Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2014 Issue

A Tale of Two Thieves

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12-year-old girl with “I steal” sign.

Two book thefts from Asia recently made the newswires. The outcome of both is surprising to western ears. However, this really isn’t a story about the difference in treatment of book theft between two Asian countries, or between Asian countries and the West. It is more a story of a difference in treatment between individuals. To put it another way, the title of this tale could also have been “It’s not what you did, but who you are.” Some people are judged by different standards than others, and generally it has to do with how powerful you are. This story might just as easily have arisen in the West as Asia.

 

The first story comes from the Kashmir region of India. According to the Greater Kashmir website, hundreds of books are missing from the library in Srinagar, a city of over one million people. They were not snuck out in someone’s briefcase, under a jacket, or in the dead of night. Over the past couple of decades, they have simply been “borrowed” and never returned. It seems highly unlikely there was ever an intention to return them when they were “borrowed.” Securing their return looks next to impossible. The reason is that the “borrowers” were government officials. Being an official of the law, of course, means you are above it. This is not a concept unique to Asia.

 

Greater Kashmir quotes a library staffer plaintively saying, “There is little hope we can retrieve the lost books because those who owe these are now VVIPs. They may not bother to respond to our notice.” Many of the books are described as of “high archival value.” The officials would claim they needed the books for research, but never return them. It seems there is just not much that can be done when the thieves are important government personalities.

 

The second story takes us to Vietnam. According to Thanh Nien News, a 12-year-old girl walked into a supermarket and picked out two books she wanted to read. Unfortunately, she had no money with her at the time. The seventh grader really wanted to read the books, so she made a bad choice. She slipped the books under her jacket and walked out the door. When she did, the books set off the store’s alarm system.

 

Store employees evidently wanted to teach the young lady a lesson. They demanded she write a report detailing her wrongdoing, including giving her name, school, and family contacts, or they would call the police. When she declined, they did not call her parents or the police. Instead, they taped her arms to a railing by the front door of the store and hung a sign around her neck confessing her crime. Then they took photographs of her and posted them online.

 

The family reports that the girl has suffered severe shock. They say she is constantly crying and avoids friends. Her father was quoted as saying that when she does wrong, her family will punish her. He described this as “an act of humiliation, not deterrence.”

 

The value of the two books was $0.93.

 

Certainly, some sort of discipline was in order. You can’t steal things even if they are worth less than a dollar. Being caught itself must have been terribly embarrassing and, with a good lecture, a reasonable amount of discipline. The store employees could have called in the parents, resulting in further embarrassment and discipline at home. They could have warned her that another violation would result in the police being called, or she being banned from the store for life. They could have told her that reading books is a good thing, something to be encouraged, but you still cannot take books from a store unless you pay for them. Perhaps they could have steered her toward the nearest library. This could have been an excellent teaching opportunity to guide a young lady with a desire to read in the right direction. The opportunity was wasted.

 

These two stories are unrelated. Still….. Is anyone surprised by who was allowed to get away with a large theft, and who was cruelly humiliated for a small one? No, I don’t think so.

Rare Book Monthly

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    <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
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    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Published Half Plate Ambrotype of a North Carolina Confederate Officer. $2,000 to $4,000
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    <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
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    <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>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.
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    <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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