Newton's Principia Mathematica, George Washington's journal: archivist stole $8m worth of rare books from Pittsburgh's Carnegie Library

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He stole $8M in books, but only got paid out $120K?
What a patsy


In stories like these I wish they’d publish the names of the buyers as prominently as they publish the name of the archivist. Nobody buying a $1m Principia Mathematica would forego authenticating the book, which would necessarily turn up who its owner was supposed to be.

Maybe if there were a teensy bit of shame associated with buying stolen works like this, the ultra-rich might think twice? Of course, I’m assuming the ability to feel shame, which is probably an error on my part.


He received only 1.5% of the value of the works! And presumably his name was all over the access records for the stuff that went missing so he was assuming a huge portion of the risk. What a patsy indeed. That said, I’m betting Schulman wasn’t charging full price either since his fake “authentication” papers likely wouldn’t stand up to expert scrutiny. I mean ultimately the problem with stealing something like an especially famous copy of Principia Mathematica is that real historians would already know who owns it. They wouldn’t even have to look at the fake papers to know it was stolen.

I hope Schulman kept good records and the stolen works can be recovered.


That’s what I was going to say… or did they inflate the prices of the books? I mean even selling at whole sale, you should get $3 million.

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Insurance value vs open market.


This WaPo article only covers the flashy bits. The real damage is all the image plates that were sliced out of books.


To a common thief, the most valuable works were the ones with all the plates

For instance:

Diminished Value Ferdinand V. Hayden “The Yellowstone National Park, and the Mountain Regions of Portions of Idaho, Nevada, Colorado and Utah” $165,000

That was probably chock full of plates-- which were cut out and resold.

Total Loss Maximilian zu Wied-Neuwied, Prince; Karl Bodmer "“Reise in das Innere Nord-America…” 1.2 million

Possible valued for its plates above all else

Diminished Value Edward S. Curtis (American, 1868-1952) “The North American Indian…” $540,000

That’s half a million worth of plates-- plates that were cut out, leaving the text behind.


Principia was recovered.

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This has happened before. Years ago there was a long piece in The Atlantic about a thief, and yes, it seemed like he was mostly taking bits from books to sell. So the book is damaged even before the missing pieces.

It was a good article, and turned into a small book “The Island of Lost Maps”. I read it out of the library.

Then there was the time I bought "The Book Thief* at a library ysed book sale. I proclaimed “I didn’t steal it”.

In contrast, I saw a story the other day about a girl with I think terminal cancer, and some group arranged a wish for her, a trip to New York City specifically to visit The Strand Bookstore. Needless to say it included some gift cards so she could buy some books. The photo sure made her look happy.

Stealing from libraries, especially to make money is not good. Stealing books because it’s the Holocaust and you’re starving, for food and books, can’t quite be good, but can’t be nearly as bad.



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I once picked up a copy of Abbie Hoffman’s “Steal This Book” from somebody’s trash. Maybe that doesn’t count. But then again, it was a paperback book already missing its cover, so it’s possible that the book was originally stripped.

I haven’t thought about The Island of Lost Maps in a while but I remember it being pretty good. Thanks for the reminder, it’s got to be sitting in my library of read books. (Or is it? Dun dun dun.)

Oh, this reminds me, I did get a tour of the rare book section of a college library. Got to see a first printing of Copernicus’ book where he lays out the motion of the planets. And one of Galileo’s early works. Also a HUGE book with the Audubon’s lithographs of birds.


Reminds me of the plot of American Animals:

Cool flick.

I hate when fencers chop up great paintings and sell the pieces separately, too.


The thing is way over-rated. Couldn’t understand it then, can’t understand it now. Leibniz was the one that made the calculus explicable and guess whose terminology is still used to this day.

What kind of shitty reporting is THAT, WaPo?

That might be the one. Thanks, @jerwin.

I was thinking of Humboldt, naturally. But Maximilian zu Wied-Neuwied’s, David Dreidoppel’s and Karl Bodmer’s work was, in fact, also groundbreaking. Do I get that correctly, the Reise in das innere Nord-America in den Jahren 1832 bis 1834 was taken apart to get Karl Bodmer’s images and sell them?

That’s a fucking disgrace.

Fuck fuck fuck fuck. Fuck. I don’t know how many editions still exist, but there aren’t many. And each colourized one is unique, as they were hand-coloured. The German colourized version only ever existed in 117 prints (in different qualities of paper and binding!), many of which will be lost.

Genevieve Cogman might make a story out of this thefts, but that’s not a solace.


I know someone from Pittsburgh University. That bookshop is right by the library (7 min walk according to bing)

Picture someone stealing a Fabergé egg and selling it for the gold in the first pawn shop within walking distance. When billionaires send people to steal books, they aren’t sending their best people.

It’s not just the high-end prints; we have to replace a lot of art books because someone liked the Klimt and the Picasso and the Durer and helped themselves to it with a razor blade. And we don’t talk about the jerks who fill in all the crossword puzzles in the NYT Magazine because they don’t want to shell out 15 cents for a copy.

Some people only think of what’s in it for them.