Berwyn man's odd book collection set for auction

March 10, 2010 3:30:03 PM PST
Back in 2007, a man named John Sisto died in suburban Berwyn. His death set off a chain of events that involved the police, art historians in Italy and the FBI.

As ABC 7's Frank Mathie explains, some of Sisto's rare books are about to be auctioned off.

Next Tuesday, at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers on West Lake Street, some very rare books will head for the auction block. Rare, as in first edition copies of Mein Kampf and the works of Charles Darwin. Add in some beautiful engravings and we're talking big money here.

This just might be the most unusual part of next Tuesday's auction. It is the book collection of a man named John Sisto. It's not valuable because it's worth a lot of money. It's valuable because this just could be the last chapter in a very intriguing story involving the FBI.

It began in the summer of 2007 in a Berwyn bungalow owned by Sisto, who had recently died. His sons called the cops because they thought there might be stolen artwork inside. It turned out the house was loaded with loot from Italy, priceless treasures worth millions.

The FBI stepped in. They traced the items and, working with the Italian government, the hot items were returned to Italy. But the old books? They went to John Sisto's family. The man had an unusual taste in books.

"Everything he was interested in. There's quite a few dictionaries. He loved dictionaries. Italian to English. English to Latin things like that," said Mary Williams of Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.

There is beautiful artwork in the John Sisto library, but more than anything, it's old books. Most of them are hundreds of years old.

"They're really interesting books. You know, they're 18th century. They're beautiful. And they're historically important because of their age and content," said Leslie Hindman.

But, you have to wonder, if you end up buying these books, are you buying stolen goods? No, according to the FBI.

"They've gone through every single book. Looked at every single book. They've talked to the government of Italy, and the government has taken everything they thought was stolen," said Hindman.

How much is it all worth? We find out next Tuesday.