Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2010 Issue

<i>In The News:</i> "Tome Raider" In Jail Again, Book Returned 90 Years Late, New Publications

Rhsbooktheft

The Royal Horticultural Society was allegedly the


By Michael Stillman

It was a most unmerry Christmas for book thief William Jacques. Jacques is England's notorious "Tome Raider" of the 1990s, who allegedly did not learn his lesson. As they say, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Mr. Jacques once again finds himself in jail.

Jacques, 40, originally from Selby in North Yorkshire, was an economics major, 1990 graduate of Cambridge University, became an accountant, and on the side, a book collector of the worst sort. At some point in the early 1990s, he began removing books from libraries, including that of Cambridge and the British Library. He had no intention of returning them. He brought them to numerous auction houses in Britain and on the continent. Some of the best material, such as two copies of Newton's Principia, he never attempted to sell. He must have realized they would immediately raise red flags. However, many other books did make their way to the auction rooms. It was finally the volume of sales he made that caught up with him. A book purchased at auction for just £120, and brought by the buyer to a bookseller, who recognized that identifying stamps had been removed, led to Jacques' arrest. The book was traced back to the auction house, which identified the consigner as Jacques, and discovered he had consigned many other titles. That led to the discovery that Jacques had also sold books at several other auction houses in England and Europe.

Jacques repeatedly denied he had stolen the books, but as the heat began to build, he placed £360,000 in secret accounts and fled to Cuba. Cuba is where alleged Shakespearean thief Raymond Scott spent some time, making one wonder why this Communist nation seems like such a safe haven for the worst type of capitalists (other than its lack of extradition treaties). However, Jacques decided to return to England, where he was arrested. Jacques continued to deny, and chose to go to trial rather than plead guilty. He was convicted of stealing books valued at around £1.1 million and sentenced to four years in prison.

According to police, Jacques returned to his old trade in either late 2006 or early 2007. It is alleged he stole a 13-volume set of Nouvelle Iconographies des Camellias by Ambroise Verschaffelt from the Royal Horticultural Society's Lindley Library in London. This is a set of color plate books valued at £40,000-£50,000. Again following old habits, Jacques disappeared after jumping bail in April of 2007. That led to the Christmas day arrest in his native Selby as a result of a tip. Jacques, now of no known address, was brought before a judge on January 21, and will be back again in February when a trial date should be set. Meanwhile, he is safely ensconced in the local jail, and it seems unlikely he will be released before trial again. The whereabouts of the books, unfortunately, remains unknown.

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 Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.

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