Precious maps, books and artworks vanished from the Pittsburgh archive over the course of 25 years
By Travis McDade | Smithsonian Magazine
Far from a crime just against the library, the theft was a crime against the world’s cultural heritage. Everywhere they looked, the auditors found a staggering degree of destruction and looting.
A copy of Ptolemy’s groundbreaking La Geographia, printed in 1548, had survived intact for over 400 years, but now all of its maps were missing. Of an 18-volume set of Giovanni Piranesi’s extremely rare etchings, printed between 1748 and 1807, the assessors noted dryly, “The only part of this asset located during on-site inspection was its bindings. The contents have evidently been removed from the bindings and the appraiser is taking the extraordinary assumption that they have been removed from the premises.” The replacement value for the Piranesis alone was $600,000.
The thief lived close to the Caliban Book Shop in Pittsburgh, where he established a friendly business selling books to the owner, who marked the books “Withdrawn from Library.” The ethics code of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America states that members “shall make all reasonable efforts to ascertain that materials offered to him or her are the property of the seller,” and members “shall make every effort to prevent the theft or distribution of stolen antiquarian books and related materials.” Schulman was not only a member of the ABAA. He had served on its ethics and standards committee.
Read the entire detailed article here at the Smithsonian Magazine