May 21, 2022

New Librarian-Authored Book Recounts Pillaging Of Rare Illustrations From University Libraries

From the University of Illinois News Bureau:

2018-06-18_11-12-03A new book by a University of Illinois expert on rare-book crimes tells the story of the theft of valuable antique illustrations and the destruction of rare books from the University of Illinois Library.

Travis McDade, the curator of law rare books at the U. of I. law school, wrote a recently released book about the crime spree. “Torn from Their Bindings: A Story of Art, Science, and the Pillaging of American University Libraries” was published by the University Press of Kansas. It is the fourth book by McDade, whose training both as a librarian and a lawyer gives him a unique perspective on rare-book crimes.

Robert Kindred ran “the art world equivalent of a chop shop,” McDade wrote, cutting prints from academic libraries across the country during the summer of 1980. He was caught at the University of Illinois and prosecuted for the crime in central Illinois.


The book also highlights the painstaking work of the U. of I. librarians who sorted through thousands of stolen prints recovered from Kindred’s car and tried to determine what they were and where they might have been stolen.

“There’s these two librarians in the police station trying to reverse-engineer what happened. It’s this quiet-but-heroic effort by these guys,” McDade said.


Since Kindred’s crime spree, many of the books at the University Library that would be susceptible to theft have been moved to the rare-book stacks or to an off-site storage facility, McDade said. Other academic libraries have followed suit, but “across the country there remain really nice books in libraries that are vulnerable,” he said.

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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.