Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2014 Issue

Next Time Ask for a Signature - $7,000 Bible Stolen from Front Door


The missing bible (from the ABAA website).

It's useful to have a lesson in care every once in awhile when you are in the trade of selling valuable books. Last month, we saw the case of a bookseller who allowed her “friend” and neighbor unmonitored access to her home-shop, only to discover some of her books being sold on eBay. This month we have the case of a bookseller who sold a $7,000 book but forgot to require the buyer sign for it on arrival.


Gene Albert is a seller of religious tracts based in Virginia. In 2006, he established the Christian Heritage Museum in Hagerstown, Maryland, to display his collection of 20,000 bibles and other artifacts, but that museum has since closed. He sold a substantial part of his collection to Steve Green, President of Hobby Lobby, who is building a bible museum in Washington. Albert remains in the book business and estimates he has sold $3 million worth of religious artifacts over the past decade.


One of those artifacts was an eight-volume compact set of the second Robert Estienne Hebrew Bible from the 1540's. This copy once belonged to Scottish politician Andrew Fletcher who lived during the late 17th and early 18th century. Albert sold the set to Jacob Gestetner of Monsey, New York. The price was $7,000. Albert estimated its worth as several thousand dollars more, but at times it's better to have some cash flow than to hold out for a full price.


Albert shipped the bible off by mail but neglected to do something he says he always (almost) does – require a signature on delivery. The result is that when the postman brought the book to the door, he left it there. That is normally what the post office does when no one is home and no signature is required. To make matters worse, Albert did not insure the package. He said that it was in a box that did not look like something of value was inside and he did not want to create such an impression by having an insurance sticker on it. Postal records show the package was scanned in Monsey and delivered to Gestetner's residence.


It wasn't there. Postal records confirm it was delivered, but it was left by the door. Gestetner says he never found it. In an interview, Albert sounded exasperated by his customer. He said it took a week for Gestetner to get back to him after he asked the latter to check with his mail carrier. Gestetner declined to comment on the situation, labeling it a private matter. Albert filed a claim with the post office, asked several local synagogues to keep an eye out for the bible, and had the ABAA (Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America) post it with their database of stolen items so that booksellers will be on the lookout. However, unless it is found, it is Albert who will be out the money. The book was purchased on eBay, and that site requires its sellers to refund the purchase price if they can't establish delivery. What actually happened to the bible is, of course, unknown, but unless something else can be established, the presumption is that someone picked up the package in front of Gestetner's house and walked off with it.


The moral here is obvious. If you're shipping a cheap, used book, it probably isn't worth the cost or inconvenience of requiring someone to sign for it. Its loss is insignificant. For a valuable book, and $7,000 is many times into the valuable range, not requiring a signature (and insurance too) is a way too risky gamble. Ask Mr. Albert.


A description of the missing bible can be found on the ABAA website at the following link: www.abaa.org/blog/post/reported-stolen-8-volume-hebrew-bible-second-estienne-hebrew-bible

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 7. Ritter's unusual sun-dial world map, 1607. Est. $3500 to $4500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 16. Fascinating Japanese satirical map published prior to WWII, 1932. Est. $1400 to $2000
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 30. Newton's 2" miniature terrestrial globe, 1833. Est. $3500 to $4500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 318. Braun & Hogenberg's first plan of Moscow in contemporary color, 1575. Est. $2750 to $3500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 346. One of the most decorative 18th century maps of Malta, 1680. Est. $1200 to $1500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 412. The first printed map devoted to the Pacific in full contemporary color, 1589. Est. $8000 to $10000
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 425. Rare set of celebrated explorers of the New World, 1592. Est. $1900 to $2300
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 436. Two superb miniature atlases bound in one volume with 98 maps, 1682. Est. $5500 to $7500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 445. Part IV of de Bry's "Grand Voyages" by Girolamo Benzoni, 1613. Est. $2000 to $2500
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 447. Tallis' "History of the United States of America" in six volumes, 1850. Est. $1500 to $1800
    <b>Old World Auctions (March 21-28):</b> Lot 448. Mallet's miniature military masterpiece, 1672. Est. $1400 to $1700
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29: Printed & Manuscript African Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Malcolm X, Autograph Letter Signed, from prison, 1950. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Letter from Moses Walker, an enslaved Georgia man, to his mother at another plantation, 1854. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Signed cabinet card of Frederick Douglass, albumen photograph, Boston, circa 1879. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29: Printed & Manuscript African Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Placard from the Memphis Sanitation Worker's strike, 1968. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b><br><i>The North Star,</i> volume 1, issue 27, Rochester, NY, 1848. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Hand-tinted tintype of John Brown, circa 1860. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29: Printed & Manuscript African Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Poster signed & inscribed by Huey Newton, circa 1967. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Album of aerial views of the march on Montgomery, taken by federal troops, 1965. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 29:</b> Poster for the SNCC, photograph by Danny Lyon featuring John Lewis, circa 1962. $3,000 to $4,000.
  • <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. March 9, 2018</b>
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    <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>
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    <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.
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  • <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>
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