Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2013 Issue

Canadian Police Seek Help Identifying Owners of Huge Trove of Stolen Artifacts

Nssuitofarmour

This suit of armor was among the 1,000+ artifacts recovered.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are looking for help in locating the owners of over 1,000 stolen artifacts, ranging from books, documents, manuscripts, drawings, photographs, and paintings, to more esoteric items, such as a suit of armor, a World War I era gas mask, a desktop model canoe, and a ship's door. Tools, tins, glassware, and “you name it,” according to the officer seeking the victims, are other items they have recovered. They were all discovered in the home of a man from Fall River, near Halifax, Nova Scotia. Fifty-one year old John Mark Tillmann was already very well-known to police when they searched his home. They have been interacting with him for the past 30 years, interactions that appear to have had little effect on his antisocial behavior.

Halifax police had seized a letter from Tillmann written by General James Wolfe in a traffic stop during July of 2012. It took some time, but they traced the letter back to the collection of the Dalhousie University Archives. As a result, a search warrant was issued and a search made on January 18. It was then that the enormous trove of missing items was discovered.

Most of the material is believed to have come from universities, museums, and private collections around Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada. While some of the items had been reported as stolen, most had not. That is why police are seeking help in identifying the owners of many of these artifacts. The timing of the thefts is uncertain as well, though it is believed to have occurred over many years. The police have already located a dozen institutions with missing items found in this collection. Others with missing artifacts that may be among this group are urged to contact the RCMP with a description, and if possible, a photograph of those items. The contact to relay this information is Darryl Morgan, email darryl.morgan@rcmp-grc.gc.ca

Among the notable items recovered was the previously mentioned letter from General James Wolfe, written shortly before the siege of Louisbourg in 1758. Wolfe commanded British troops in this critical battle for the French fort at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River during the French and Indian War. The victory was essential to the British as it freed them to attack the French in Canada by way of the St. Lawrence. The following year, Wolfe would again be leading an attack that drove the French from Quebec, though he lost his life in the process.

From the field of print, a copy of one of the most collectible of books around was recovered – a first edition of On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin. A copy of John Elliott Woodford's painting of Province House, stolen from Province House in 1999, was also found. The possessor seems to have been more of a collector than a “businessman” selling off acquired material. How Tillmann came into possession of these goods is as yet unclear. He has not been charged with theft, but with possession of stolen property.

Criminal charges are nothing new for Mr. Tillmann. One wonders if there have been any charges in Nova Scotia the past few years for which he was not a suspect. He has some 15+ convictions on his record dating back to 1983, and countless other accusations. He spent two years in prison following a 2009 conviction for assaulting, threatening and extorting a former girlfriend. According to her testimony reported in the Halifax Chronicle Herald at the time, “Mr. Tillmann threatened to smash her face into powder and injure her toes.” She also reported he threatened “I’ll come after you asymmetrically.” I'm not sure what that means, perhaps something related to the bizarre face and toes threat.

Mr. Tillmann was later charged with attempted murder, assault, and failure to provide adequate care for his elderly mother. Yet another charge stated that he threatened violence on his sister if she attempted to contact their mother. These charges were dropped after his mother died (of natural causes) at age 82. More recently, he did receive a six-month conditional sentence for issuing a forged check to a body shop. He was ordered to provide community service, and undoubtedly the community will be delighted to receive his help. The conditional sentence was almost withdrawn after Tillmann was charged with stealing water jugs from a store, but the prosecutor relented after the store declined to press charges.

The gentleman currently is scheduled for trial on a series of other charges issued late last year. He was facing 14 claims relating to contacts with another ex-girlfriend, including assaults and threats, even one that he threatened to kill her dog. It is no wonder he has trouble maintaining relationships. Tillmann was out on bond from these charges at the time of his most recent arrest. This time he has not received bond. He will return to court for a bail hearing on February 27.

Commenting on the case, Sgt. Colin MacLean of the Halifax District of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said, “This is one of the most unique files that I have investigated in my career. The items that we have seized are vast in number and will take investigators in many different paths. One of the biggest challenges ahead will be determining ownership.” If you can help, you are urged to contact the police.

