Library worker allegedly took rare books

Nov. 24, 2006 at 6:57 PM
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ERLANGEN, Germany, Nov. 24 (UPI) -- The trusted night porter at the library at the University of Erlangen in Germany has been charged with stealing rare botanical works.

"The thief didn't have to break down a door or force a lock," Hans Otto Keunecke, the library director, told The Times of London. "He had unrestricted access to our most priceless possessions. He worked for us for 40 years and had all the necessary keys."

The porter and a bookseller are scheduled to go on trial next month. Under German law, they cannot be identified until they are convicted.

The university began investigating when librarians were unable to find their copy of the "Herbal Book" by Leohart Fuchs, published 1543. The thefts allegedly were carried out over two decades and one possible defense is that for some acts the statute of limitations has expired, The Times said.

The newspaper said inside thefts of rare books have become an increasing problem for European libraries. The past victims include the Manchester Central Library, where a librarian made off with 40 volumes, including a 16th century Chaucer, and Jagellonian University in Krakow, Poland, where rare scientific works by Ptolemy, Copernicus and Kepler vanished.

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