Rare Book Monthly

Articles - March - 2015 Issue

Over 500 Stolen Antiquarian Books Returned to Owner

33489c6d-923b-40c6-aa7a-24173a5f2c4a

Italian Prosecutor Vincenzo Piscatelli displays one of the recovered books.

Over 500 stolen books are making their way back to their home in Italy, just one of many pieces to one of the largest book theft cases ever. The books are estimated to have a value €2.5 million (US $2.85 million). They include works by Galileo, Copernicus, and Kepler, with dates from the 15th - 17th century.

 

The works came from the Girolamini Library in Naples, a church affiliated institution. The one-time director of the library, Massimo de Caro, took advantage of the fact that it was little used to transport books out during the night. It is still not known exactly how many books he removed, but it is estimated in the thousands. None of these were recent paperback novels, but all antiquarian titles of significant value. De Caro had a network of associates who helped him remove the books, hide their identity, and move them on to various locations around the world. It is doubtful that all will ever be recovered.

 

As often happens in such cases of runaway greed, De Caro eventually became a little too careless. The library was a mess, with books strewn about the place. A researcher noticed the deplorable condition and told others. It led to some questioning of workers there, who spoke of strange goings on. In time, police figured out what was going on and a scandal, reaching up to high positions in the government, broke out. A couple of years later, De Caro was convicted and sent off to prison for seven years.

 

As part of the investigation, police tracked a large cache of books to an auction house in Munich. The auction believed the books had come from the estate of a couple from northern Italy. In a shocking development two years ago, police raided the auction house and arrested its director, Herbert Schauer. The shocked firm severed all ties to Mr. Schauer. They cooperated fully in the investigation that has led to the return of the 543 books. Meanwhile, Mr. Schauer was also convicted and sentence to five years in prison in Italy, a sentence that is still pending.

 

German officials reported they went through each book carefully to establish its ownership before concluding that all 543 had come from the Girolamini Library. Italian prosecutor Vincenzo Piscitelli, who came to Munich to arrange for their return, stated that this was an important recovery in the case, but that they still don't know how many books were stolen.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Collection of a Connoisseur:<br>History in Manuscript, Part 2<br>27 April 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Ronald Reagan. Series of 37 letters to Senator George Murphy, and related material, 1968-90. £50,000 to £70,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Chaim Weizmann. Autograph letter signed, to General Sir Gilbert Clayton, 6 September 1918. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Sir Winston Churchill. Autograph letter signed, to Pamela, Lady Lytton, 1942. £20,000 to $30,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Collection of a Connoisseur:<br>History in Manuscript, Part 2<br>27 April 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Oscar Wilde. Five autograph letters signed, to Alsager Vian, 1887. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Napoleon I. Letter signed to Admiral Ganteaume, ordering the invasion of England, 22 August 1805. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, through Apr. 27:</b><br>Horatio, Viscount Nelson, and Emma Hamilton. Two autograph letter signed, to Catherine and George Matcham, 1805. £6,000 to £8,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Frances Palmer, <i>Battle of Buena Vista,</i> chromolithograph, New York, 1847. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma, the earliest publication concerned solely with chocolate, first edition, Madrid, 1631. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Romans Bernard, <i>An Exact View of the Late Battle at Charlestown, June 17th, 1775,</i> engraving, 1776. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> <i>A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in Boston,</i> English edition, London, 1770. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> William Soule, <i>Lodge of the Plains Indians,</i> albumen print, 1872. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Manuscript document to enforce New York’s “Agreement of Non-Importation” during the heyday of the Sons of Liberty, New York, 1769. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Clarence Mackenzie, <i>Drummer Boy of the 13th Regiment of Brooklyn,</i> salt print with applied color, 1861. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b> Moses Lopez, <i>A Lunar Calendar,</i> first Jewish calendar published in America, Newport, RI, 1806. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 15:</b><br>The Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <center><b>Gonnelli Auction House<br>Books and Graphics<br>19th, 20th and 21st April 2021</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 19-21<br>Books from XVI to XX Century</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 20<br>Atlases and Maps</b
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br> Veneto and Venice, a Selection of Books from the XVI to XX century</b>
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 20<br></b>Rossini Gioachino, Baguette de chef d'orchestre appartenuta a Gioachino Rossini, dono del Comune di Passy. 1500 €
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br></b>Manetti Saverio, Storia naturale degli uccelli trattata con metodo. Cinque volumi. 1767. 18.000 €
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 21<br></b>Poe Edgar Allan, Double assassinat dans la rue morgue. Illustrations de Cura. 1946.
    <b><center>Gonnelli: Apr. 19-21<br>Books from XVI to XX Century</b>

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions