Police collared the overzealous book-worm on Tuesday at the Fürstlich Waldecksche library in the Hessian town of Bad Arolsen, it was reported Thursday.
The library owner, with the suitably literary name Wittekind zu Waldeck und Pyrmont, reported that the 45-year-old bureaucrat enjoyed the librarians' trust because he explained that he needed the books for private research. He was therefore allowed to roam the stacks at will.
But when two separate inventories established that books had disappeared and not been returned, the official from the western town of Darmstadt, quickly became prime suspect. A video camera was installed before his next visit, and it duly recorded yet another theft.
Police officers then arrested the man as he left the library, finding no fewer than 53 books in his clothes and bags. According to state prosecutors, the rare books covered mineralogy, geophysics and other sciences, and were worth up to €7,000 each.
A simultaneous search of the man's home revealed thousands more books. He did not offer any motive or explanation for the discovery. He was released, but is likely to face charges.
“The books are mainly from the 18th century,” a police spokesman said. “13,000 books are not the end. We're working on the assumption that most of them are not his.” Librarians have been called in to identify the works.
The oldest work discovered so far is "Physiologia Kircheriana Experimentalis," published in 1680 by German scholar Athanasius Kircher.
The Hesse culture ministry has confirmed that one of its officials is under investigation and that he has been suspended from duty.