Rare Book Monthly

Articles - August - 2009 Issue

Who Bears the Loss from the David Slade Thefts?

Davidsladeaba

David Slade (from the ABA Newsletter).


By Michael Stillman

One of the uglier criminal book theft cases came to its legal conclusion earlier this year when David Slade, Past President of England's Antiquarian Booksellers Association, was sentenced to 28 months in prison. Slade had been hired by the very wealthy Sir Evelyn de Rothschild to catalogue his library. Slade provided "services" beyond those called for in the contract, namely, pilfering at least $340,000 worth of books. He pleaded guilty. The case has been an enormous embarrassment to the ABA and booksellers everywhere, but Slade, whose reputation and finances are in shambles, has paid dearly for his actions. Unfortunately, he is not the only one likely to pay for his crimes, and herein lies one of the uglier side effects of this sordid tale. Which innocent bystanders will also be forced to pay for Mr. Slade's crimes?

The sentencing of Mr. Slade ended the criminal case, but left unresolved who bears the financial losses. Here is the problem. When the stolen books were sold, Mr. Slade received the proceeds. To the extent he still has them, he will be required to return the money to the innocent victims. However, according to the court, Mr. Slade was not so much motivated by greed as by financial difficulties. He needed the money to keep his head above water. In other words, most of the money he received is long gone. Someone is going to be out the ill-gained money he spent. The question is... who?

The answer likely depends on which group of books is considered. There are two: those which can be traced, and those which cannot. Those which cannot be traced beyond Mr. Slade, will almost certainly end up being Mr. Rothschild's loss. Those which can be traced, especially those which are recovered, will likely result in someone else's loss.

The reason those that cannot be traced will likely be Mr. Rothschild's loss is there is simply no one else in the chain, other than the broke Mr. Slade, who can be held accountable. However, for those books that are found, and we are not familiar enough with British law to be certain, but in most American jurisdictions, the loss would probably fall to the first person in the chain who has enough money to repay. First off, since the books are stolen property, Mr. Rothschild is entitled to their return. So, for example, if Bookseller #1 bought a stolen book from Mr. Slade, then sold it to Bookseller #2, who sold it to Mr. Collector, Mr. Collector would be obligated to give the stolen book back to Mr. Rothschild. He would receive nothing from Mr. Rothschild in return, though he may have spent thousands of dollars to buy the book. Too bad. He is out the money. However, Mr. Collector would be entitled to sue Bookseller #2 for selling him a book he did not own, and thereby recover his losses. Bookseller #2 could in turn sue Bookseller #1 on the same grounds. So in this case, it is Bookseller #1 who ends up losing his money. The only person he could sue, Mr. Slade, has no money to repay him. Now if Bookseller #1, like Mr. Slade, is broke, the loss then ends with Bookseller #2, and if he too is broke, Mr. Collector ends up as the loser. Only Mr. Rothschild is safe from loss if the book is found.

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>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann, wallpaper sample book, circa 1919. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Archive from a late office of the Breuer & Smith architectural team, New York, 1960-70s. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> William Morris, <i>The Story of the Glittering Plain or the Land of Living Men,</i> illustrated by Walter Crane, Kelmscott Press, Hammersmith, 1894. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustave Doré, <i>La Sainte Bible selon la Vulgate,</i> Tours, 1866. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustav Klimt & Max Eisler, <i>Eine Nachlese,</i> complete set, Vienna, 1931. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>Eric Allatini & Gerda Wegener, <i>Sur Talons Rouges,</i> with original watercolor by Wegener, Paris, 1929. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>C.P. Cavafy, <i>Fourteen Poems,</i> illustrated & signed by David Hockney, London, 1966. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jean Midolle, <i>Spécimen des Écritures Modernes...</i>, Strasbourg, 1834-35. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>E.A. Seguy, <i>Floréal: Dessins & Coloris Nouveaux,</i> Paris, 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.
  • <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. SOLD for $131,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. SOLD for $516,500
    <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. SOLD for $106,250
    <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. SOLD for $16,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. SOLD for $275,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. SOLD for $118,750
  • <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> E.H. SHEPARD, Original drawing for A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner.<br>$40,000-60,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> BERNARD RATZER, Plan of the City of New York in North America, surveyed in the years 1766 & 1767. $80,000-100,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> THOMAS JEFFERSON, Autograph letter signed comparing Logan, Tecumseh, and Little Turtle to the Spartans. Monticello: 15 February 1821. $14,000-18,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN C. FREMONT, Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, in the Year 1842.. Abridged edition, the only one containing the folding map From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $3,000-5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ZANE GREY, Album containing 94 large format photographs of Grey and party at Catalina Island, Arizona, and fishing in the Pacific. From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $5,000-$8,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> WILLIAM COMBE, A History of Madeira ... illustrative of the Costumes, Manners, and Occupations of the Inhabitants. produced by Ackermann in 1821; From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ERIC TAVERNER, Salmon Fishing... One of 275 copies signed by Taverner, published in 1931,From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN WHITEHEAD, Exploration of Mount Kina Balu, North Borneo. Whitehead reached the high point of Kinabalu in 1888. Part of a major group of travel books from the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN LONG, Voyages and Travels of an Indian Interpreter and Trader, describing the Manners and Customs of the North American Indians... The first edition of 1791. $3,000-$5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> SAMUEL BECKETT, Stirrings Still. This, Beckett’s last work of fiction with original lithographs by Le Brocquy, limited to 200 copies signed by the author and the artist. From the Estate of Howard Kaminsky.. $1,500-$2,500

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