Between 1995 and 2004, 62 older and very valuable books from the National Library of Sweden (KB) were stolen by the then head of the unit for manuscripts. Today ten of them are returned to KB, made possible by a generous donation. The returned items’ lineage spans three centuries and have previously belonged to both royalty and great book collectors before being incorporated into the library’s collections.
The extensive thefts at KB are well known to many. Media interest has been considerable and the crimes have even been portrayed in documentaries and fiction. For the library, this event was a tragedy and the theft of the 62 books – the bearers of hundreds of years of history – a great loss for our common cultural heritage.
After the thefts were discovered in 2004, the police conducted a preliminary investigation, but the case was dropped two years later. In 2011, KB was able to locate and bring home the first of the books, Cornelis von Wytfliet’s atlas from 1597. At the same time, KB published a comprehensive list of all the stolen books on their website, with the plea: Help us find the books!
That call was answered by Tomas Söderblom, a doctorate historian and successful entrepreneur, who took up the challenge. He contacted KB and took the initiative to donate ten of the stolen books, which today are returned to the library.
“A fantastic day for culture and society”
- This is a fantastic day, not only for KB but for culture and society in its entirety. We have all been given back a piece of our history. This is a major breakthrough in a long and arduous quest. We are incredibly grateful for the generous help we’ve received in the return of the ten books, states National Librarian Karin Grönvall.
Greger Bergvall, librarian at KB, has been searching for the stolen books over the last decade:
- Many times I’ve played with the thought that an additional one or two of the books could return home. That ten of the most prioritized books are now returned simultaneously is almost too much to process. Amongst them are first editions, hand-coloured luxury copies, accounts of the first sea voyage around the world and the first microscopes, the oldest amongst the stolen books, royal books and other significant provenances.
The Search Continues
The ten books will now be returned to their place in KB’s underground repository. Previously, an additional seven books have been recovered, which means that altogether 17 of 62 stolen books are returned to the library.
The updated list can be viewed here: https://www.kb.se/in-english/about-us/stolen-books.html
- Our efforts to find the remaining books continue. It is important that they again become a part of our common cultural heritage and accessible for research, declares National Librarian Karin Grönvall.
Greger Bergvall, librarian
+46.10-709 22 44
Lars Ilshammar, Deputy National Librarian and press contact
+46.70 007 33 69