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Rare Books On America’s Early Years Returned Years After Being Stolen, Resold

Books Were Stolen From National Library of Sweden In 1990s
Two books about America's early days were stolen from the National Library of Sweden in the 1990s. They were repatriated on July 24, 2013. (credit: Marla Diamond/WCBS 880)

Two books about America’s early days were stolen from the National Library of Sweden in the 1990s. They were repatriated on July 24, 2013. (credit: Marla Diamond/WCBS 880)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Two rare, antique books stolen from the Swedish royal family have been returned to their rightful owners.

The FBI and the Justice Department held a repatriation ceremony for the valuable works on Wednesday.

As WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported, the books were stolen from the National Library of Sweden in the 1990s and ended up in the unsuspecting hands of a Baltimore book seller.

Rare book store owner Stephan Loewentheil purchased the works in 1998 and has been honored by the Swedish government for helping them recover the stolen books.

“There’s a chain of ownership that goes with great objects and that chain was broken before it got to me. And it behooved me to recreate that chain and get this great intellectual material back to Sweden where it belonged,” said Loewentheil.

LINK: Read The National Library of Sweden Stipulation and Order (pdf)

One of the works is a 19th century illustrated text of the Mississippi River. The other is 17th century French book on the Louisiana Territory. The two books are estimated to be worth about $200,000, Diamond reported.

“It’s a book about America before it was America. But it belongs to Sweden,” FBI Assistant Director George Venizelos said at the repatriation ceremony.

Venizelos and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara returned the books to the CEO of Sweden’s national library.

“My many, many thanks to all of you,” Gunilla Herdenber said.

A former employee of the National Library of Sweden admitted to stealing the books and dozens of others before committing suicide.

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