Think you have a ton of books crammed into your tiny apartment? You've got nothing on the spectacularly named Stephen Carrie Blumberg, who stole nearly 19,000 books from 327 institutions.
Blumberg suffered from mental illness his entire life, which undoubtedly contributed to his bibliomania. His first arrests were for a series of burglaries and trespassing, then for stealing books from four different states in 1974. Over the decades, Blumberg's obsession for collecting books only grew, even though he was kicked out of library after library. Blumberg spent his time as a nomad, driving around and stealing book after book. He curated his own collection, taking old and new volumes alike, but he never sold them.
A page from a version of the Nuremberg Chronicle, a text Blumberg stole. Image via Wikimedia Commons.
When he was arrested in 1988, investigators found floor plans and lists of university library collections, which he used to select volumes and sneak into institutions to nab them. Blumberg either tried to avoid alarms entirely or tripped them on purpose a few times to see how they worked; he climbed dumbwaiters and shimmied through vents to get past security systems. But getting into the most exclusive libraries was another story...and involved deception on a whole other level. To get into Harvard's libraries, Blumberg disguised himself as a real-life professor from the University of Minnesota. This must be pretty much the only time anyone ever faked an ID to get steal books, not drinks!
When Blumberg was eventually caught and sentenced in 1990, he was found guilty pretty fast, despite his "not guilty by reason of insanity" defense. He was released from prison in 1995, but the legend of his exploits lives on. The total value of the 18,900 books he stole? $5.3 million, according to Harvard Magazine. Where'd he get them from? 45 different states. His most famous stolen item? The Nuremberg Chronicle, published in 1493.