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Sweden recovers two stolen books that originally belonged to the Swedish Royal Family
“Prairie on Fire” illustration (Lewis, Henry. Das illustrirte Mississippithal… Dusseldorf : Arntz & Comp., 1854-1858).

NEW YORK (AFP).- Two rare books that were stolen from Sweden's National Library were handed back here on Wednesday, after being tracked down in the United States.

New York District Attorney Preet Bharara presented two volumes that originally belonged to the Swedish Royal Family to the library's CEO Gunilla Herdenberg at a ceremony in Manhattan.

"I'm very happy to bring these books back to Sweden and to make them available for the public and for research again," Herdenberg said in a speech thanking the US authorities and the book dealer who had ensured their safe return.

The books, which have an estimated combined value of $100,000, were among at least 56 volumes stolen from the library between 1995 and 2004 by the former head of its manuscript department Anders Burius, who committed suicide shortly after confessing to the thefts in 2004.

They were sold through Hamburg-based German auction house Ketterer Kunst, with 13 of them going to buyers in the United States.

FBI agents have been trying to track down the missing works and last year succeeded in negotiating the return to Sweden of a 415-year-old atlas that was put up for sale at auction in New York in 2011.

"We hope this (latest) recovery will prompt others to return antique books in their possession that were stolen from the library," Bharara said.

The books returned on Wednesday included a 1683 "Description of Louisiana" by French missionary and explorer Louis Hennepin that was originally owned by King Gustav IV.

The second volume was a German collection of American artist Henry Lewis's lithographs and texts from his exploration of Mississippi between 1846-49 that came from the private collection of King Charles XV.

The two books were bought from Ketterer in the mid-1990s by Stephan Loewentheil, an antique book dealer based in Baltimore.

He subsequently sold them to private collectors but was able to buy them back after being informed by the FBI that they had been stolen.

Loewentheil said he was delighted to see the books returned to their rightful owner.

"I'd love to go over to Sweden one day and see them back where they should be," he told AFP.

© 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse

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