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Archivist, book dealer charged in theft of $8 million in antiquarian items

NEW YORK — A 1787 first-edition book signed by Thomas Jefferson.

A rare copy of “The Journal of Major George Washington.”

A version of Isaac Newton’s “Principia,” among the most influential books in science, said to be worth $900,000.

The archivist who oversaw a special collection of rare books at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, the city’s public library, walked out of the building with these and other items and sold them to a local bookstore owner, authorities said. The scheme lasted nearly 20 years.

The library archivist, Gregory Priore, 61, and the bookstore owner, John Schulman, 54, were arrested on Friday on numerous criminal charges including theft and criminal conspiracy, authorities said.

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They are accused of trafficking several hundred rare books, maps, and other items worth more than $8 million in total, records show. More than $1 million worth of items, including the Newton volume, have been recovered.

Even in the niche world of rare-book dealers, the value of the items stolen is stunning, said Michael Vinson, a dealer based in New Mexico who is a member of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America.