Herrick’s Art Law Group Helps Royal Library of Sweden Recover Two Rare 17th Century Books Stolen Over Ten Years Ago

June 17, 2015 – Press Release

Part of Hoard of Over 50 Stolen Books in Ongoing Worldwide Recovery Investigation

New York - June 17 2015 - Herrick, Feinstein LLP's Art Law Group announced today that with its assistance, and working with the United States Government, its client, The Royal Library of Sweden, has recovered two rare books stolen along with dozens of other volumes over ten years ago. One book, dating from 1638, is a manual for constructing scenes and machines for the theater published by Nicolo Sabbattini (Practica di Fabricar Scene, e machine ne'teatri) in Ravenna, and is considered the first book completely devoted to stage design. The other recovered volume (Oculus) by Christoph Scheiner and published in Innsbruck in 1619, is a scientific study explaining how lenses could correct problems with sight. The recovered books were presented to the Royal Library by the United States Government at a ceremony and press conference held at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan on June 17, 2015.     

"Thanks to the swift and professional collaboration between American authorities and our legal liaison Howard N. Spiegler of Herrick, Feinstein, we are once again able to recover some of our lost treasures," said Gunilla Herdenberg, National Librarian at the Royal Library.

These recoveries are the latest that have resulted from a continuing global investigation of the over 50 books known to have been stolen from the Royal Library involving the collaboration of Herrick, the United States Government and attorneys throughout the world. Jerker Rydén, Senior Legal Advisor to the Royal Library, explained: "The Library has assembled a team of lawyers in the U.S. and Europe with extensive experience recovering historically significant cultural objects."

The theft of the rare books and its aftermath stunned the nation of Sweden at the time it was disclosed over ten years ago. The thief turned out to be the chief of the Royal Library's Manuscript Department, Anders Burius. After he learned that the Library was going to conduct a special inventory of its collection when suspicions of inside thefts had arisen, he confessed to having stolen over 50 rare books from the Library over the almost ten years of his employment there. He was arrested, but upon his temporary release from custody, he committed suicide and severed the gas line to his kitchen stove, which then ignited and caused a major explosion in the center of Stockholm.

The investigation of the theft, as explained by the federal government in court papers, revealed that Burius consigned or sold the stolen books to Ketterer Kunst, an auction house in Germany, using an alias. Burius informed Swedish law enforcement authorities that his contact at Ketterer, Christoph Calaminus, did not check his identity or the books' provenance and that all transactions were conducted in cash. Swedish authorities further ascertained that thirteen of the stolen books were sold by Ketterer Kunst to purchasers in the United States. 

Federal papers further revealed that in or about 2001, a purchaser acquired Practica (on theater design) for about £27,000, without knowledge of the theft, at a Ketterer auction. Upon being advised that the book in his possession had been stolen from The Royal Library, the purchaser agreed to return it to the Library. 

Federal papers also revealed that Cornell University, without knowledge of the theft, purchased the Oculus from a New York bookseller in 2001, who had acquired it at a Ketterer auction in 1999. After being informed of the theft, Cornell agreed to return it.

Howard N. Spiegler, co-chair of Herrick's Art Law Group, stressed that a large number of the books stolen from the Royal Library has still not been found and returned to the Library. "We welcome any information concerning the whereabouts of these stolen books so that they can be promptly returned to the Library," said Spiegler. A list of the stolen books can be found at http://www.kb.se/english/about/news/Updated-list-of-stolen-books/ 

About the Art Law Group of Herrick, Feinstein LLP
Led by Lawrence M. Kaye and Howard N. Spiegler, Herrick, Feinstein LLP has one of the world's leading art law practices. Herrick's Art Law Group handles many types of art litigation and alternative forms of dispute resolution and actively represents and counsels clients in a wide range of corporate and commercial art law matters. Its clients include foreign governments, museums, galleries, auction houses, dealers, artists, and private and corporate collectors and owners.

Herrick's Art Law Group are leaders in the field of art recovery. Over the last forty years, Herrick's attorneys have successfully assisted foreign governments, families victimized by the Holocaust and others recover stolen artworks and other cultural property. herrick.com/artlaw

For additional information, images, or to arrange interviews, members of the media may contact:

Andy Ptaschinski or Newlin Tillotson
Blue Medium, Inc.
[email protected]/ [email protected]

Howard N. Spiegler
Herrick, Feinstein LLP
[email protected]