400-Year-Old Bible Stolen From Pittsburgh Library Is Recovered in the Netherlands

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A purloined 1615 Geneva Bible was traced last year to a Dutch museum. The authorities say it had been taken as part of a long-running theft scheme by an archivist and a rare book dealer.


A 1615 Geneva Bible stolen two decades ago from the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh in a long-running theft scheme has been recovered from a Dutch museum, the F.B.I. announced this week.

The Bible was among hundreds of rare books, maps and other items, worth about $8 million in total, that the authorities have said were stolen by the archivist in charge of the collection over nearly 20 years.

Prosecutors say the archivist, Gregory Priore, 62, sometimes walked out of the building with the items in plain sight. He then sold the works to a prominent book dealer, John Schulman, 55, whose shop was a block away and who had appeared as an expert appraiser on the television show “Antiques Roadshow,” according to an affidavit.

The two men were charged last year with numerous counts of theft, conspiracy and other charges, and await trial. Robert G. Del Greco Jr., a lawyer for Mr. Schulman, said his client maintained his innocence, but declined to comment otherwise. A lawyer for Mr. Priore did not immediately return a call on Friday.

F.B.I. officials said they had given the Bible to the office of the Allegheny County district attorney, Stephen A. Zappala Jr., who is prosecuting the case and will use the Bible as evidence.

The Bible is similar to one known to have been carried to North America by the Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower, Robert Jones, special agent in charge of the F.B.I.’s Pittsburgh field office, said at a news conference on Thursday.

“One can only imagine the journey this particular Carnegie Library Bible has taken,” Mr. Jones said.

Using sales records, investigators last year traced the Bible to a museum focused on American pilgrims in Leiden, the Netherlands, said the museum’s director, Jeremy Bangs.

Mike Manko, a spokesman for the district attorney, said that the museum bought the Bible in 2015 through a private seller for $1,200, and that it was currently appraised at $5,500.

Dr. Bangs, an American historian who has lived in the Netherlands for decades, said he had acquired the Bible from a reputable seller for exhibitions, scheduled to take place in 2020 and 2021 in Massachusetts, on the books that Pilgrims owned.

The Bible was translated by English Protestant exiles in Geneva during the reign of Queen Mary Tudor, the museum’s site notes. It is also called a “Breeches Bible” because of its unusual translation in Genesis 3:7 — “Then the eyes of them both were opened, and they knewe that they were naked, and they sewed figtree leaues together, and made themselues breeches,” the site states. The King James Bible does not use the word “breeches.”

An addition to the book’s cover, which Mr. Bangs said was most likely made in the 19th century, reads “Holy Bible —- Breeches Edition.” It is weathered, with evidence of mold on some pages, and loose binding.

Mr. Bangs said that investigators initially contacted him last year and asked him to mail the Bible back. Given its delicate condition, he questioned whether the request was real, he said.

After learning more about the Pittsburgh case, Mr. Bangs said he contacted the Dutch police, who assigned an investigator trained in handling artwork to take possession of the Bible and transport it to the American Embassy. The F.B.I. said its own Art Crime Team helped to bring the Bible back to the United States, covered in Bubble Wrap and nestled in a protective container.

Mr. Manko said that investigators were making progress in recovering other works as well. An initial search turned up 24 items, and 18 “cannibalized” or partial items, from a warehouse. Since then, investigators have recovered 18 books and 293 maps, plates and pamphlets, worth about $1.6 million, he said.

The case has shocked the rare-book world. Until the theft was discovered and Mr. Priore was fired in 2017, he had been the sole archivist for the collection of rare books in the Oliver Room at the Carnegie Library, which is Pittsburgh’s public library system. Mr. Schulman was a respected member of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America. The organization said he once led its ethics committee.

Over the years, Mr. Priore would carry items out of the library and drop them off at the shop, the affidavit states. Mr. Priore sometimes used an X-acto knife to remove part of a book and sell it individually, prosecutors contend. The affidavit states that Mr. Schulman paid Mr. Priore up front and then resold many of the items.

Mr. Priore said he needed the money to “stay afloat” and pay tuition for his four children, and accused Mr. Schulman of spurring him on, the affidavit shows.

“I should never have done this,” he told investigators. “I loved that room, my whole working life, and greed came over me.”

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