Rare books and maps were stolen from Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and sold to collectors

By Gabrielle Chung
January 14, 2020 08:46 PM
Credit: Allegheny County Jail (2)

A former librarian and a bookshop owner have plead guilty to the theft and trafficking of books, maps and other rare objects estimated to be worth $8 million from a Pittsburgh library.

Gregory Priore, a 63-year-old former archivist at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, pleaded guilty to one count of theft by unlawful taking and one count of receiving stolen on Monday in exchange for dropping eight other charges on him, according to Allegheny County Court records.

John Schulman, the 56-year-old shopkeeper at Caliban Book, pleaded guilty to one count of receiving stolen property, one count of theft by deception and one count of forgery the same day in exchange of dropped charges, according to court documents.

The two men did not make an agreement with prosecutors as to sentencing, which will take place April 17.

An attorney for Priore could not be reached by PEOPLE.

Schulman’s attorney Ember Holmes told PEOPLE in a statement that her client, who has no prior criminal history, “has accepted responsibility for his association with books that, given the circumstances, he should have known had probably been stolen.”

“Mr. Schulman has dedicated much of his life to the rare book trade and regrets that these proceedings have reflected negatively on the antiquarian book industry, as well as his family and customers,” she said.

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Priore and Schulman were arrested July 2018 after an insurance audit done on the library’s R. Oliver Special Collections Room showed that over 300 rare items stored in facility were missing and another 16 were vandalized, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

The items were valued at around $8 million, according to a report from local news outlet WPXI.

In an affidavit filed by the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office, prosecutors alleged Priore and Schulman had been working in conjunction with one another to traffic rare items from 1992 to 2017. They accused Priore — who worked as Oliver Room’s manager before his termination in 2017 — of stealing rare books, maps, plates, and folios from the institutions’ archives and passing them off to Schulman to sell to collectors in his shop and online bookstore.

Authorities linked Schulman to Priore when 40 of missing books from the library were located at a Caliban Book Shop warehouse, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Investigators were also able to track down a 400-year-old Geneva Bible in the Netherlands, the New York Times reported, as well as a copy of Isaac Newton’s Principia at a rare bookstore in London.

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Suzanne Thinnes, the manager of communications at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, called the theft “devastating” in a statement provided to PEOPLE on Tuesday.

“The shock, the anger and the hurt we feel that individuals who were close to us, who were trusted by us, who were considered friends and colleagues to many of us at the Library, would abuse the faith we had in them for personal gain will be with us for a very long time,” she said.

“This was a very serious crime committed over a long period of time by educated and well-known members of the community. We are hopeful that the sentences given to these two individuals will adequately reflect the significant damage done not only to Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, but to the literary community near and far.”