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European map thefts, 2001

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Page posted 4 May 2002. Please send comments, or further links to Tony Campbell:  

From January 2001 onwards, a sequence of thefts from rare map collections in various parts of Europe was reported. The libraries known to have been affected were in Aberystwyth, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Stockholm and The Hague. An Englishman, Melvin Nelson Perry (born 1956), was convicted of the theft from Helsinki University Library [the six maps involved were listed in the IMCoS Journal]. The links below, arranged in chronological order, comprise the online announcements so far identified. Much of the information they contain about the way the thieves operated remains relevant.

The web and the Internet discussion lists provide an excellent medium for spreading information, fast and widely. Several messages about the European thefts were cross-posted, among others to Ex Libris, MapHist and the Map Trade list. The Royal Library in Copenhagen used their web site to post a CCTV image of the suspect, and some of the links below include pictures of Melvin Perry.

However, the random nature of such distribution meant that many who needed the information never received it, or only after their own library had suffered. For suggestions as to how matters could be improved in future, see How should we respond to early map thefts?.

For links to the North American map thief, Gilbert Bland, see:-

Calendar of theft announcements (2001)

(A number of messages were posted to the MapHist list. Some were repeated to other lists and are recorded below. Others were sent only to MapHist, whose archive is not available on the web but via a CD-ROM)

For later articles in newspapers, journals, etc., see News about thefts

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