The Feather Thief

Kirk Wallace Johnson
In a discussion of his book The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century, author Kirk Wallace Johnson recounts the stunning theft of nearly 300 bird skins – yes, bird skins – from a British museum in 2009. Turns out the feathers were worth millions to those, including the American perpetrator, with a passion for the art of salmon fly-tying.
Wednesday, May 1, 2019
Program: 
6:30 pm
Event Audio

At first blush, the heist was a head-scratcher.
A young American flautist, Edwin Rist, broke into the British Museum of Natural History in Tring in 2009 and made off with nearly 300 bird skins. Bizarre, perhaps. But Rist had a passion for the art of salmon fly-tying, and knew the value of birds’ rare feathers—in the millions of dollars—to those who shared it. Each specimen was almost 200 years old. Many species were extinct.

In a discussion of his best-selling book The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century, author Kirk Wallace Johnson recounts Rist’s obsession and crime, his relatively light punishment (a suspended jail sentence and payment of a fraction of what today would be a $166,000 fine), and the mystery of the scores of skins left missing.

Co-presented by Rainy Day Books.