Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2010 Issue

<i>Book 'em:</i> One Down, One to Go

Scott7-10

The flamboyant Raymond Scott at an earlier hearing.


By Michael Stillman

Maybe there's something in the water. England has become the site of two dramatic and unusual book theft cases. One involves the legendary "Tome Raider," who officially became a two-time loser a few days back. The other implicates one of the more colorful characters ever accused of stealing a Shakespeare First Folio, a trial currently underway.

William Jacques, better known as the "Tome Raider" earlier this decade, proved the old adage that insanity is doing the same thing over and hoping for a different outcome. In the 1990s, Jacques was one of the more successful of book thieves. He would steal books from major English libraries and take them to auction houses. In his time, he probably stole a couple of million dollars worth of books. Jacques is a learned and said to be very intelligent man, and like most smart thieves, he was very good at it until he got caught. Thefts are like driving a car. You can do it right a hundred times, but make one mistake and all the successes are erased. Jacques was brought down by one £120 book, that the bookseller/purchaser noticed had identifying markings removed. The book was traced to Jacques, and then everything else Jacques had sold at auction was traced, and soon enough his whole house of cards came tumbling down. In 2002, Jacques was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison.

According to police, Jacques was not out of prison too long when he returned to his old ways. This time he stole a 13-volume set from the Royal Horticultural Society's library valued at £40,000. He was arrested Christmas Day last and the trial took place in June. The outcome was the same as years earlier. On June 22, he was convicted. Reportedly, he signed in to the Horticultural Society library using a false name, and exited walking stiffly, books hidden beneath a tweed coat. He did this too many times, thereby raising suspicion. Eventually, he was stopped, and found to be holding "a thief's shopping list," a list of books and their locations he wished to take, as well as of those books with maps and plates which could readily be removed and sold.

Sentencing is scheduled for July 20. Jacques has reportedly been told that the term will be measured in years, not months. However, the judge is giving him time to decide whether he wishes to reveal the location of the missing books, as this could be a mitigating factor at the time of sentencing.

Meanwhile the trial continues in the case of Raymond Scott, who may not have a colorful nickname, but does not lack for a colorful personality. Scott has made a number of dramatic appearances in court, but the publicity-conscious pensioner with extravagant tastes will need to be at his best now as the case against him is quite serious. He is accused of stealing a Shakespeare First Folio from the library of Durham University.

The Durham First Folio had been missing for 10 years when Scott walked into the Folger Library in Washington, D.C., asking to have his book's authenticity determined. The experts brought in by the Folger agreed it was authentic, but they determined it was something else too - the missing Durham copy. Scott said no, it came from the family of a lady friend he had met in Cuba. He questioned the identifying points listed by the Folger's experts. Meanwhile the police questioned his story. How a First Folio would have ended up in Cuba was a bit of a mystery, particularly one similar to the missing Durham copy, and how Scott was able to make such trips and live so well on a meager salary also was confusing (he said his mother helped him out). Undoubtedly, suspicions were not eased by the fact that Scott lived only 10 miles from Durham University.

Prosecution experts claim to have identified the copy through a manuscript note written inside. They say that Scott mutilated the book in an attempt to disguise its origin, but that even in its diminished state it is still worth £1 million. Supposedly, Scott had become infatuated with a Cuban waitress, which led him to try to sell the book so as to be able to carry on his romance. However, not even this relationship is certain. Scott, who has made multiple flamboyant court appearances over the past two years, such as arriving in a horse drawn carriage or well-stocked limousine, has not let his followers down. He came dressed in expensive clothes, the prosecution claims a ruse to convince others he is a wealthy playboy and not a poor thief, and flashed a "V" sign to onlookers.

Raymond Scott has provided the public with much humor over the past two years, but right now he is in the fight of his life. That life will become a lot less funny if he loses his case in court. A decision is expected soon.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francis W. Winton, manuscript on pow-wows with indigenous Canadians, 1881. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Family letters from two young daguerreotype artists, 1826-79. $10,000 to $15,000.
  • <b>Leland Little: Important Fall Auction. September 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Published Half Plate Ambrotype of a North Carolina Confederate Officer. $2,000 to $4,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Two 19th Century Books Pertaining to Canada's Red River Settlement. $400 to $800
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Two Books With Fore-Edge Paintings of British Architectual Landmarks. $400 to $600
    <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
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Thomas Rowlandson (British, 1756-1827), Twenty-Two Prints from the <i>Tours of Dr. Syntax</i>. $500 to $1,000
  • <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.
    <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>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <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
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>Scientific Base Ball Pitching: A Treatise on the Pitcher, Pitching, Origin and Philosophy of the Curve.</i> Chicago, 1897. $2,000 to $3,000

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions