Torn from Their Bindings: A Story of Art, Science, and the Pillaging of American University Libraries

Travis McDade (Author)


In 1980, an antique print dealer was going broke from competition and lack of supply. Then he discovered all the high-quality antique prints he could ever want--for free--on the shelves of American university libraries.

Torn from Their Bindings tells the story of Robert Kindred's brazen theft of irreplaceable antique illustrations and maps from academic libraries across the country--a crime spree that left the irredeemable wreck of countless rare books in its wake. Travis McDade's account of Kindred's pillaging and the paper trail that led to his capture unfolds with the drama of a true crime page-turner--whose pages are replete with the particulars of archival treasures, library science, print preservation, and the history bound up in the cultural heritage plundered by Kindred. Along the way we observe the nature and methods of the book thief, defacer of priceless volumes and purveyor of purloined pages, and acquire a wealth of knowledge about the antique prints he favored.

Told by an author devoted to the preservation of books, the story is propelled by an informed curiosity and just outrage from its suspenseful opening to its ironic conclusion--the ultimate fate of Kindred's spoils.

Product Details

University Press of Kansas
Publish Date
May 30, 2018
6.3 X 0.9 X 9.2 inches | 1.15 pounds

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About the Author

Travis McDade is curator of law rare books at the University of Illinois College of Law. A leading expert on crimes against rare books, maps, documents, and other printed cultural heritage resources, he is the author of three previous books on the subject: Disappearing Ink: The Insider, the FBI, and the Looting of the Kenyon College Library; Thieves of Book Row: New York's Most Notorious Rare Book Ring and the Man Who Stopped It; and The Book Thief: The True Crimes of Daniel Spiegelman.


"The greatest strength of McDade's book is the care with which he treats both the topic of book theft and the pillaged materials themselves. He makes a strong case that our society needs to take such crimes more seriously if we want our cultural heritage resources to be available to future generations."--New England Archivists Newsletter

"Highly recommended for all libraries that house collections of valuable books and . . . for devotees of truce crime stories."--TECHnicalities

"McDade offers an engrossing, fast-paced, detailed account of Robert Kindred's systematic, brazen removal of thousands of illustrations of animals, plants, and historical events from mostly 19th-century books and periodicals in academic libraries. Highly recommended."--Choice

"McDade has delivered a book that should be of great interest to bibliophiles everywhere, particularly those guardians of collections who too often have to deal with the likes of Kindred and his ilk."--Fine Books & Collections

"Book lovers, librarians, and crime fans alike will enjoy this detailed story."--Library Journal
"McDade's account of Robert Kindred's book-pillaging spree in university libraries across the United States is a well-told narrative that reads like an Elmore Leonard novel. McDade's dramatic tale of book theft, mutilation, and cultural destruction is firmly grounded in archival sources, field research, and interviews and will appeal to a wide range of readers."--Mark Rose, professor emeritus of English, University of California, Santa Barbara