932 books stolen from the National Library of Peru



The National Library of Peru (Photo:El Comercio/Archive )

In February this year, the National Library of Peru reported that it had been the victim of systematic theft.

Five months later, after an exhaustive inventory forced the closure of its doors, its director, Ramón Mujica Pinilla, presented the total number of books missing: 932. The missing books are mostly very valuable antiques.

News of the theft was published in an article by El Pais, which reports that some of these books date back to the 16th and 17th century.

Such is the case of a manuscript titled Una Vida, written in 1679 and stollen by one of the workers during the inventory process. Mujica said the theft was caught on video. Also missing is a book by Erasmus of Rotterdan, published in Paris in 1524.

Mujica reported that 181 books had been lost from the old trust and private libraries, 125 books from the general collection, 414 manuscripts from the valuable library bequeathed by the historian Raul Porras Barrenechea and 32 books considered bibliographic jewels.

Among the missing items were three books that had recently been returned by the Chilean government and had been looted during the occupation of Lima in the Pacific War (1879-1883). According to Mujica, these books were never made available to the public because they had not even been cataloged.

Silvana Salazar, technical director of the National Library, said in a press conference that most of the stolen books were about the conflict between Peru and Chile.

After five months the inventory determined that the National Library of Peru has an endowment of 150,894 books and about 320,000 documents of historical value. "The library must be declared in emergency," Mujica claims, noting that he had requested help from the private sector during the inventory, since the government had made no contribution.

Although the new library was oppened last year security of its collection remaines weak.

In order to take inventory Telefonica del Peru, a private company, provided the library with security cameras in order to monitor the vaults, rooms and corridors through which the books were moved.

These cameras filmed the theft of one of the manuscripts. Now that the inventory was completed “we have to give them back again and the collections will be unprotected," says Mujica.

The National Library finally reopened its doors this week, but Muica calls for more government aid. Due to an emergency decree that imposes measures of austerity during the final part of the government, the library has run out of resources to invest in security measures.

"The state needs to invest in defending its heritage, we still have a lot of inventory," said Mujica. An extensive collection of maps, music scores, another group of old books and some seven million volumes have not yet been registered

Although it may seem unusual, the National Library of Peru does not have a bibliographic management software system, which complicates the task of recording items.