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Man Convicted of Stealing Rare Books Gets Nearly 6-Year Term

August 1, 1991

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ A man convicted of stealing rare books worth up to $20 million was sentenced Wednesday to nearly six years in prison.

U.S. District Judge Harold Vietor also ordered Stephen C. Blumberg, who had pleaded innocent by reason of insanity, to pay a $200,000 fine.

Blumberg, 43, of St. Paul, Minn., was convicted in January of stealing more than 21,000 rare books, musical instruments and stained glass windows.

″I was thinking of myself and that was wrong, and I realize that,″ Blumberg told the judge before he was sentenced.

The books were stolen from libraries across the country and Canada, and recovered in Iowa. They include a Bible from 1480 and priceless materials from 1450 to 1500, the period following the invention of the Gutenberg printing press.

Also stolen was a 1493 history book known as the Nuremberg Chronicles, considered the last world history that did not mention Christopher Columbus, and the first book ever published in Connecticut, a 1710 religious tract called ″Confession of Faith.″

Assistant U.S. District Attorney Linda Reade, who said Blumberg faced a maximum of 35 years in prison, asked for at least a 10-year sentence. But Vietor ordered a five-year, 11-month term.

Blumberg’s attorney, Ray Rosenberg, said he didn’t know if he would appeal.

The defense had argued that Blumberg ″collected″ the books he loved to preserve them because of delusions about an alleged conspiracy to keep people uninformed. Rosenberg noted that Blumberg did not sell any of the rare books.

Reade introduced evidence refuting Blumberg’s alleged love of the books, showing how he had defaced books, including cutting holes in some, to remove ownership marks.

Estimates of the stolen books’ combined value ranged from $5 million to $20 million. For the past two months, Blumberg has worked with authorities to identify the institutions from which the books were stolen, Des Moines FBI agent David Oxler said at the hearing.

Victimized institutions included the Harvard libraries in Cambridge, Mass.; the Honnald Library in Claremont, Calif.; the Connecticut State Library; the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque; Occidental College in Los Angeles; the University of Oregon at Eugene; Rice University in Houston and Washington State University.

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