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>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. <i>On the Origin of Species.</i> Presentation Copy. Sold for $500,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. Autograph Letter Signed, 3 pp, negotiating the 2nd American edition with Appleton. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Hemingway, Ernest. Autograph Letter Signed, 8 pp, Paris, 1924, to his father discussing Bullfighting, Stories, and his new baby. Sold for $25,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Corialanus.</i> London, 1623. 1st printing [Extracted from the First Folio]. Sold for $50,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Swift, Jonathan. <i>Gulliver's Travels.</i> London, 1726. 1st edition, Teerink's A edition, fine, large copy. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Fitzroy, Robert. Autograph Letter Signed to agent Thomas Stilwell, informing him of the progress of H.M.S. Beagle. Sold for $17,575.
    <center><b>Bonhams<br> Property from the Collection of Nicole and William R. Keck II</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Sonnets.</i> 1901. 2 volumes. Printed on vellum and illuminated by Ross Turner, bound by Trautz-Bauzonnet. Sold for $13,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Beardsley, Aubrey. <i>The Birth, Life, and Acts of King Arthur.</i> 1893-94. 2 volumes. Contemporary painted vellum gilt by Chivers. Sold for $5,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Assisi, St. Francis. <i>The Canticle of Brother Sun.</i> Illuminated on vellum, for the Grolier Society. Sold for $7,575.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Rackham, Arthur. <i>Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.</i> 1/500 copies signed by Rackham. Sold for $4,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Proust, Marcel. <i>Du coté de chez Swann.</i> 1st edition, 1st issue. Inscribed by Proust. Sold for $8,825.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Sergio Trujillo Magnenat, <i>Bogotá 1938 / IV Centenario / Juegos Deportivos Bolivarianos,</i> 1938. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> <i>McQueen Drives Porsche,</i> designer unknown, 1970. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b><br>Joe Bridge, <i>Bignan / A Des Ailes,</i> 1921. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Graham Simmons, <i>The Army Isn’t All Work,</i> 1919. $1,000 to $1,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Leonetto Cappiello, <i>Je ne fume que le nil,</i> 1912. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> <i>Attack of the 50 ft. Woman,</i> designer unknown, 1958. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Raymond Tooby, <i>Festival Guiness / Have You Tried One Yet?,</i> 1952. $600 to $900.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Francisco Tamagno, <i>Terrot & Co. / Dijon / Cycles Motorettes,</i> 1909. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b><br>A. Hori, Oakland / General Motors, circa 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> James Montgomery Flagg, <i>Travel? Adventure? Answer – Join the Marines!,</i> circa 1918. $4,000 to $6,000.
  • <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Roberts, David. Twenty Lithographs of the Holy Land, 19th Century. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Declaration by the Reps. of the United Colonies of N.A. 1775. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Composer Jerome Kern personal Letters, Albums and Other. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Paine, Thomas. <i>Common Sense,</i> London 1776. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Stowe, Harriet Beecher. <i>Uncle Tom’s Cabin,</i> Cleveland 1852. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Hobbes, Thomas. <i>Leviathan,</i> 3rd edition, London 1651. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Anno Regni Georgii III. Intolerable Acts and other Bills, 1774. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Wilberforce, William. An Abstract of the Evidence, 5 Letters, and two books. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Nightingale, Florence. Notes on Nursing and Signed Letters, ca. 1860 $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Tolstov, Leo. <i>War and Peace,</i> 5 volumes, 1886. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Dickinson, John. Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, 1768. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Twain, Mark. <i>Tom Sawyer,</i> 1877 [and] <i>Huckleberry Finn,</i> 1885. $4,000 to $6,000.

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