Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2006 Issue

Book 'em: Four Sentenced to 7+ Years in Library Theft

Transaudu

An Audubon sketch similar to those stolen (from Transylvania U. website).


By Michael Stillman

The case has not garnered the notoriety of the Forbes Smiley case, where the New England map seller allegedly sliced valuable old maps from Yale and other libraries' rare book collections. However, four young men from Kentucky will be spending the next six years behind bars for their recent rare book theft. The bizarre theft took place on December 17, 2004, when one of the men entered the Special Collections Library at Transylvania University in Lexington. At the time, they had already sent emails to Christie's in New York expressing their interest in an appraisal and sale of a group of rare books.

Reportedly, the four had planned an earlier attempt at the library dressed in strange disguises, reminiscent of some movie plot, but the attempt had fallen through. Not so with the second try. After one defendant made his way into the library and provided entrance to a comrade, they tied up librarian B.J. Gooch. Gooch was blindfolded and some sort of stunning device was used to subdue her. They proceeded to gather the books they wanted, but trouble with an elevator alerted a second librarian. The men fled, dropping several of the books along the way, before effecting their escape. They then drove to New York, showing up at Christie's two days later, attempting to sell their cache. Christie's became suspicious and the men returned with their books, but no money, to Kentucky.

Ultimately, the email address used to contact Christie's and the library to set up appointments enabled the police to locate and arrest the thieves a few weeks later. The four pleaded guilty in April, and were sentenced on December 7, 2005. All four, Warren Lipka, Erik Borsuk, Charles Allen, and Spencer Reinhard, were sentenced to 7 years and 3 months each, and will have to spend a minimum of just over 6 years before any possibility of release. At least one of the defendants is appealing a part of the sentence which resulted in 17 of the 87 months assessed. The four were reportedly high school friends and all were 20 years of age at the time of the crime.

The major items taken in the theft included some Audubon sketches, a first edition of Darwin's Origin of the Species, and two manuscripts. Both the prosecution and defense agreed these items were worth an estimated $735,000. However, two issues were disputed before the judge for sentencing purposes. One was whether a stun gun or stun pen used to subdue the librarian was a "dangerous weapon." The defense argued that while inflicting a shock, it was not dangerous. The judge did not buy that argument, but the 17 months tacked on for the dangerous weapon is the item one of the defendants is appealing. The second issue was whether books grabbed by the defendants, but dropped while still in the library as they fled, should be counted among the stolen goods. On this one, the judge sided with the defendants, that those items were not stolen.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b><center>Sotheby’s<br> The Library of Henry Rogers<br>Broughton, 2nd Baron Fairhaven<br>Part I<br>18 May 2022</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, May 18:</b> John James Audubon and James Bachman. <i>The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America.</i> New York: J.J. Audubon, 1845-1848. £150,000 to £250,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, May 18:</b> Thomas and William Daniell. <i>Oriental Scenery,</i> London, 1795-1807 [but 1841], 6 parts in 3 volumes, folio. £150,000 to £200,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, May 18:</b> Mark Catesby. <i>The natural history of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands...</i> London, 1731-1743, 2 volumes. £100,000 to £150,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, May 18:</b> Gould and Lear. <i>A monograph of the Ramphastidae,</i> 1854; <i>Illustrations of the family of Psittacidae,</i> 1832. £60,000 to £90,000.
  • <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Graphic Design<br>May 19, 2022</b>
    <b>Swann May 19:</b> Adolphe Mouron Cassandre, <i>Triplex,</i> pencil maquette, 1930. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann May 19:</b> Claude Fayette Brandon, <i>The Chap Book,</i> circa 1895. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann May 19:</b> Various Artists, a complete set of <i>Das Plakat,</i> set of 10 hardcover volumes, 1912-21. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann May 19:</b> Javier Gómez Acebo & Máximo Viejo Santamarta, <i>San Sebastian / XI Circuitto Automovilista,</i> 1935. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann May 19:</b> Ephraim Moses Lilien, <i>Berliner Tageblatt,</i> circa 1899. $12,000 to $18,000.
  • <center><b>Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on May 30</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b> Initial A on vellum, Cologne around 1300. Est: €25,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b> J. A. du Cerceau, <i>Les plus excellents bastiments de France,</i> 1607. Est: €12,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b> E. Cerillo, <i>Dipinti murali di Pompei,</i> 1886. Est: €2,500
    <center><b>Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on May 30</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b> L. de Austria, <i>Compilatio de astrorum scientia,</i> 1489. Est: €9,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b> B. Besler, <i>Hortus Eystettensis,</i> around 1750. Est: €50,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b> <i>PAN,</i> 1895-1900. Est: €15,000
    <center><b>Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on May 30</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b> F. Colonna, <i>Hypnerotomachia Poliphili,</i> 1545. Est: €40,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b> F. Schiller, <i>Die Räuber,</i> 1781. Est: €12,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b> J. Albers, <i>Formulation : Articulation,</i> 1972. Est: €18,000
    <center><b>Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on May 30</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b> G. B. Ramusio, <i>Delle navigationi e viaggi,</i> 1556-1613. Est: €14,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b> M. Wied Neuwied, <i>Reise in das Innere Nord-America,</i> 1839-41. Est: €12,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 30:</b> E. Paolozzi, <i>Bunk,</i> 1972. Est: €25,000

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