• <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>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> first edition of the earliest extant manual on modern chess, Salamanca, circa 1496-97. Sold for $68,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Carte-de-visite album with 83 images of prominent African Americans & abolitionists, circa 1860s. Sold for $47,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Gustav Klimt, <i>Das Werk,</i> Vienna & Leipzig, 1918. Sold for $106,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Man Ray, <i>[London Transport] – Keeps London Going,</i> 1938. Sold for $149,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Nicolas de Fer, <i>L’Amerique Divisee Selon Letendue de ses Principales Parties,</i> Paris, 1713. Sold for $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Russell H. Tandy, <i>The Secret in the Old Attic,</i> watercolor, pencil & ink, 1944. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Hemingway, <i>Three Stories & Ten Poems,</i> first edition of the author's first book, Paris, 1923. Sold for $23,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Walker Evans, <i>River Rouge Plant,</i> silver print, 1947. Sold for $57,500.
  • <b>Doyle, online only: Angling Books from the Collection of Arnold "Jake" Johnson. July 13-24, 2018</b>
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Zane Grey, Inscribed photograph album depicting Grey and party at Catalina, fishing, and in Arizona. $700 to $1,000
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Eric Taverner, Salmon Fishing...London: Seeley, Service & Co., 1931. $600 to $900
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> The Gentleman Angler. $300 to $500
    <b>Doyle, online only: Angling Books from the Collection of Arnold "Jake" Johnson. July 13-24, 2018</b>
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Ken Robinson, Flyfishers' Progress. [London: The Flyfishers' Club, 2000. $200 to $300
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> G. H. Lacy, North Punjab Fishing Club Angler's Handbook. Calcutta: Newman & Co., 1890. $300 to $500
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> J. Harrington Keene, Fly-Fishing and Fly-Making for Trout, etc. New York, 1887. $200 to $300
    <b>Doyle, online only: Angling Books from the Collection of Arnold "Jake" Johnson. July 13-24, 2018</b>
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Arthur Macrate, The History of The Tuna Club, Avalon, Santa Catalina Island, California, 1948. $400 to $600
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Joseph D. Bates Jr. Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing. Harrisburg, PA: The Stackpole Company, 1966. $800 to $1,200
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Paul Schmookler and Ingrid V. Sils. Rare and Unusual Fly Tying Materials: A Natural History. $300 to $500
    <b>Doyle, online only Jul 13-24:</b> Herbert Hoover, Fishing For Fun - And To Wash Your Soul. New York: Random House, 1963. $400 to $600
  • <b>Skinner: Early English Books<br>A Single Owner Sale. July 20, 2018</b>
    <b>Skinner, July 20:</b> Cranmer, Thomas (1489-1556). <i>Catechismus, That is to Say, a Shorte Instruction into Christian Religion...</i> London, 1548. First edition. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Skinner, July 20:</b> Donne, John (1572-1631). <i>Pseudo-Martyr.</i> London: Printed by W[illiam] Stansby for Walter Burre, 1610. First edition. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Skinner, July 20:</b> Fletcher, Giles (1549?-1611). <i>The Russe Common Wealth, or Maner of Gouernement by the Russe Emperour…</i> London, 1591. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Skinner, July 20:</b> Gabelkover, Oswald (1539-1616). <i>The Boock of Physicke.</i> Dordrecht: Isaack Caen, 1599. First edition. $12,000 to $15,000
    <b>Skinner: Early English Books<br>A Single Owner Sale. July 20, 2018</b>
    <b>Skinner, July 20:</b> Galileo, Galilei (1564-1642) trans. Thomas Salusbury (d. 1666). <i>Mathematical Collections and Translations the First Tome.</i> London, 1661. First edition of Galileo's works in English. $35,000 to $50,000
    <b>Skinner, July 20:</b> Higden, Ranulphus (d. 1364). <i>Polycronicon.</i> Translated by John Trevisa, with the 1357-1460 <i>Continuation</i> by William Caxton. Southwark, 1527. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Skinner, July 20:</b> Randolph, Bernard (b. 1643). <i>The Present State of the Morea, Called Anciently Peloponnesus…</i> London, 1689. [Bound with] <i>The Present State of the Islands of the Archipelago…</i> $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Skinner, July 20:</b> <i>The Great Herball Newly Corrected.</i> London, 1539. Folio, ESTC lists three U.S. copies; the last copy offered at auction was incomplete and sold in 1949. $25,000 to $35,000

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - August - 2017 Issue

The Hobby Lobby Case – Illegal Importation of Some of the World's Oldest Writings

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One of the cuneiform tablets (Department of Justice photo).

A settlement has been reached in a smuggling case involving approximately 5,500 items from antiquity, some of the earliest "books" created, cuneiform tablets from the "cradle of civilization," today known as Iraq. In the bizarrely titled case entitled United States of America vs. Approximately Four Hundred Fifty (450) Ancient Cuneiform Tablets and Approximately Three Thousand (3,000) Ancient Clay Bullae, the items (including some others from antiquity) have been seized and a $3 million fine assessed. Despite the case name, it was not the tablets and bullae that were charged with wrongdoing. Rather, it was the large retailer of arts and crafts items, Hobby Lobby. These are not the sort of items sold in their stores, so how did Hobby Lobby get involved in the smuggling of illegal-to-import cultural artifacts, likely stolen, from another country?

 

Hobby Lobby, despite its size, is not a public corporation. It is owned by the Green family of Oklahoma City. The Greens are devout, some might say zealous Christians. They have funded the estimated $400 million construction of the 160,000 square foot Museum of the Bible in Washington, scheduled to open later this year. They have assembled a large collection of Bibles and related material, much of it of substantial value. It is not surprising they would have a keen interest in writings going back to biblical times. Presumably, much of their collection will make its way to the museum. Whether that was to be the eventual destination of these ancient tablets and bullae is not clear.

 

U.S. law provides that it is a violation to import cultural objects illegally removed from Iraq since 1990. Since Iraqi law has provided since 1936 that it is illegal to remove any such objects from the country, clearly any cultural objects removed from Iraq post-1990 may not be imported into the United States. Those removed prior to 1990 may be eligible for importation, though other rules may apply, particularly if they were stolen. Hobby Lobby's claim was that it was informed the items were legally acquired in the 1960's. However, the circumstances of their purchase and importation led to much questioning whether someone at Hobby Lobby must have known, or clearly should have known better. Sanctions apply not just for knowingly importing cultural objects fraudulently obtained, but also "for which a reasonable suspicion exists." Naturally, ignorance of the law is no defense either.

 

The circumstances were described in the U.S. Attorney's pleadings. In the summer of 2010, the President of Hobby Lobby and a consultant went to the United Arab Emirates to inspect approximately 4,500 items from antiquity. They met with two Israeli dealers and one from the UAE. Despite the value of the material, it was spread around the floor, on a coffee table, and in loosely packed cardboard boxes, often with little or no protective layers between pieces. The dealers then proposed an even larger sale, bringing the number of items to just over 5,500.

 

On return, Hobby Lobby's in-house counsel called in an expert to make a presentation about legal issues concerned with antiquities. The "Expert" addressed a group of people, including the President, "Consultant," and in-house counsel. At this point, the Expert learned of Hobby Lobby's interest in purchasing the cuneiforms.

 

Later in August, the Consultant reported to the President and the President's Executive Assistant that the two Israeli dealers informed him the material was owned by a third Israeli dealer. For reasons not clear, the items were allegedly housed in the United States, but shipped to the UAE for inspection. The stated offering price was $2,091,000. The Consultant said he believed they could be appraised for $11,820,000, but also believed the purchase price could be negotiated down to $1,600,000. Israeli Dealer #1 followed up with a provenance statement from Israeli Dealer #3 that his father had legally acquired them in the 1960's from local markets. In the 1970's, he said they were shipped to Mississippi and placed in the care of a custodian. Hobby Lobby made no attempt to contact the alleged custodian to verify the claim. In reality, the alleged custodian never possessed the antiquities, nor even met Israeli Dealer #3 prior to 2007.

