John Charles Gilkey

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John Charles Gilkey
Born1968 (age 54–55)
Criminal chargeBook and document theft, check fraud
Span of crimes

John Charles Gilkey (born 1968)[1] is a prolific serial book and document thief who has stolen approximately US$200,000 worth of rare books and manuscripts.[2] Gilkey used Modern Library's List of 100 Best Novels[3] as a guide to what items he would steal.[4] Unlike most book thieves who steal for a profit, his motives for the thefts were personal: he saw an expansive library as a sign of being upper-class.[5]

Gilkey used bad checks and stolen credit card numbers gained through his employment at Saks Fifth Avenue in San Francisco.[6] He did not consider that he stole books; instead he would talk about "doing business" with the dealers from whom he stole items. Allison Hoover Bartlett, who wrote The Man Who Loved Books Too Much chronicling Gilkey's thefts and methods, stated that he felt he deserved the books. She also noted that Gilkey would tell her the details of a theft after the statute of limitations on that crime had expired.[7] Since Gilkey kept these books for his personal collection none of these books ever surfaced again on the market.

After a sting operation in 2003 orchestrated by Ken Sanders, a rare book dealer in Salt Lake City,[8][9] Gilkey served 18 months in San Quentin beginning the following year.[6]

He was arrested again on December 15, 2010, in San Francisco for stealing two antique maps.[10]

Gilkey was the subject of an episode of the podcast Criminal.[11]


  1. ^ Ciuraru, Carmela (November 5, 2009). "'The Man Who Loved Books Too Much' by Allison Hoover Bartlett". LA Times. Retrieved June 6, 2017.
  2. ^ Ann, Mary (2010-10-03). "Thief stole rare books for love, says author". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2012-01-14.
  3. ^ Modern Library's List of 100 Best Novels
  4. ^ Berkes, Howard (January 2010). "Literary Larceny: A Book Thief Meets His Match". NPR.
  5. ^ Bartlett 2009, p. 101
  6. ^ a b Berkes, Howard (January 2010). "Literary Larceny: A Book Thief Meets His Match". All Things Considered. Retrieved 10 April 2011.
  7. ^ Bartlett 2009, p. 243
  8. ^ John Woolfolk (February 7, 2003). "Book-theft suspect caught with the goods". San Jose Mercury News. He was a thief who allegedly used a stolen credit card number to buy the original bestseller and reserve a room at the hotel where he planned to pick it up, police say. Now investigators say they have connected the man, John Charles Gilkey, to at least one other similar rare-book theft in the Bay Area and are looking into whether he is linked to others over the last two years worth $50,000... Gilkey, who was on probation out of Los Angeles for writing bad checks, told police he was unemployed and living on the streets of San Francisco. So officers were surprised when he promptly posted $15,000 bail.
  9. ^ Redfearn, Dixie (2007-05-19). "Meet 'Book Cop' at Gold Rush fair". The Union. Archived from the original on 2011-09-14. Retrieved 2012-01-14.
  10. ^ Lieberman, Michael (December 15, 2010). "The Man Who Loved Books Too Much is back on the loose". Book Patrol. Seattle Pi. Retrieved 10 April 2011.
  11. ^ "Ex-libris". Criminal. Episode 22. 26 June 2015.


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