Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2014 Issue

A Library Theft, and a Seemingly Light Sentence

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Criminal Justice at Becker College.

In one of those library theft cases that is something of a head-scratcher, a Leicester, Massachusetts, man has been ordered to pay restitution. Joseph G. Heath, 53, was charged with receiving stolen property, books taken from Becker College, in the fall of 2012. He pleaded to facts sufficient to reach a guilty verdict, which appears to be a legalese way of admitting to guilt without actually doing so.

 

According to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Heath stole around 100 books with a value of more than $115,000 from the college's library. The library had moved a collection of books once owned by 19th century minister Samuel May to a “secure area” while the college built new shelving to better display the collection. The area proved not to be so secure, but the library can't really be faulted too much for this. It was an inside job. Heath was a janitor who took care of the library.

 

The theft first came to light when an archivist noticed there had been some “settling” in the bins where the books were stored. A little digging around revealed that many books appeared to be missing. Around this time, campus police learned that Mr. Heath had sold 20 of these books to a Worcester bookstore for $300. The bookseller in turn offered them to the Leicester Historical Society. The Society declined, but one of its members was surprised to see books from the May collection being offered and contacted the Becker Library. That led to an inventory, which confirmed that books were missing.

 

Meanwhile, another book shop, in Boston, purchased 24 books from Mr. Heath for $850. The owner sold three of those before learning they were stolen. Fortunately, they were recovered. However, the bookseller must have been a bit naïve and thought Mr. Heath had been duped by someone else, as he informed Heath that the books he was selling were stolen. At this point, the police decided to quickly arrest Heath for fear he might try to flee.

 

When the police inspected Heath's home, they found some of the missing books. Heath reportedly explained that he and his live-in girlfriend, who was also his supervisor, were often given books free by the librarian. The librarian told him “you could take whatever you wanted.” The librarian, naturally enough, denied the claim, saying that while she did occasionally give away books no longer needed, nothing was ever given from the May collection.

 

Unfortunately, the Telegram reports, some 50 books thought to be worth around $15,000, and one especially valuable one estimated at $100,000, are still missing. It was only those from the “worth more than $115,000” portion that were recovered. There is a first edition of Uncle Tom's Cabin still missing, and most importantly, a book signed by Abraham Lincoln valued at $100,000.

 

Now we come to the part that is hard to understand – the sentence. Sometimes, there is an explanation why a sentence appears inexplicably light, and we can't help but think that is the case here. The Assistant District Attorney requested that Heath pay $15,000 in restitution, covering the value of most of the books, but giving Heath a mulligan on the Lincoln. The judge cut that by 80%, ordering he pay $3,000 in restitution, and suspending payments to the probation department while restitution is being made. He was placed on probation for three years, but that can be reduced to one year if restitution is made. Somehow, restitution of $3,000 with $115,000 worth of books still missing seems a bit light, not exactly a strong message or deterrent. Where is that Lincoln book? Again, we can't help but think there is an unstated explanation for such apparent leniency.

 

There are some interesting connections between this book, Becker the college and Becker the man, Lincoln and May, that we suspect Mr. Heath did not appreciate. Rev. Samuel May, who once owned these books, was an ardent abolitionist, supporter of women's rights, pacifist, and promoter of the temperance movement, who lived from 1810-1899. He should not be confused with his older cousin, Samuel Joseph May, who was also a dedicated abolitionist. Rev. May was a Unitarian minister in Leicester. His father built him a home in that town as a wedding present. That house became a stop on the Underground Railroad, and remained in the May family for several generations before being purchased by Becker College in 1966. It has since been made into a visitor's center and museum. We don't know how Rev. May came into possession of a signed Lincoln book, though we suspect it is connected to May's passionate abolitionism.

 

Becker College is named for E. C. A. Becker, who founded Becker's Business College in Worcester in 1887. It was the first school in the area to teach students how to use a newly developed high-tech device – the typewriter. Becker was born in Peoria, Illinois, in 1855. It was barely six months after a man from a nearby town, none other than Abraham Lincoln, came to Peoria to give his famous Peoria Speech. In a pre-1858 Lincoln-Douglas debate, Lincoln used that speech to resurrect his political career, abandoned six years earlier. Lincoln spoke out against Douglas' Kansas-Nebraska compromise and laid out his opposition to the spread of slavery, saying that, if all men are created equal, then there is no moral right for one man to make a slave of another. Becker College, Mr. Becker, Abraham Lincoln, and Rev. Samuel May are all intertwined in history.

 

In another bit of irony, Becker College just celebrated the 25th anniversary of one of its most respected programs. Becker offers a notable program in the field of criminal justice.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. September 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Cartwright (George). <i>A Journal of Transactions and Events, during a Residence of nearly Sixteen Years on the Coast of Labrador...,</i> first edition, with A.L.s. from the author, 1792. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Swift (Jonathan). <i>Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World,</i> 2 vol., first edition, Teerink's "A" edition, Printed for Benj. Motte, 1726. £15,000 to £20,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Fourier (Jean Baptiste Joseph). <i>Theorie Analytique de la Chaleur,</i> first edition, Paris, chez Firmin Didot, 1822. £6,000 to £8,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. September 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Boccaccio (Giovanni). <i>Genealogiae Deorum,</i> additions by Dominicus Silvester and Raphael Zovenzonius, Venice, Vindelinus de Spira, 1472. £10,000 to £15,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Mary I. Letter signed at the head "Marye the Quene" to Lord Paget, 1 page, 7th June 1556. The recall from exile of nine persons opposed to the Marian regime. £10,000 to £12,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Nelson (Horatio). Autograph Letter signed "Horatio Nelson" and written to Francis Drake, British Minister at Genoa, discussing the disposition of his "Cruizers" near Genoa. £6,000 to £8,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. September 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Darwin (Charles). Unpublished Autograph Letter signed to Walter Raleigh Browne, playing down his scientific knowledge of comparative anatomy, 1881. £6,000 to £8,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Murphew (J.). <i>The fair in an uproar, or, the dancing-doggs.</i> As they perform in Mr. Pinkeman's New Opera in Bartholomew Fair, 1707. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Chaucer (Geoffrey). <i>The Workes,</i> by [Nicholas Hill for] Thomas Petit, dwellyng in Paules churche yarde at the sygne of the Maydens heed, 1550. £7,000 to £10,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. September 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Austen (Jane). <i>Emma: A Novel,</i> 3 vol., first edition, 1816. £7,000 to £10,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Greene (Graham). <i>Stamboul Train,</i> first edition, first issue, 1932. £8,000 to £12,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Churchill.- Fearon (Percy Hutton) "Poy". “Eat More Beef,” pen and ink cartoon with shading in blue pencil, [July 1928]. £400 to £600
  • <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.

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