Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2011 Issue

St. Paul Woman Sentenced for Stealing 1,400 Books

Stpaullibrary

The main branch of the St. Paul Library from which the books were taken.

A love of books is a wonderful thing. It can lead one to knowledge, to an appreciation of all things. Books make us better people. Then there is Amanda Cortright. Her love of books led her down the wrong path. There is a right way to love books, and a wrong way. Ms. Cortright, after a good start, drifted over the line. Her passion turned to obsession, her obsession to crime. Now, her crime has turned to sentencing, and a career in books is laid to ruins.

 

Amanda Marie Cortright must have always felt a connection to books, for at the age of 18, 13 years ago, she went to work for the St. Paul (Minnesota) Library. That has been her career ever since, until last year, when she was placed under arrest.

 

Library officials became suspicious of Ms. Cortright a few years ago, and began monitoring her activities. What they discovered was through her access to library computers, she had created several fictitious customer accounts. These fictitious persons would check out books, after which, Ms. Cortright would delete the records of items borrowed. She evidently became adept at this process, as by the time officials were able to put together a case against her, she had removed around 1,400 books, DVDs, and magazines from the library.

 

These were not particularly valuable items she was taking, though even cheap things can add up when you take 1,400 of them. The library estimated the value at just under $38,000. Among the items taken were DVDs of television shows, copies of the magazines Good Housekeeping and Vanity Fair, and copies of Berenstain Bears books. I can understand the temptations of an Alice in Wonderland or Wizard of Oz, Winnie-the-Pooh or something by Dr. Seuss, but entering a life of crime for the Berenstain Bears? That is incomprehensible. She could have won this case with an insanity plea.

 

However, Ms. Cortright took full responsibility for her behavior. She pled guilty this past April, a year after the charges were filed. Fortunately, police were able to find all of the material known to have been taken from the library in her home. Ms. Cortright also was found to have sold almost 600 books to a used book store going back to 2004, but none of those books was traced to the St. Paul Library. Since the library books were returned, she was not charged for their value (nor any overdue book fines either), although she must reimburse the library $11,585 for documenting the missing items and restoring them to the shelves. The defendant's attorney asked for simple probation, but Ramsey County Judge Judith Tilsen felt that $38,000 worth of theft warranted time in prison. So, she compromised, sentencing Ms. Cortright to 30 days of home confinement under electronic monitoring, 10 years of probation, and 200 hours of community service. On successful completion of probation, the crime will be downgraded from a felony to a misdemeanor.

 

According to the St. Paul Star Tribune, Judge Tilsen did leave us with some words of wisdom:  "Books are incredibly valuable assets." The "incredibly" might be a bit of hyperbole in this day and age, and even the "valuable" part doesn't seem to apply to the books Ms. Cortright pilfered. Nonetheless, it is always good to hear someone defending the value of books, especially when that defense comes with the backing of law. Judgment has been rendered. Books are incredibly valuable assets. Case closed.

 

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>Aurora Australis.</i> Printed at the sign of 'The Penguins'; East Antarctica, 1908. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>South Polar Times.</i> 1st edition, limited issue. from the library of Michael Barne. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> General Washington's <i>Proceedings of a General Court Martial... of Major General Lee.</i> Philiadelphia, 1778. 100 copies printed for Congress. BOUND WITH: ...Court Martial... of St Clair and ...Schuyler. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>The Voice of the People.</i> Boston, 1754. Rare pamphlet on the Excise Tax. Nathaniel Sparhawk's copy. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Autograph Letter Signed ("S.L. Clemens"), offering extensive hard-earned advice on writing, 5 pp, 1881. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> After Fra Egnazio Danti. <i>L'Ultime Parti not:e nel Indie Occid:ntli" [The last known parts of the Western Indies].</i> Painted Map of California, Western Mexico, and Japan. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Ptolemaeus, Claudius. <i>Geographie opus nouissima...</i> 1513. The most important edition of Ptolemy, containing the Admiral's Map. $250,000 to $350,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> De Arellano, Don Alonso. Manuscript, his <i>"Relación mui singular y circunstanciada... Capitán del Patax San Lucas,"</i> manuscript copy from the Sir Thomas Phillips collection. $50,000 to $80,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Purchas, Samuel. <i>Purchas his Pilgrimes.</i> First edition. With John Simth's engraved map of Virginia. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Lewis, Meriwether. Contemporary manuscript true copy of his final power of attorney, 1809. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>A New Method of Macarony Making, as Practiced at Boston in North America.</i> Mezzotint. London, 1774. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>Scientific Base Ball Pitching: A Treatise on the Pitcher, Pitching, Origin and Philosophy of the Curve.</i> Chicago, 1897. $2,000 to $3,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Franklin H. Brown, <i>State Sovereignty, National Union,</i> Chicago, 1860. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Thomas Paine, <i>The American Crisis,</i> Fishkill, NY, December 1776. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b><br>The Aitken Bible, Philadelphia, 1781. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francisco Loubayssin de Lamarca, probable first edition of the first novel set in the Spanish New World, Paris, 1617. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Juan de la Anunciación, <i>Sermonario en lengua mexicana,</i> first edition, first book of sermons in Nahuatl, Mexico, 1577. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Maturino Gilberti, <i>Thesoro spiritual en lengua de Mechuacá,</i> first edition, Mexico, 1558. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Commission of William O. Stoddard as secretary to the president, signed by Lincoln, Washington, 1861. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> <i>Clay and Frelinghuysen,</i> flag banner, circa 1844. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Daguerreotype of a man believed to be Frederick Granger Williams Smith, son of Joseph Smith, circa late 1850s. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> John C. Wolfe, <i>Portrait of Abraham Lincoln,</i> oil on board in period wooden frame, circa 1860s. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francis W. Winton, manuscript on pow-wows with indigenous Canadians, 1881. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Family letters from two young daguerreotype artists, 1826-79. $10,000 to $15,000.

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