Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2011 Issue

In The News:  A Terrible Crime, a Book Thief's Book, and Carl Crawford's Bookstore.


"Mr. Pink's" story of the Transylvania book heist.

A terrible story came out of Salt Lake City a few weeks ago of the street dangers rarely experienced in the book trade. Respected bookseller Sherry Black was brutally murdered in her store, in a case that is still unresolved at this time. Mrs. Black was reportedly beaten and stabbed several times, with extensive blood loss at the scene. Several books were reportedly stolen, but the level of violence displayed in the killing suggests that perhaps this was more than a simple theft gone awry.


The killing gathered even more local attention because Mrs. Black was the mother-in-law of one of Salt Lake City's more prominent citizens. Her son-in-law is Greg Miller, CEO of the Larry H. Miller Group. This firm is the owner of the Utah Jazz, Salt Lake City's NBA basketball team, the city's only major league professional sports team. A moment of silence was held before one of the team's recent games in her memory.


While no suspects have been named, there apparently has been an investigation relating to an incident last year when she unknowingly purchased some stolen books. Mormon books are among the most highly collectible of works, and these had been stolen from the library of one of the leaders of an offshoot of the larger Church of Latter Day Saints. The books had been stolen by the owner's son, who sold them to Mrs. Black. The son had reportedly threatened violence to his father, saying he was a member of a gang which would exact retribution if he pressed charges. Mrs. Black returned the books once she learned of the source, but it appears police believe there may be a connection between this incident and her murder.


Criminals sometimes get two chances to profit from their crimes:  once when they steal the goods, the second time when they write the book. Charles Allen, one of the four participants in the Transylvania book heist, has published a book detailing his recollections of the planning, execution, and aftermath of the incident. Mr. Allen and three other college students pulled off a heist of books at the Transylvania University Library in Kentucky a few years back. They took some valuable books, although the taking of some incomplete sets indicated an at best limited understanding of book collecting. They did themselves no favors by resorting to an assault on the librarian, zapping her with stun gun to keep her quiet (in court, they argued it was just a stun "pen," an attempt to minimize the assault that fell on deaf ears).


Their next step was to attempt to sell the books to Christie's in New York. Apparently they believed Christie's would not be suspicious of a few young men with no knowledge of rare books trying to sell them some Audubons. They were wrong. Having used one of the participants email address to contact the auction house, it was easy to track them down. The men were convicted and Allen was sentenced to 87 months in prison. He is still serving that sentence. He sent notes out to his brother who compiled this self-published book.


The title of the book is Mr. Pink. The thieves used colors for their code names. It appears to be available in a few stores in Kentucky and is also be hawked on the internet. Perhaps he will one day sell the rights for a made-for-TV movie, though I hope not. One does not want to see them profiting in any way for their behavior, but wishes them well if, after they have served their times, they put all of this behind them and change their lives, rather than attempting to profit from their sordid past.


One of the stranger stories hit the newswires last month, though alas, it all proved to be fiction. A blogger on the website of the Kansas City Royals reported that Carl Crawford, newly signed outfielder of the Boston Red Sox, was planning on opening an antiquarian bookshop in his new home. Crawford was depicted as being a collector of early Americana, Plymouth, Puritans and such, and now had the money to realize his lifelong dream of running a bookstore. Certainly Mr. Crawford would be able to absorb the losses that generally come with bookselling as his contract with the Red Sox called for him to be paid $142 million. Not even a bookshop could lose that much very easily.


The story hit the newswires, a heartwarming piece for those who love old books. Here was a wealthy baseball player who appreciated books too, an incongruous, too good to be true piece of news. Of course, it was. However, Mr. Crawford apparently aided the hoax when it first came out by posting a "tweet" saying that yes, he was going to open such a store. Anyone who has just been paid $142 million is likely to be in a happy, jocular mood. Still, the entire story was a joke, and it is hard to see why several legitimate news sources fell for it. All of the articles quoted the original blog from the Kansas City Royals website. That this site would get a scoop should have raised red flags, particularly when the story was so hard to believe. The Kansas City Royals have as little to do with Mr. Crawford as they do with winning baseball games. His previous address was Tampa, not Kansas City. The blog writer has since admitted it was a joke, and Crawford can be expected to dedicate the next seven years (the length of his contract) to playing baseball. After that, maybe, just maybe…




Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Jenner (Rev. George Charles). <i>The Evidence at Large...Respecting Dr Jenner's Discovery of Vaccine Inoculation,</i> presentation copy from Edward Jenner to Rev. Rowland Hill, 1805. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Houdini (Harry).- Maggi (Girolamo). <i>De tintinnabulis liber postumus...de equuleo liber,</i> Harry Houdini's copy, Amsterdam, H. Wetstein, 1689. £600 to £800
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Meyer (Henry Leonard). Coloured Illustrations of British Birds, and their Eggs , 7 vol. in 2 plus Illustrations of British Birds, 4 vol., 1842-50 and [1835-51]. £5,000 to £7,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Dickens (Charles). <i>An Entirely New Romantic Drama, in Three Acts, by Mr. Wilkie Collins, called The Frozen Deep,</i> 1857. £3,000 to £4,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Lighthouses and Islands of Ireland, c. 125 drawings, 1867. £6,000 to £8,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Shelley (Lady Jane). Diary, 1853 & 1860. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Scottish Binding.- The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, bound in contemporary brown polished calf decorated with the figure of a Chinese spearman, by ?James Scott of Edinburgh, 1778. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Greene (Graham). <i>The Man Within,</i> first edition, signed by the author, 1929. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Mellan (Claude, 1598-1688). The Holy Face, or the Veil of St Veronica, [c. 1649 and later]. £800 to £1,200
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Desaguliers (John Theophilus). <i>A Dissertation concerning Electricity,</i> W. Innys, and T. Longman, 1742. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Le Jeune (Paul). <i>Relation de se qui s'est passé en la Nouvelle France en l'anné 1636 enuoyée au R.Pere Provincial de la Compagnie de Iesus en la Province de France,</i> 1637. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar. 22:</b> Stumpf (Johann Rudolph). <i>Gemeiner loblicher Eydgnoschafft Stetten, Landen und Völckern Chronicwirdiger thaaten beschreibung, </i> Zurich, Froschauer, 1586. £3,000 to £4,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> George Washington, Letter Signed to General James Clinton, preparing for the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign, 1778. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising to send reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Thomas Edison, Autograph Letter Signed, to Western Union President William Orton, 1878. $10,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> William, Bishop of Coventry, vellum charter granting the church of Rochdale to the Cistercian Abbey of Stanlaw, in Latin, 1222. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> FDR, Photograph Signed & Inscribed, framed with wood removed from the White House roof, 1927. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Jean Dubuffet, archive including many letters written while painting in NYC, 1951-72. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Mohandas K. Gandhi, Autograph Letter Signed, describing the source of his patience, 1939. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Lithograph portrait of Albert Einstein by Hermann Struck, signed by both, 1923. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Charles The Bold, Duke of Burgundy, Letter Signed to Johann IV of Nassau, in French, 1470. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Jean Cocteau, Autograph Letter Signed, in French, 1919. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Louis Armstrong, two Autograph Letters Signed to Erich Kauffmann, his lip salve purveyor, 1965-70. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 22:</b> Wernher von Braun, Autograph Letter Signed to Jonathan Cross, 1975. $5,000 to $7,500.
  • <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. $80,000 to $120,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. $200,000 to 300,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. $80,000 to $120,000
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>

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