June 2011 | Jeremy Dibbell

Union College Audubon Theft: The Plot Thickens?

I've written previously for "Fine Books Notes" about the theft of one of Union College's Audubon volumes in 1971; having attended Union and knowing this particular set of Birds of America well, I take a great interest in not only their present well-being but also in the story of their theft and subsequent recovery. A just-released article [PDF] in the Union College Magazine, by the college's Director of Media and Public Relations Phil Wajda, sheds new light on the case, and calls into question the long-held view of just how the Birds came to be stolen and Texas book dealer John Jenkins' role in their recovery.

Wajda talked to the actual thief who broke into Union's library in 1971 and stole the Birds, damaging some of the plates as he cut them from their binding. Kenneth Paull, now retired and living in Pennsylvania, told Wajda that the theft was no spur-of-the-moment crime, but a carefully-laid scheme ... and that Jenkins himself was the intended buyer of the Audubons.

It's quite a tale, and certainly worth a read. Phil's done some really interesting detective work, and I'm going to be fascinated to know what more we learn about this case now that his story is out. I'm sure I'll have more to say on it soon, as well.