May 20, 2022

Theft of Rare Books Investigated at New York Public Library

From the NY Daily News:

The feds are investigating the theft of eight priceless books from the New York Public Library, including one written by Benjamin Franklin.

The Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office said the books, seven Bibles created between 1672 and 1861 and a pre-1776 workbook the versatile Founding Father wrote for his printing house, were brought to The Doyle auction house last May.

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From the Wall St. Journal

…the manuscript—a handwritten workbook of the items printed in Mr. Franklin’s print shop in the 18th century—and seven other rare books are at the heart of a contentious dispute between the 50-year-old Nassau County woman and the library, which alleges the books were stolen from the library decades ago.

The library found out about the items last year when Ms. Tanchuck was administering her parents’ estate and took the books to William Doyle Galleries Inc., also known as Doyle New York, for an appraisal. After noticing the call numbers, the gallery contacted the library with Ms. Tanchuck’s permission, court documents say.


The library says the books were “somehow taken…between 1988 and 1991,” according to court documents filed by Ms. Tanchuck’s lawyer. Ms. Tanchuck said the items have belonged to her family for almost three decades and that the library didn’t take action or alert anyone of the loss until Ms. Tanchuck’s appraisal. Earlier this month, she filed a civil action in New York state court asking a judge to determine who should own the books.

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From the NY Post:

Daniel Arshack, a lawyer for the 50-year-old Tanchuck, said he believes the feds have overstepped their bounds by getting involved in a civil dispute that should be decided by a judge. He said his client has no way of knowing how her family came into possession of the books and that the NYPL has no documentation showing how the items left its possession.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.