Don't Steal These Books, 1932 Inscriptions Warn

Book thieves, take notice--an inscription in some University library books warning lightfingered students of possible prison sentences is no joke.

The inscription found in about 2500 books reads, "This book was stolen from Harvard College Library. It was later recovered. The thief was sentenced to two years at hard labor."

Joel C. Williams, a former graduate student, served two years at hard labor in a Massachusetts correctional institution for stealing books from the Harvard College libraries in 1932. A local bookstore turned Williams in to Cambridge police when he tried to sell two stolen books.

Friends refused to post bail for Williams. While he was in jail, police discovered more than 2500 books at this home, and he was eventually tried on 20 counts of theft.

Library officials subsequently added the inscription to the retrieved volumes, saying "We make no comments, as none are needed."



Last year, the Administrative Board of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences suspended Jeffrey Nelson, an American History student who allegedly stole between 3000 and 5000 books from University libraries.

The University has not started legal proceedings against Nelson. Daniel Steiner '54, general counsel to the University, would not comment on the case last night.

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