Johns Hopkins Gazette: January 2, 1996

Antiques dealer admits slashing rare book
Peabody Increasing Security in Wake of Map Thefts

Dennis O'Shea
Homewood News and Information

     Security at Eisenhower Library's rare book collections is
being tightened after the theft of an 18th-century map by a man
who may be linked to similar crimes at other universities.

     Non-Hopkins researchers wanting to use the collections will
now have to present two forms of identification, not just one,
said Cynthia Requardt, Kurrelmeyer Curator of Special Collections
at the library.

     The library is also planning to install lockers where
readers will be required to stash briefcases, purses, coats and
other items that could be used to smuggle out stolen materials,
she said.

     Library managers are re-emphasizing the importance of
keeping a close eye on patrons in the Eisenhower's special
collections reading rooms at the Homewood campus, the George
Peabody Library at the Peabody Institute and the Garrett Library
at Evergreen House.

     "The most important thing to do is to increase vigilance in
the reading rooms," Requardt said. "We're going to do fewer other
tasks while we're monitoring. Staff can get wrapped up in their
own work and not look up at the readers often enough."

     The library's re-examination of security began after a
Peabody Library reader was caught Dec. 7 with four maps sliced
from a 1763 history book he had been examining. The man, who had
presented a fake University of Florida student photo identity
card when registering at the library, admitted the theft and
offered several hundred dollars in restitution.

     Baltimore police suggested that Hopkins strongly consider
the offer, said Charles Baughan, assistant director of Eisenhower
Library for support services. If arrested, they said, the man--by
then identified from his driver's license as Gilbert Joseph Bland
of Tamarac, Fla.--could easily make bail and disappear, leaving
the university without compensation for damage to the book.

     After Bland left, library officials discovered, in a
notebook he left behind, evidence that he had been to a number of
other rare book libraries at universities along the East Coast.
They later also discovered that 21 other maps were missing from
four  18th- and 19th-century books Bland had examined earlier
that day and in a September visit to Peabody Library. Although it
is difficult to estimate the financial loss, the total value of
the Hopkins books before they were damaged was at least $16,950,
probably significantly more, Requardt said.

     Hopkins contacted the FBI and other universities. Librarians
at Duke, Brown and the universities of North Carolina, Virginia
and Chicago all say  materials are missing in thefts that may be
related to the Hopkins case. Several have said maps were taken
from books handled by a man using Bland's alias, James Perry.

     Bland, 46, turns out to be owner, with his wife, of a
Florida store specializing in antique maps, collectible
commodities that reportedly have skyrocketed in value in recent

     The couple closed the store shortly after the thefts were
reported in newspapers in North Carolina and Maryland. The FBI is
investigating but, as of press time, Bland had not been arrested
or charged.

     "Because of the library staff's vigilance, an individual who
has admitted stealing rare materials is now out of business and
libraries across the country have been alerted and are improving
collection security," said James G. Neal, Sheridan Director of
the Eisenhower Library. "Students and scholars should be
confident that the Hopkins libraries are committed to the
protection and preservation of library materials for teaching and

     Requardt said that, in addition to the new security measures
already implemented, she is considering others, including
searches of researchers' materials before they leave reading

     In general, though, she said, thefts from the university's
rare book collections have not been a problem.

     "The reason we observe or monitor our reading rooms is as
much to avoid people putting their elbows on the book and
breaking the spine, or underlining as they read, as to keep them
from stealing," she said. "Many readers are not used to handling
rare materials."

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