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'I was stunned': Portland bookshop owner touched by author's donation of signed books after break-in

Crooks stole 100 rare books from Passages Bookshop in January. Since then, authors and book dealers have helped the owner replace some of the stolen titles.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Blink and you might miss Passages Bookshop on Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Portland.

On a grander scale, the purveyor of rare books is drawing national attention that owner David Abel is still trying to grasp.

“It's kind of like, wow!” said Abel, reacting to the hundreds of messages he’s received since his store was burglarized on Jan. 1. Crooks broke in that night, smashed display cases, stole cash and close to 100 rare books.

“It's a crime of opportunity,” said Abel. “I can't know what's in their minds.”

KGW covered that break-in. So did the Oregonian, which mentioned some of the stolen book titles by name including "Patti Smith Complete: Lyrics, Reflections, and Notes for the Future." Smith saw the article and called Abel from New York.

“She said ‘I saw that one of my books was taken and I can't replace the Warhol that you lost but I thought I could send you some signed copies of my books,’” recalled Abel. “I was speechless, I said 'that is so kind' and she said, ‘Well, I really love bookstores.’”

Shortly after that, a box of books arrived, all signed by Smith.

"I was stunned," said Abel.                                                                                 

Soon, others reached out offering to help including an artist in Tokyo who had visited Passages Bookshop and saw her book had been stolen. Rare book dealers also responded by sending books. 

"Two boxes just showed up unannounced," said Abel.

“A poet from Buffalo just wrote and said he wants to send me a book,” Abel shared. “Just an amazing kind of response.”

Police haven't identified any suspects in the case and Abel may never recover his stolen books. Even so, he said the outpouring of support speaks volumes.

“There are moments when I doubt what I'm doing but it's really helped to have that kind of response,” said Abel. “It reaffirms what I already knew and that is the book is not disappearing.”

Abel compiled this list of books stolen from his shop and shared it with other local book store owners asking them to keep an eye out for the copies.

RELATED: 100 rare books stolen from Passages Bookshop in Northeast Portland

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