Lawyers for John Nulty, aged 37, said that for nine years, he was compulsively taking the books and hoarding them in his home. When gardaí arrived at his Dublin home in April 2013 with a search warrant, they found “an Aladdin’s cave” where Nulty was living surrounded by books.
Nulty, of Portersgate, Clonsilla, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to eight sample counts of theft from a total of 216 charges. Most of the charges relate to theft from the National Library between July 5, 2004 and April 24, 2013.
He also admitted to two counts of stealing from Brother Tom Connolly at the Allen Library, North Richmond St, between November 2003 and July 2004, when he worked there. His only other previous conviction is for a minor public order offence.
Books taken included Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls and books on Anglo Irish history and Celtic mythology. Some of the books were first editions and some were signed, while others were valuable because of their historical and national interest. Nulty would put the books in his bag and walk out with them.
Judge Martin Nolan said Nulty was an eccentric who became obsessed with hoarding the books and took satisfaction from having them.
He said that if Nulty had sold all the books and made a profit, a jail term would be inevitable. He noted that, given most of the books had been recovered intact, the actual loss to the library was around €5,000.
He said it would be unjust to imprison him immediately, suspending a sentence of two-and-a-half years on condition he is of good behaviour for that period.
Detective Garda Declan O’Brien told Garret Baker, prosecuting, the thefts came to light when Gerard Long, an assistant keeper at the National Library, noticed that two books which were part of the Sean O’Casey library were for sale online.
The books had been sold by Nulty to a seller of rare books who had in turn placed them for sale online. Nulty had kept most of the other books and stored them in his home and at an off-site storage facility.
Det Garda O’Brien said the estimated value of the stolen books was €199,322.
Sean Gillane, defending, said Nulty had considered burning all the books in order to put it all behind him, but his respect and love for their value prevented him from doing this. He said Nulty felt a certain relief when he was caught. Some books were stored in conservation boxes to protect them.