A few of the recovered items can be seen on the following web page of the RCMP: www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ns/features-envedette/PublicAssistance-L'aideDuPublic-eng.htm.

Our thanks to the folks at Gallery 18 in New London, Prince Edward Island, for providing a copy of the RCMP's notice seeking help from those who may be able to identify any of these items.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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>
  • <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>Aurora Australis.</i> Printed at the sign of 'The Penguins'; East Antarctica, 1908. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>South Polar Times.</i> 1st edition, limited issue. from the library of Michael Barne. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> General Washington's <i>Proceedings of a General Court Martial... of Major General Lee.</i> Philiadelphia, 1778. 100 copies printed for Congress. BOUND WITH: ...Court Martial... of St Clair and ...Schuyler. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>The Voice of the People.</i> Boston, 1754. Rare pamphlet on the Excise Tax. Nathaniel Sparhawk's copy. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Autograph Letter Signed ("S.L. Clemens"), offering extensive hard-earned advice on writing, 5 pp, 1881. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> After Fra Egnazio Danti. <i>L'Ultime Parti not:e nel Indie Occid:ntli" [The last known parts of the Western Indies].</i> Painted Map of California, Western Mexico, and Japan. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Ptolemaeus, Claudius. <i>Geographie opus nouissima...</i> 1513. The most important edition of Ptolemy, containing the Admiral's Map. $250,000 to $350,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> De Arellano, Don Alonso. Manuscript, his <i>"Relación mui singular y circunstanciada... Capitán del Patax San Lucas,"</i> manuscript copy from the Sir Thomas Phillips collection. $50,000 to $80,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Purchas, Samuel. <i>Purchas his Pilgrimes.</i> First edition. With John Simth's engraved map of Virginia. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Lewis, Meriwether. Contemporary manuscript true copy of his final power of attorney, 1809. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>A New Method of Macarony Making, as Practiced at Boston in North America.</i> Mezzotint. London, 1774. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>Scientific Base Ball Pitching: A Treatise on the Pitcher, Pitching, Origin and Philosophy of the Curve.</i> Chicago, 1897. $2,000 to $3,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Franklin H. Brown, <i>State Sovereignty, National Union,</i> Chicago, 1860. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Thomas Paine, <i>The American Crisis,</i> Fishkill, NY, December 1776. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b><br>The Aitken Bible, Philadelphia, 1781. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francisco Loubayssin de Lamarca, probable first edition of the first novel set in the Spanish New World, Paris, 1617. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Juan de la Anunciación, <i>Sermonario en lengua mexicana,</i> first edition, first book of sermons in Nahuatl, Mexico, 1577. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Maturino Gilberti, <i>Thesoro spiritual en lengua de Mechuacá,</i> first edition, Mexico, 1558. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Commission of William O. Stoddard as secretary to the president, signed by Lincoln, Washington, 1861. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> <i>Clay and Frelinghuysen,</i> flag banner, circa 1844. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Daguerreotype of a man believed to be Frederick Granger Williams Smith, son of Joseph Smith, circa late 1850s. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> John C. Wolfe, <i>Portrait of Abraham Lincoln,</i> oil on board in period wooden frame, circa 1860s. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francis W. Winton, manuscript on pow-wows with indigenous Canadians, 1881. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Family letters from two young daguerreotype artists, 1826-79. $10,000 to $15,000.
  • <b>Leland Little: Important Fall Auction. September 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Published Half Plate Ambrotype of a North Carolina Confederate Officer. $2,000 to $4,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Two 19th Century Books Pertaining to Canada's Red River Settlement. $400 to $800
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Two Books With Fore-Edge Paintings of British Architectual Landmarks. $400 to $600
    <b>Leland Little: Important Fall Auction. September 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987), "Torte a la Dobosch" from <i>Wild Raspberries</i>. $1,000 to $3,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990), <i>Pop Shop II,</i> One Plate screenprint in colors, on wove paper, 1998. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Thomas Rowlandson (British, 1756-1827), Twenty-Two Prints from the <i>Tours of Dr. Syntax</i>. $500 to $1,000

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