Press Room

Statements from Boston Public Library Leadership

by admin

Below are statements from Boston Public Library President Amy E. Ryan and Jeffrey B. Rudman, Chair, Boston Public Library Board of Trustees, regarding missing pieces from BPL collections:


Boston Public Library recently discovered that an engraving by Albrecht Dürer and an etching by Rembrandt are missing from the Boston Public Library’s print collection. It is our hope that these two significant pieces have simply been misfiled. The curators and department staff are currently conducting a detailed search of the collection, and we are working with the Boston Police Department to determine if there is the possibility of criminal activity. As part of the search process, the BPL is undertaking an updated inventory of the more than 200,000 prints and drawings that make up the print collection, and will conduct an independent analysis of security protocols. While strict procedures for viewing items in the collection are in place, it is always a balance to fulfill our obligation to make collections open to the public to study and enjoy, while preserving them and keeping them secure.

The Boston Public Library has an extensive, impressive, and diverse collection of prints totaling more than 200,000 pieces. When I was notified that the two prints were missing and the seriousness of the situation, I contacted Police Commissioner Evans to ensure the Boston Police Department was aware. We are continuing to work closely with BPD during their investigation and are conducting an independent security review, and an item by item audit of our print collection. We are eager to bring this to a successful conclusion. It is important that all of the treasures of our collection can be made available to the public now and in the future, and that must be balanced with ensuring their security.


I have, and I know the Trustees have, endless confidence in President Ryan. We enjoy a strong relationship with her and have enjoyed that relationship continuously since she was appointed President of the Boston Public Library in October 2008.

The Trustees are proud of the Boston Public Library’s extraordinary print collection of more than 200,000 items and, while security is always a concern for institutions with valuable collections, at the Boston Public Library, not only are we mindful of that concern, but we pride ourselves on making our valuable treasures available to the public. That is how it should be. That is how it must be.

That said, we hope to use this incident as an opportunity to learn and to improve. When the facts are clear, we will make those improvements which the facts commend. We have already begun an independent item-by-item survey of the art we currently possess, and we have commissioned an independent audit of our security protocols.

In the interim, we are very grateful for the assistance of the Boston Police Department, who have been actively involved since President Ryan notified them on April 15 when she first knew exactly what artwork was missing. The Trustees deeply appreciate the efforts of President Ryan and her staff, both in their cooperation with the police and in doing all that they can to maximize the likelihood that we will recover this art.

Artwork information:

Adam and Eve by Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471-1528). Engraving, 1504. – estimate of the size is 8 in x 11 in

Self Portrait with Plumed Cap and Lowered Sabre by Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669). Etching, 1634 – estimate of the size is 5 in x 6 in