 

In October, the Expert provided Hobby Lobby's In-house Counsel with a memorandum. Part of it read, "I would regard the acquisition of any artifact likely from Iraq as carrying considerable risk. An estimated 200-500,000 objects have been looted from archaeological sites in Iraq since the early 1990s; particularly popular on the market and likely to have been looted are cylinder seals, cuneiform tablets..." The memorandum went on to say that such items were likely to be stopped by Customs, and that improper declaration of country of origin could lead to seizure and forfeiture of the object. It also advised checking on previously imported items to confirm country of origin was properly declared. The memo continued that importing cultural property looted from Iraq after 1990 could lead to criminal penalties and fines. The U.S. Attorney's pleadings said this memorandum was not shared by In-house Counsel with the President, Consultant, Executive Assistant, or anyone else involved with the purchase and importation of the items.

 

Nevertheless, Hobby Lobby made the purchase for $1.6 million, the invoice stating the seller was Israeli Dealer #3, whom no one from the firm had met, and that the artifacts originated in Israel, though they did not. The $1.6 million was then wired to seven different bank accounts associated with five separate individuals, none of whom was Israeli Dealer #3. Rather, it was Israeli dealers #1 and #2, the UAE dealer, and two others.

 

In November, the employee tasked with receiving the items ("Curator") contacted Hobby Lobby's International Department and Executive Assistant to arrange for shipping. The International Department recommended using their customs broker. However, after the broker cautioned the CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) might detain the material, the Curator and Executive Assistant had Israeli Dealers #1 and #2 handle the shipping.

 

Later in November, though prior to the execution of the purchase agreement, the UAE dealer began shipping the artifacts. Numerous "errors" were made. The first package was labeled "ceramic tiles." No formal entry was made with customs, though such is required for goods exceeding $2,000 in value, as clearly was the case here. In mid-December, three more packages were shipped, listed as "Tiles (Sample)." Country of origin and value were unstated. They were addressed to the President or Executive Assistant. Some were sent to Hobby Lobby, others to two related companies in Oklahoma City. Shipments continued, sometimes without required details, other times false, including wrong country of origin or false value. At one point, the Executive Assistant emailed the UAE dealer that as long as the value of packages were kept under $2,000, they would not have to clear Customs. Obviously, that would have been difficult considering the value of the items being shipped. Still, many were declared to have a value of only $250 or $300.

 

The items were shipped via Fedex, and about January 3, 2011, Customs inspected one of the packages. It was labeled "hand made clay tiles (sample)." They weren't. Nor were they manufactured in Turkey or worth only $250 as stated. The invoice also listed the UAE dealer as the seller.

 

Four more shipments were intercepted and inspected and "errors" were found with them too. On January 19, CBP seized the packages, which contained 223 cuneiform tablets and 300 clay bullae.

 

Hobby Lobby explained the reason payments were made to multiple individuals was because they were the original owners. However, this is inconsistent with the provenance statement that it all belonged to Israeli Dealer #3's family, which established the supposed legitimacy of their ownership.

 

Hobby Lobby consented to the forfeiture of the goods and to paying $3 million to resolve the civil action. They also agreed to provide the government with quarterly reports of purchases of cultural items for the next 18 months and provide some sort of sensitivity training to its personnel. Hobby Lobby President Steve Green published a statement saying, "We should have exercised more oversight and carefully questioned how the acquisitions were handled. Hobby Lobby has cooperated with the government throughout its investigation, and with the announcement of today’s settlement agreement, is pleased the matter has been resolved."

 

The Company statement explained, "The Company was new to the world of acquiring these items, and did not fully appreciate the complexities of the acquisitions process. This resulted in some regrettable mistakes. The Company imprudently relied on dealers and shippers who, in hindsight, did not understand the correct way to document and ship these items. However, since learning of these errors, the Company has been an active participant with the government’s investigation and supports its efforts to protect the world’s ancient heritage. At no time did Hobby Lobby ever purchase items from dealers in Iraq or from anyone who indicated that they acquired items from that country. Hobby Lobby condemns such conduct and has always acted with the intent to protect ancient items of cultural and historical importance."

 

Somehow, the alleged naiveté and blame shifting just doesn't sound right. It's hard to fathom how it all could be a case of mistakes and misguided trust on everyone's part. Did no one at Hobby Lobby even wonder about all the "errors," many of which, such as content and price labeling, repeated over and over, were obviously false? Not "understanding the correct way to document an item" might lead to mistakes in filling out a form, but mistaking precious, ancient cuneiform tablets for new tile samples? How about the Expert's warning, the Custom Broker's warning, the astonishing bargain price, or the strange method of multiple payments to separate people and shipments to multiple addresses? It seems hard to imagine that no one at the company was even suspicious, or that the company made a thorough investigation designed to root out the truth. The indicia of fraud were just too obvious for such a benign explanation to sound plausible.

