Suspects but No Answers in Rare Book Theft at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Library
by April 3, 2018, first appearing in Library Journal
Investigators from the Allegheny County, PA, District Attorney’s Office continue to remain silent on the theft of 314 rare books, folios, maps, and other items from the rare materials room at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh(CLP), although one official there confirmed that “suspect(s) have been identified.”
The thefts, discovered during an insurance appraisal last spring, were first made public in March. CLP released a full list of the missing items. No arrests have been reported, although law enforcement officials have said very little so far about the case. There is no word as to whether any of the materials have been recovered.
Detectives asked the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (ABAA) to circulate the list of missing treasures among its members so they could alert authorities in Pittsburgh if any items are spotted in shops, Susan Benne, the organization’s executive director, said. The rare books in particular, she told LJ, would carry CLP markings on the spine or other labels, making them fairly easy to spot if a seller tried to interest a rare bookstore or dealer in buying these items.
On the list of stolen items are ten volumes published before the year 1500 and many more from the 17th century. There is a first edition of Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica by Isaac Newton, published in 1687, as well as a 1776 first edition of Adam Smith’s An Inquiry into the Nature Causes of the Wealth of Nations.
Other notable items include a volume of Homer from 1561, an 1898 memoir from suffragette Elizabeth Cady Stanton called Eighty Years or More (1815–1897), a 1908 letter signed by William Jennings Bryan, and a lesson book from 1864 Richmond, VA, called The Confederate Reader: Containing Selections in Prose and Poetry as Reading Exercises for Children in the Schools and Families of the Confederate States.
“This is a great loss to the Pittsburgh community,” Suzanne Thinnes, CLP’s manager for communications, said in a widely released statement that has been the library’s lone public comment on the matter. “Trust is a very important component of what we do on a daily basis and we take very seriously the security of all collections.”
Thinnes added, “As of now, suspect(s) have been identified and additional details will be shared by the District Attorney’s office at a later date.”
Asked about the police investigation, Mike Manko, the chief spokesman for the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office, said only, “I wouldn’t have any comment on that.”
There remained no word as to when law enforcement officials would go public with more information on the CLP theft. Thinnes’s statement said, “We look forward to sharing our story once legal proceedings are complete.”