Crime and Punishment: Tracking Down A Special Collections Thief in the 1990s

If you’ve ever come out of the Special Collections reading room and been asked at the reference desk to open your laptop, or flip through your notes, you’ll understand why such precautions are crucial to preserving the Library’s rare collections after reading “To Catch a Thief,” in the current issue of University of Virginia Magazine.

The article tells how in the 1990s a patron was able to come into the libraries of multiple institutions, including UVA, and slice maps out of rare volumes (an estimated $500,000 worth) to sell. It details the detective work of University Police Department general investigator Thomas Durrer in bringing the thief, Gilbert Bland, to justice. Ervin Jordan and Edward Gaynor, UVA Special Collections librarians then and now, remember the case vividly—Jordan nearly caught Bland redhanded, and Gaynor was assigned to help track down the owners of the stolen maps. As Gaynor notes, “It was a big deal. All over the special collections world, if you say ‘Gilbert Bland,’ everybody knows who he was.”

Read the article in Virginia Magazine.

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