Stolen manuscripts plague Israeli archives

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JERUSALEM: It began with a late-night call one Friday in July. A woman from New York was asking Gila Flam, who runs the music section of Israel's national library, about a century-old autographed manuscript by a Swiss composer. Was it in the library's collection?

When Flam checked, she discovered that the piece was in her inventory but not in the folder where it belonged. Other items were also missing from the folder. In fact, she said she began to recall, users of the library had been increasingly complaining of being unable to find listed documents.

The library has found that hundreds of items are missing, including photographs, manuscripts and letters by Yehudi Menuhin, Jascha Heifetz, Pablo Casals, Felix Mendelssohn and Richard Strauss. Many items are also gone from the archive of the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra in Tel Aviv and a historic music library in Haifa. The search of other musical archives is just getting started.

The police have named as a suspect a 60-year-old Haifa architect who, for several years, they say, has been scouring the nation's archives claiming to be an amiable music buff doing personal research, slipping the documents among his own papers and openly selling them on eBay, probably for a total of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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