Rare Book Monthly

Articles - August - 2014 Issue

Head of German Auction House Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison in Girolamini Library Theft Case

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The Girolamini Library.

An Italian court has handed down a conviction and five-year prison sentence to the Executive Director of German auction house Zisska & Schauer. Herbert Schauer was convicted of embezzlement in relation to the spectacular theft case from the Girolamini Library in Italy. It is one of the greatest book theft cases ever known. The library's director, Massimo De Caro, pleaded guilty a year ago and received a seven-year sentence. Schauer contested his charges, and a statement from his lawyer indicates he plans a vigorous appeal.

 

Massimo De Caro will surely go down as one of the greatest book thieves to ever slither across this earth. He was appointed to run the historic Girolamini Library not because of his familiarity with anything related to library science. He had something even better – political connections. He was friendly with a senator from then Premier Silvio Berlusconi's political party. He gave the senator some nice books, though the latter claimed innocence of knowing anything was awry with those he received. De Caro's connections went far and wide, likely taking in a few continents, as thousands of books were moved around the world to accomplices, and eventually unsuspecting customers. There were others involved, including men who could erase library markings, forge material, and other such skills. Even a priest who worked at the Girolamini was implicated (it is a church library). Add to those people the name of Mr. Schauer, who, according to the recent conviction, offered to use the auction house to move stolen books.

 

As to what all De Caro may have done before he stole an estimated 4,000 books from the Girolamini is open to one's imagination. He was certainly not an innocent suddenly tempted by all of these valuable old books sitting around a seldom used library. Along with some intrigues involving Venezuelan oil and similar shady deals, he was involved with a forgery of a unique Galileo item a few years back, one thought to be worth millions of dollars. Several experts authenticated the forgery the first time around the workmanship was so good.

 

De Caro was taking books out of the Girolamini Library by the truckload at night. Meanwhile, the library was a mess, books strewn about the place. If the master thief was careless, it was because no one was paying attention. Lower level library assistants were afraid to speak up, and perhaps those with more authority looked the other way. It was not until a rare researcher came in, saw the place in disarray, and wrote about what he found in a newspaper article, that investigations began, and revealed activities too brazen to be believed.

 

As for the case against Mr. Schauer, the claim stated that two associates of Mr. De Caro delivered numerous volumes to him to be auctioned in 2012. The prosecution stated that he knew very well from where they had come, a charge Mr. Schauer denied. However, after the auction house was informed that some of these books, supposedly from a Swiss collector, might have come from the Girolamini Library, the entire sale was canceled. Still, that cancellation did not relieve Mr. Schauer of claims of receiving stolen property.

 

On August 2 of 2013, Herbert Schauer was arrested and taken from his home by German authorities on behalf of prosecutors in Italy. He was taken to Italy and jailed there pending trial. Left without its leader, the auction house appointed Wolfgang Lacher to take over the role of managing director. The house then issued a blistering attack on authorities for arresting Mr. Schauer. It stated, “We are deeply shocked. All those who have worked with Mr. Schauer day in, day out over many years know that the accusations raised against him are preposterous, absurd and totally groundless.”

 

However, the auction house that bears Mr. Schauer's name has since pulled back drastically from its unqualified defense of its leader. In a posting on the Zisska and Shauer website attributed to Mr. Lacher, the firm says that a search of their records after Mr. Schauer's arrest led them to “multiple contradictions and inexplicable proceedings.” It says, “With the internment of Mr. Schauer our company naturally had to reposition itself. In this context balancing and inventories in all areas had to be carried out. Quite soon, to our astonishment, we discovered multiple contradictions and inexplicable proceedings. After some time it was indispensable to request external professional assistance. At the end the investigation resulted in the justified suspicion that Mr. Schauer during many years had committed severe embezzlements to the disadvantage of third parties and also our house.” While not clear, it sounds like some of these issues may be unrelated to the Girolamini case.

 

The statement goes on to say that they “took quite some time in pondering whether to file charges or whether an internal solution would still be acceptable and finally decided to seek an internal settlement taking into account all wronged parties.” However, it added, “It depends now on Mr. Schauer’s willingness of cooperation whether furthermore a criminal complaint can ultimately not be avoided.”

 

