Swedish librarians find stolen atlas in New York

One of the books stolen from the Swedish National Library in the beginning of the 2000s has been discovered with a collector in New York. This is the first of the books stolen in the by now infamous book thefts to have been tracked down.

Swedish librarians find stolen atlas in New York
Map over Peru from the atlas by Cornelis van Wytfliet printed in 1597.

“The discovery was a combination between coincidence and skill, actually,” said head of information at the National Library (Kungliga Biblioteket –KB) Urban Rybrink to The Local.

In 2004 literary Sweden was hit by scandal when it was discovered that a respected specialist at the National Library in Stockholm had been pilfering rare books to a value of at least nine million kronor ($1.4 mllion) from the library’s collections and selling them off at auction houses worldwide for a number of years.

After admitting to the crime while questioned by the police, the man took his own life five days after being released from custody by slitting his wrists and severing a gas lead in his kitchen.

The gas was then ignited by a spark from the fridge’s thermostat, causing an explosion that shook the whole neighbourhood.

At the time the library was not allowed to make the list of stolen titles public due to the ongoing police investigation.

But only a few weeks ago, library specialists looking into another atlas up for sale in New York, discovered a book, seemingly similar to an atlas they knew as stolen, among the books of a New York collector.

“We have been able to verify that it is the right book by help of photos and descriptions sent back and forward between the library and the collector, “ said Rybrink.

The book, an atlas from the 16th century called “Descriptionis Ptolemaicae augmentum, sive Occidentis notitia brevi commentario” which was made by Cornelis van Wytfliet, covers the “new world”; North and South America.

The book was sold for the first time in 2003, before the thefts had been discovered, and has changed hands a number of times since then.

Its value has increased greatly as well, from about 600,000 kronor at the time of the first sale to approximately 1.8 million kronor today.

According to Rybrink, the library hasn’t got the financial means to try to buy it back from the collector who had purchased it in good faith.

Legally they would also have very slim chances of having the book returned to them.

“We simply don’t know if we will get it back. There is always a chance but then that would be dependent on the good will of the collector. We’re in dialogue with him at the moment,” Rybrink said.

Rybrink doesn’t dare hazard a guess as to whether the library will be able to retrieve or replace any of the books stolen from its collections.

“We weren’t allowed to make the list of stolen titles public at the time due to the ongoing police investigation. But now we will, it’s been long enough, “ he said.

The library hopes to find more of its stolen books, but Rybrink thinks that even if they resurface the same way as the stolen atlas did, it is a difficult and more often than not impossible process to get them back.

And all the publications in the collection are important to the library.

“All the books have an immense value to the library and to the scientists and scholars who come from afar and who needs them for their research,” Rybrink told The Local.

The collections at the National Library contain over 15 million books and pamphlets with everything from medieval bibles to the latest IKEA catalogue.

The library is obliged by law to collect anything printed in Sweden. Since 1661 all printing houses must send at least one example of each thing they print to the library.

The dramatic life of the library specialist turned book thief was made into a TV-series called “Bibliotekstjuven” (“Library-thief”) in 2011 by Sveriges Television (SVT) with Swedish actor Gustaf Skarsgård, brother of True Blood star Alexander Skarsgård and son of world renowned actor Stellan Skarsgård, in the lead role.

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Sweden breaks yearly record for fatal shootings

A man was shot to death in Kristianstad, Skåne, late on Thursday night. He is the 48th person to be shot dead in Sweden this year, meaning that the previous record for most fatal shootings in one year set in 2020 has now been broken.

Sweden breaks yearly record for fatal shootings

“Unfortunately we can’t say more than that he’s in his twenties and we have no current suspects,” duty officer Mikael Lind told TT newswire.

According to police statistics, this most recent deadly shooting means that 48 people have been shot to death in 2022, meaning that Sweden has broken a new record for deadly shootings per year.

Earlier this week, Sweden’s police chief Anders Thornberg said that this number is likely to rise even higher before the end of the year.

“It looks like we’re going to break the record this year,” he told TT on Tuesday. “That means – if it continues at the same pace – around 60 deadly shootings.”

“If it ends up being such a large increase that would be very unusual,” said Manne Gerell, criminiologist at Malmö University.

“We saw a large increase between 2017 and 2018, and we could see the same now, as we’re on such low figures in Sweden. But it’s still worrying that it’s increasing by so much over such a short time period,” he said.

There also seems to be an upwards trend in the number of shootings overall during 2022. 273 shootings had occured by September 1st this year, compared with 344 for the whole of 2021 and 379 for the whole of 2020.

If shootings continue at this rate for the rest of 2022, it is likely that the total number for the year would be higher than 2021 and 2020. There are, however, fewer injuries.

“The majority of shootings cause no injuries, but this year, mortality has increased substantially,” Gerell explained. “There aren’t more people being shot, but when someone is shot, they’re more likely to die.”

Thursday’s shooting took place in Kristianstad, but it’s only partially true that deadly gun violence is becoming more common in smaller cities.

“It’s moved out somewhat to smaller cities, but we’re overexaggerating that effect,” Gerell said. “We’re forgetting that there have been shootings in other small cities in previous years.”

A report from the Crime Prevention Council (Brå) presented last spring showed that Sweden, when compared with 22 different countries in Europe, was the only one with an upwards trend for deadly shootings.

Temporary increases can be seen during some years in a few countries, but there were no countries which showed such a clear increase as Sweden has seen for multiple years in a row, according to Brå.

The Swedish upwards trend for deadly gun violence began in the beginning of the 2000s, but the trend took off in 2013 and has continued to increase since.

Eight of ten deadly shootings take place in criminal environments, the study showed. The Swedish increase has taken place in principle only among the 20-29 year old age group.

When police chief Anders Thornberg was asked how the trend can be broken, he said that new recruitments are one of the most important factors.

“The most important thing is to break recruitment, make sure we can listen encrypted and that we can get to the profits of crime in a better way,” he said.