When People Steal Books

Bibliokleptomania is the uncontrollable impulse to steal books — and according to a recent article published by The Guardian, book thieves come from all walks of life. Some of the most stolen titles as shared by booksellers are: Anton LeVey’s The Satanic Bible; JRR Tolkien, Terry Pratchett, Robert Jordan, and George RR Martin novels; Cormac McCarthy’s The Road; Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting; Asterix, Tintin, Beatrix Potter and Dr Seuss; “glossy art books, pricey textbooks and Lonely Planet guidebooks;” and more.

Some recent cases of bibliokleptomania that made headlines include that of Farhad Hakimzadeh, an Iranian businessman who tore pages out of rare books at the British and Bodleian libraries and put them in his own books to increase their value. One of the pages contained a map worth over $42,000.

Another thief, Stanislas Gosse, used secret ancient passageways to break in and flee the Mont Sainte-Odile, a French monastery, with stacks of centuries-old volumes — some old enough to have wooden covers. “Inside the library, Gosse spent hours by candlelight picking out volumes, some of which he stored in the attic. . . . Gosse told the court: ‘I’m afraid my burning passion overrode my conscience. It may appear selfish, but I felt the books had been abandoned. They were covered with dust and pigeon droppings and I felt no one consulted them any more. There was also the thrill of adventure – I was very scared of being found out.’”

Mounties in Canada seized over 1,300 items from the home of John Mark Tillman. He stole “hundreds of antiques, rare books, pieces of art carefully displayed, part of a trove that included a suit of armour, a large oil painting of a seascape, old marriage certificates and papers associated with the historic schooner, the Bluenose.” Tillman displayed the artifacts stolen from museums and libraries in his suburban home like the curator of his own museum. “‘It was incredible . . . to lay it all out would have taken an airplane hangar,” Dalhousie University archivist Michael Moosberger said. “It’s an unbelievable collection of materials. It would take a small museum that would house everything they have uncovered.”