January 03, 2010
Perhaps the greatest of biblioklepts was Don Vincente, a friar of that Poblat convent whose library was plundered and dispersed at the pillage of the monasteries during the regency of Queen Christina in 1834. Coming to Barcelona, he established himself in a gloomy den in the book-selling quarter of the town. Here he set up as a dealer, but fell so in love with his accumulated purchases that only want tempted him to sell them. Once at an auction he was outbid for a copy of the "Ordinacions per los Gloriosos Keys de Arago," — a great rarity, perhaps a unique. Three days later the house of the successful rival was burned to the ground, and his blackened body, pipe in hand, was found in the ruins. He had set the house on fire with his pipe, — that was the general verdict. A mysterious succession of murders followed. One bibliophile after another was found in the streets or the river, with a dagger in his heart. The shop of Don Vincente was searched. The "Ordinacions" was discovered. How had it escaped the flames that had burned down the purchaser's house? Then the Don confessed not only that murder but others. Most of his victims were customers who had purchased from him books he could not bear to part with. At the trial, counsel for the defence tried to discredit the confession, and when it was objected that the "Ordinacions" was a unique copy, they proved there was another in the Louvre, that, therefore, there might be still more, and that the defendant's might have been honestly procured. At this, Don Vincente, hitherto callous and silent, uttered a low cry. "Aha!" said the alcade, " you are beginning to realize the enormity of your offence!" "Yes," sobbed the penitent thief, "the copy was not a unique, after all."
From the Biblioklept entry in the Handy-book of Literary Curiosities by William Shepard Walsh, 1909.