Rare Book Monthly

Articles - March - 2016 Issue

Destructive Book Thief Convicted Again

11cc8279-152a-46da-99f2-b03f341d4e46

Andrew Shannon "accidentally" bumps into $10 million painting.

A 51-year-old Irish man has been convicted of possessing 67 stolen books, taken from an ancient estate in Kildare. Andrew Shannon is a man with a checkered past. He is the type of person the word "incorrigible" was invented to describe. He has reportedly been convicted dozens of times over the years on charges relating to stolen merchandise, generally antiques and various old and collectible items. In 2011, he was convicted of handling stolen maps dating back to 1651.

 

This conviction covered 67 books taken prior to 2007 from Carton House, an old estate once home to the FitzGerald family. The estate was purchased by a company in 1977, and at one point, the company owner's son was called in to pack up the books in the library. A restoration was planned. He photographed each one. When the books were unpacked in 2007, he discovered that 67 of them were gone. The police were contacted.

 

The books were later found in Mr. Shannon's home. They were identified from the photographs and the FitzGerald family crest on the spines and inside covers of many of them. The most notable was a 1660 edition of the King James Bible, one of only six copies known to exist. The estate's representative testified that they never sold or loaned any of the books from the FitzGerald library. Shannon denied stealing them, or knowing they were stolen.

 

Mr. Shannon claimed that he bought the books for a small amount at a fair. He said he did not believe they were of significant value, pointing out that he never sold them. Nor did he read them, Shannon not being a reader. He said he bought them because they looked nice, and he used them to decorate his home. The jury was unconvinced and convicted him.

 

Perhaps his history made Shannon's defense dubious to the jury. He had been convicted of stealing artifacts from six English castles and estates a few years earlier. He was caught while sneaking around the yard of one of them. At the time, Shannon explained he was merely trying to find a bathroom, but that did not adequately explain why he had some of the estate's property tucked under his coat. Neither did it explain why he had the six estates' locations entered into his GPS system, each one of which reported property missing.

 

Still, it is not these crimes for which Andrew Shannon is best known in his native land. One would think that someone involved in stealing would try to keep a low profile, draw as little attention to himself as possible. Evidently, he did not feel that way, and was convicted a couple of years ago for a crime that is hard to explain.

 

On June 29, 2012, Shannon walked into the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin. His every move was captured by an array of security cameras placed in every room. Shannon walked over to a Monet painting that was on display. He looked at it, left, and returned a short time later. Suddenly, he lunged forward, his fist striking the painting with sufficient force to set off alarms across the room. The point of contact was above his eye level. The Monet, valued at over $10 million, was left with a large tear near the center.

 

Shannon had an explanation that time too. He suffers from a heart condition, and claimed he had a fainting spell, that somehow made his arm reach up in the air and pound a gaping hole into the painting before he crumpled to the ground, complaining about his heart. Fortunately, the spell was short-lived as a paramedic who checked his vital signs found nothing wrong. Nor was Shannon down on the ground for long, recovering surprisingly quickly. An aspirin and he was as good as new.

 

Witnesses testified that Shannon struck the painting with a blow that looked deliberate, and the surveillance video could certainly be interpreted that way. His physician testified that Shannon later underwent quadruple bypass surgery, but also acknowledged that only 1% of patients with the condition suffer from dizzy spells, and those that do would be unlikely to get up again so quickly. It also was probably not helpful to his case that he was carrying a can of paint stripper into a museum filled with paintings. Shannon explained he had it because he restores furniture.

 

Amazingly, the first trial ended in a hung jury. The second jury perhaps had more common sense. Shannon was convicted of damaging the painting and sentenced to six years in prison. Now, he may well get a few more.

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>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.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions