Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Greatest Aphrodisiac

Chocolate?  Oysters?  Spanish fly?  No.  Historical manuscripts.

That's right, folks.  The Globe and Mail reports on John Mark Tillmann's theft of some seven thousand artefacts and documents from museums, libraries, archives and shops.  His Russian girlfriend served as accomplice.  Among their most cherished moments:
The pair also stole a letter written in 1758 by General James Wolfe, the victor at the Plains of Abraham, from the Dalhousie University archives. Mr. Tillmann explains that he was able to copy a set of keys that opened a vault in the university’s library. He and Katya hid in the women’s bathroom until the night security guard left and used the keys to get into the vault, which was jammed with documents. After two hours of searching, around 3 a.m., they hit “pay dirt.”
“I said, ‘Oh, Jesus Christ, if this is real’ – and it looked all real, [it] was the George Washington letter, worth probably half a million to a million dollars in itself. … And I thought, ‘Oh wow.’”
Rooting around further, they found the Wolfe letter.
“We became so exuberant over this – because it was pretty euphoric being in there and knowing at that point that you have millions of dollars worth of documents on the black market – that we ended up having sex right in the middle of all these papers and stuff strewn around,” he recalls. He still had the Washington and Wolfe letters, which he stole in 1998, when he was arrested last year.
I have to wonder.  Are the good folks at the University of Toronto's Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library ready for the euphoric hanky-panky that their recent acquisition will elicit?  If a single Wolfe letter can have this effect, I dare not imagine what 233 of them will do.

P.-F.-X.

2 comments:

  1. I was working for the student newspaper that year, and my room-mate had a part-time job in the archives. How have I never heard of this before?

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  2. Beats me. I don't know when -- or whether -- the loss of these documents was noticed and publicized. A certain amount of misfiling unavoidably occurs in archives and museums' storage, which means that unless there is clear evidence of mischief (broken locks, etc.), thefts can go unnoticed for some time.

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