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Missing Literary Collectibles Returned to Library

November 04, 1986|BILL BILLITER | Times Staff Writer

Just as mysteriously as they disappeared more than four months ago, all 46 missing rare books, manuscripts and collector's items were returned to the library at California State University, Fullerton, on Monday.

"They came back by mail, in a package addressed to the library," said Capt. Dan Byrnes, campus assistant director of public safety.

All items were in good condition and apparently undamaged in their unexplained odyssey, Byrnes said. He said there was no message of any kind in the package and he declined to reveal whether the package bore a return address or postmark to indicate its origin.

The missing items--including handwritten love letters by author-playwright George Bernard Shaw-- were kept in the university library's Special Collections room, where admittance is carefully controlled. University officials have said no one was given permission to check out the books and letters, valued at $13,000.

When the loss, discovered in June, was publicly disclosed Oct. 20, university officials expressed fear that the missing items would be sold to collectors on the black market. To alert unwitting buyers, the university advertised the disappearance in periodicals specializing in literary collectors' items.

Byrnes said university officials were "thrilled" by the return of the rare literary collectibles, particularly Shaw's letters to Alice Lockett, an English nurse wooed by the playwright early in his literary career, when he supported himself mostly as a drama critic.

Other valuables included a 19th-Century edition of "The Flatlands" by Edwin Abbott, described by a campus librarian as a "fantasy satire" and an "early example of science fiction."

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