It should be noted that while Mr. Schauer was found guilty of embezzlement, he was acquitted of conspiracy. Evidently the court did not feel he was engaged in the theft of the books, though it concluded he was, in effect, “fencing” the books on behalf of Mr. De Caro. Mr. Schauer has been separated from his relationship with the firm that bears his name. He was recently released from prison as part of his appeal.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Leon TOLSTOÏ. <i>Anna Karenina.</i> Moscou, 1878. First and full edition of the Russian novel, in the author’s language.<br>Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Mark TWAIN. <i>Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer's comrade).</i> New York, 1885. First American edition.<br>Est. 5 000 / 6 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Walt WHITMAN. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> Brooklyn, New York, 1856. Second edition gathering 32 poems. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Karen BLIXEN. <i>Out of Africa.</i> Londres, 1937. First edition in the UK, before Danish translation and American release.<br>Est. 1 500 / 2 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Ernest HEMINGWAY. <i>A Farewell to Arms.</i> New York, 1929. First edition with $2.50 on the dust and A on the copyright page.<br>Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Ulysses.</i> Paris, Shakespeare and Company, 1922. First edition published by Sylvia Beach. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Dubliners.</i> Londres, 1914. First edition. Nice copy in publisher’s cardboard. Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Franz KAFKA. 8 novels in German first edition, published in München, Leipzig and Berlin 1916-1931. Est. from 300 / 400 to 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> David Herbert LAWRENCE. <i>Lady Chatterley's Lover.</i> Florence, 1928. Privately printed first edition. Est. 4 000 / 5 000 €
    John STEINBECK. <i>The Grapes of Wrath.</i> New York, 1939. First edition. Nice copy with $2.75 on the cover. Est. 1 000 / 1 200 €
  • <center><b>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Road West: The Steve Turner Collection of African Americana<br>February 20, 2020</b>
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Harriet Tubman Cabinet Card by H.S. Squyer, Auburn, NY, 1892. $10,000 to $15,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Scarce <i>Events of the Tulsa Disaster,</i> First Edition, 1922. $4,000 to $6,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Unpublished CDV of Frederick Douglass by Benjamin F. Smith, 1864. $3,000 to $5,000
    <center><b>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Road West: The Steve Turner Collection of African Americana<br>February 20, 2020</b>
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> California Imprint of <i>President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation</i> Broadside, 1864. $10,000 to $15,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> John C.H. Grabill Cabinet Card of Buffalo Soldier Wearing Buffalo Coat, ca 1886. $8,000 to $10,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Rare <i>What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking,</i> 2nd Cookbook Published by African American. $6,000 to $8,000
    <center><b>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Road West: The Steve Turner Collection of African Americana<br>February 20, 2020</b>
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Frederick Douglass Walking Stick, 1888. $3,000 to $5,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Only Known Slave Narrative Published Independently in California, <i>Life and Adventures of James Williams.</i> $2,000 to $4,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Rare First Edition of History of Black Literature, Abbé Grégoire <i>De La Littérature des Nègres</i>. $2,500 to $3,000
    <center><b>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Road West: The Steve Turner Collection of African Americana<br>February 20, 2020</b>
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> African American Soldier and Medal of Honor Winner Christian A. Fleetwood CDV, PLUS. $8,000 to $10,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Jack Johnson vs. Jim Jeffries Pennant, 1910 Reno, Nevada. $2,000 to $4,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Joe Gans Photograph at 1906 Goldfield, Nevada Fight by Percy Dana. $600 to $800
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Jane Austen, <i>Sense and Sensibility: A Novel, By a Lady,</i> 3 volumes, London, 1811. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Virginia Woolf, <i>Kew Gardens,</i> limited edition, signed by Woolf & Bell, London, 1927. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> <i>[Arabian Nights],</i> Calcutta II version, 4 volumes, Calcutta & London, 1839-1842. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Princess Diana, 6 ALS to <i>Harper’s Bazaar</i> editor, anticipating Christie’s sale of her dresses for charity, 1995-97. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Jane Austen, <i>Emma,</i> first edition, London, 1816. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Hirohito & Nagako, Emperor & Empress of Japan, 2 photographs signed, showing Nagako in kimono & obi bearing the imperial seal. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Princess Diana, 6 autograph letters signed to <i>Harper’s Bazaar</i> editor Elizabeth Tilberis, anticipating Christie’s announcement of a sale of her dresses for charity, 1995-97. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Sarojini Naidu, complete galley proof of <i>The Broken Wing</i> signed with several holograph pages & an autograph letter signed to writer Edmund Gosse, 1916. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Fernando Pessoa, <i>Mensagem,</i> first edition, presentation copy, signed & inscribed, Lisbon, 1934. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Graham Greene, <i>The Basement Room,</i> first edition, Greene’s personal copy, signed with annotations throughout, London, 1935. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Abraham Lincoln, partly-printed document signed, call for troops issued during America’s first national draft just days before the NYC draft riots, 1863. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b><br><i>Les Chansons de Bilitis</i> by Pierre Louÿs, illustrated by George Barbier & F.L. Schmied, Paris, 1922. $8,000 to $12,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Helvelius. Two Autograph Letters Signed to Francis Aston, Royal Society Secretary, noting his feud with Robert Hooke, 5 pp total, 1685. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Newton, Isaac. Autograph manuscript on God, 4 pp, c.1710, "In the beginning was the Word...."?$100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. First edition, first issue. Untrimmed copy in contemporary boards. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Lincoln, Abraham. Signed photograph, beardless portrait with Civil War provenance. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> IMPEACHMENT. Original engrossed copy of the first Andrew Johnson impeachment resolution vote. $120,000 to $180,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Mucha, Alphonse. 11 original pencil drawings for?<i>Andelicek z Baroku,</i> "Litte Baroque Angel," Prague, 1929. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Einstein, Albert. Annotated Galley Proofs for <i>The Meaning of Relativity.</i> 1921. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Silverstein, Shel. Original maquette for <i>The Giving Tree,</i> 34 original drawings. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Roth, Philip. Typed Manuscript with substantial autograph corrections for an unpublished sequel to <i>The Breast.</i> $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Taupin, Bernie. Autograph Manuscript, the original draft of lyrics for Elton John's "Candle in the Wind," 2 pp, 1973. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. <i>De Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Padua: 1643. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> CESALPINO, ANDREA. <i>Peripateticarum Quaestionum Libri Quinque.</i> Venice: 1571. $30,000 to $40,000.

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