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Manuscript Thief of 1,000 Unpublished Books Will Not Receive Prison Time

Danika Ellis

Associate Editor

Danika spends most of her time talking about queer women books at the Lesbrary. Blog: The Lesbrary Twitter: @DanikaEllis

For years, hundreds of high-profile manuscripts — including early versions of books by Margaret Atwood and Sally Rooney — were stolen in a phishing scheme. The most puzzling part of the case was that nothing seemed to come from these thefts; uthe manuscripts were not leaked or sold, as far as anyone could tell. So why go to the trouble of impersonating a publisher in order to get these manuscripts?

Last year, we finally found out the person behind the theft of roughly 1,000 unpublished books: Filippo Bernardini. But that didn’t address the bigger questions about the case.

Bernardini has now gone to court and pleaded guilty to wire fraud. His lawyer, Jennifer Brown, argued for a light sentence, saying he grew up lonely, often bullied for being gay, and found refuge in books.

Bernardini said he “wanted to keep them closely to my chest and be one of the fewest to cherish them before anyone else, before they ended up in bookshops” and that reading them at this stage felt like having a “special and unique connection with the author, almost like I was the editor of that book.”

The argument worked, in that Filippo Bernardini will not be going to jail. He will be deported to the UK or Italy, however, and must pay $88,000 to Penguin Random House to cover their legal fees.

You can read more about this story at the New York Times and the Guardian.

Find more news and stories of interest from the book world in Breaking in Books.