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Books

Burglar hits legendary bookstore, steals rare edition of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’

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Tom Baldwin, owner of Baldwin’s Book Barn in West Chester, Pa., is interviewed for “Book TV” in 1998.
(Bill Lyons)

Police in suburban Philadelphia are on the hunt for a book thief with rarefied literary tastes.

A burglar stole at least 20 books from a store in West Chester, Pa., including a rare edition of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Tuesday.

No money was stolen from the bookstore’s cash register, said Fred Dannaway, the assistant manager of Baldwin’s Book Barn, a well-known and long-running retailer located in a 19th century barn.

“It was apparent they knew what they wanted,” Dannaway said. The thief apparently shattered a window to gain access to the store.

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The stolen books were worth as much as $10,000, CBS reports.

Dannaway urged the thief to return the stolen merchandise, which also included a rare edition of John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men.”

“Bring them back, bring them back,” he said. “They’re significant things. If we don’t sell them, we’d just like to have them around. That’s what book people like to do.”

Store manager Carol Rauch told WPVI-TV that the theft was discovered by employees over the weekend.

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“Saw glass on the floor, came in. The books are all gone from the two cabinets,” Rauch said. “One was a very expensive book on fish, another one was a German Bible with a sterling silver working clasp.”

Rare books weren’t the only thing the thief made off with. The Daily Local News of Chester County, Pa., reports that an oil painting of the barn that houses the bookstore was also stolen.

Baldwin’s Book Barn is a legendary bookseller in Pennsylvania. Founded in 1934, the store is housed in a five-story dairy barn that dates back to 1822. The store contains more than 300,000 books.

Atlas Obscura describes the retailer as “the TARDIS of bookstores,” a reference to the time-traveling phone booth featured in the television series “Doctor Who.”

“Hidden within its meandering coves and staircases lie seemingly endless archival treasures lining every space within the Book Barn,” the website says. “Step inside and you are transported to another time and place; where history seems to whisper to you through the creaking windows and stairs of the barn.”

The owners of the store plan to beef up their security system in the wake of the burglary. Dannaway told the Inquirer that they had turned off the store’s motion-activated security system because it was regularly being set off by the cats who call the store home.


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