 

A statement from the U.S. Attorney's office, attributed to Special Agent-in-Charge Melendez, states, "The protection of cultural heritage is a mission that HSI [ed. note: Homeland Security] and its partner U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) take very seriously as we recognize that while some may put a price on these artifacts, the people of Iraq consider them priceless." Perhaps, but this action, if this is all there is, is not that much of a deterrent. Hobby Lobby forfeited the $1.6 million they paid for the artifacts plus paid a $3 million fine, for a loss of $4.6 million. Meanwhile, Hobby Lobby did an estimated $4 billion in sales last year. Forbes Magazine estimated its CEO, David Green, to be worth $5.5 billion. The fine effectively amounts to nothing at all. If this is all there is, Hobby Lobby does indeed have much to be thankful for.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. July 28, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 372: Martin Luther King Jr. March for Freedom Now! Placard. Chicago, 1960. 28 x 22”. $3,000 to $6,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 567: Warhol, Andy. Tate Gallery Exhibition Booklet, Signed on the Cover by Warhol. Tate Gallery, 1971. $700 to $900
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 72: Mitchell, Margaret. <i>Gone With the Wind.</i> New York: The Macmillan Co., 1936. First edition, first issue. $4,000 to $5,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. July 28, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 468: Photo Archive Documenting the 1930s—50s Chicago Jazz and Night Club Scene. A significant collection. $2,000 to $4,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 143: Dr. Seuss. <i>Oh Say Can You Say.</i> 1979, First Edition, Signed. $200 to $300
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 285: [Maps] Thomas G. Bradford. <i>A Comprehensive Atlas, Geographical, Historical & Commercial.</i> Boston: William D. Ticknor, 1835. First Edition. $1,600 to $1,800
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. July 28, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 69: Herman Melville. <i>Moby Dick, or The Whale</i>. New York: Random House, 1930. First Kent Trade Edition. $400 to $600
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 295: John James Audoban. Group of 148 Lithographs from the Birds of America. Philadelphia: J.T. Bowen, ca. 1840s. $600 to $800
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 54: Langston Hughes. <i>One-Way Ticket.</i> New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1949. First edition. $300 to $500
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. July 28, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 7: Ray Bradbury. <i>The Martian Chronicles.</i> With a Wine Label Signed by Bradbury. Garden City: Doubleday, 1950. First edition $300 to $500
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 121. Frank L Baum. <i>The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.</i> Chicago: George M. Hill Co., 1899, 1900. First Edition. $4,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, July. 28:</b> Lot 369. [Declaration of Independence] Peter Force Engraving of the Declaration of Independence. One page; 29 x 26”. From the "American Archives" 1837-1853 series of books. $15,000 to $20,000
  • <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>The Tragedie of Julius Caesar.</i> London, 1623. 1st appearance in print, Complete from the First Folio. Sold for $175,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Ernst, Max. <i>Mr. Knife and Miss Fork</i>. Paris, 1932. DELUXE EDITION. Sold for $15,625
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Einstein, Albert. Signed Passport Photo for his US citizenship application. Bermuda, 1935. Sold for $17,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Verard, Antoine. Illuminated printed Book of Hours. Paris, 1507. Sold for $7,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Wetterkurzschlussel. German Weather Report Codebook - for Enigma use. Berlin, 1942. Sold for $225,000
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Morelos y Pavon, Jose Maria. Autograph letter signed to El Virrey Venegas, February 5, 1812. Sold for $6,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Milne, A.A. Complete set of <i>Winnie-the-Pooh</i> books. 4 volumes. All first issue points. London, 1924-1928. Sold for $5,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> A 48-star American Flag, battle worn flown at Guadalcanal and Peleliu, 1942-1944. Sold for $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Locke, John. Autograph Letter Signed mourning the death of his friend, William Molyneaux, 2 pp, October 27, 1698. Sold for $20,000

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