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>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.
  • <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Collection of 131 Herbert Ponting gelatin silver contact prints of Antartica, £6000-8000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> One of several lots of Henri Cartier-Bresson gelatin silver prints, £200-300
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Vintage gelatin silver print of Diego Rivera by Leonard McCombe, £300-500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print portrait by Julia Margaret Cameron of Sir John Herschel (April, 1867), £30,000-50,000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print by Julia Margaret Cameron, Love, 1864 (from the Norman album), £1000-1500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print by Lewis Carroll of Twyford School Eleven (Summer Term, 1859), £1000-1500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print portrait by Lewis Carroll of Xie Kitchin as 'Dane' (Oxford, 1873), £500-800
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Calotype print (c1845) by Hill & Adamson of Lady Elizabeth (Rigby) Eastlake, £3000-4000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Group of 12 waxed paper negatives of Scottish scenes by Thomas Keith, mid-1850s, £3000-5000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> One of 15 lots of Roger Fenton salt prints of his work in the Crimea, mid-1850s, £400-600
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Quarter plate ambrotype (c.1860s) with ethnographic portrait of a woman seated at a table, £400-600
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Rare whole plate thermoplastic union case of the Landing of Columbus (c.1858),part of the John Hannavy collection, £1500-2000
  • <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>

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions