's a part of the story he unfortunately took with him.
The silver lining to all of this is that now that this book has surfaced maybe more of these precious publications can be returned to their rightful place. The man who purchased the atlas from Sotheby's was refunded his money and Sotheby's returned the atlas to the Royal Library. Yeah to Sotheby's for doing the right thing. But it seems as if a ball was dropped somewhere once the librarian took his life. A list of the stolen books was never published (during the beginning of the investigation - one is out now.) How could anyone know they were selling/purchasing a stolen book if the book was never reported stolen?!?!?!?
This story is kind of sad. It makes me wonder what was going on in that man's life. And how did this go unnoticed for so long? Libraries and the wonderful pieces of history they contain are (in my opinion) one of the greatest assets we have. Stealing books from a library is like removing a piece of history. I wish he would have been caught sooner and I hope that now a published list of stolen items is available these books will be returned. I understand wanting a special book to add to your collection (not that any of mine are worth as much as this atlas, or anywhere near as rare) but to keep something like this for yourself and not let it be shared for all to access and learn from is kind of disheartening.
What do you think about this? Is it a big deal or am I getting worked up over something insignificant?