Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2015 Issue

Three Stolen Books Returned to Italy from American Collector, University Library

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Books and other artifacts being returned to Italy. ICE photo.

Three stolen antiquarian books have been returned from America to their rightful owner, an Italian library. They was part of a cache of 19 cultural artifacts returned to Italy under a bilateral agreement between the nations signed in 2001. Italy has been hard hit by looting of national treasures, undoubtedly because its long history has produced so many. Some of the items returned dated back as far as 460 B.C.

 

While most of the recent stolen book stories from Italian libraries have concerned the massive theft at the Girolamini Library, where thousands of antiquarian books are believed to have been taken, this one comes from a separate library. This time the victim was the Italian Historical National Library of Agriculture. One of the books is Rariorum Plantarum Historia Anno 1601, a history of rare plants as of 1601. The author is Carolus Clusius (Charles L'Escluse). The second is Stirpium Historiae, by Rembert Dodoens. Each is a work on plants, or an herbal, each prepared near the turn of the 17th century. The two were friends, and shared some of the same illustrations. Both books were published by Christopher Plantin in Antwerp.

 

The third book is entitled Historia natural di Ferrante Imperato Napolitano, by Ferrante Imperato. This is a 1599 first edition of an account of the natural history specimens in the collection of the Naples apothecary Ferrante Imperato. It was printed in Naples.

 

The investigation was conducted by the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Whew. This is another reason why we didn't want to de-fund the Department of Homeland Security. HSI has offices, not only across the country, but around the world. Stopping the trade in stolen antiquities is just one of its many functions. While New York was the center of most of these investigations, the tracing of the books took place in San Francisco and Baltimore. This was because the books were purchased by a San Francisco collector and a Baltimore university.

 

The San Francisco collector had no idea the two books were stolen, and must have been quite distressed when he learned. In June 2013, the HSI office in San Francisco was informed by HSI Rome that they needed help in recovering two books stolen from the agricultural library and that they had been sold to a collector in their area. Special agents met with the San Francisco collector whom ICE said “willingly turned them over to HSI.” We don't know from whom the collector purchased the books. The seller is legally obligated to refund the purchase price to the collector, although if the dealer is, for whatever reason, unable to refund the purchase price, the collector would be out of luck. The books belong to the library, and the library does not have to buy back what it already owns.

 

The third book ended up with Johns Hopkins University, having been purchased from a dealer who bought them at auction. They, too, quickly turned the book over to ICE and have since replaced it with a later edition. The 1599 edition is very rare.

 

In a statement referring to the various artifacts returned, Anthony Scandiffio, deputy special agent in charge of HSI New York, said, “The cultural and symbolic worth of these Italian treasures far surpasses any monetary value to the Italians.” That statement would apply to the first two books. They are valuable, but not outrageously so. Last year, a copy of Rariorum Plantarum Historia Anno 1601 sold at auction for £1,250 (about $1,925 in U.S. dollars), while one sold in 2013 for $2,125. We can't provide comparables for Stirpium Historiae as there were two editions, 1583 and 1616, and it was not stated which edition was involved. Based on auction results, the older edition is likely worth a little more than Rariorum Plantarum, the newer one a little less, but the value appears to be similar to that of the other book. The most recent auction record we could locate for the Imperato book dates back to 2008, and this volume sold for €6,960, or around $10,000 at the time.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Christie’s Paris, 20 Feb:</b> BELON. <i>L’Histoire de la nature des oyseaux.</i> Paris : Corrozet, 1555. $17,000 to $23,000
    <b>Christie’s Paris, 20 Feb:</b> MIOMANDRE – BARBIER. <i>Dessins sur les danses de Vaslav Nijinsky.</i> Paris. 1913. $23,000 to $34,000
    <b>Christie’s Paris, 20 Feb:</b> HOKUSAI. <i>Fugaku Hyakkei, Edo : Nishimura Yûzô.</i> 1834-1875. $58,000 to $80,000
    <b>Christie’s Paris, 20 Feb:</b> EDWARDS. <i> <br>A Natural History of Uncommon Birds…</i> London : Printed for the Author. 1743-1764. $35,000 to $46,000
    <b>Christie’s Paris, 20 Feb:</b> VESALIUS. <i><br> De Humane Corporis Fabrica libri septem...</i> Basle : J. Oporinus. 1555. $58,000 to $80,000
  • <b>Morton Subastas on Bidsquare:</b><br>Die Französische Expedition gegen Mexico /Beilagen zum Beiheft des Militair - Wochenblattes
    <b>Morton Subastas on Bidsquare:</b><br>The Architecture Of M. Vitruvius Pollio. London, 1791.
    <b>Morton Subastas on Bidsquare:</b> Estatuto Provisional del Imperio Mexicano. México: Imprenta de Andrade y Escalante, 1865.
    <b>Morton Subastas on Bidsquare:</b> Historia de Méjico... México, 1849 - 1852.
    <b>Morton Subastas on Bidsquare:</b> Juárez, Benito - Ogazón, Pedro. Legajos de Bandos del Estado de Guadalajara, 1860-1863.
    <b>Morton Subastas on Bidsquare:</b> Sigüenza y Góngora, Carlos. Mapa de las Aguas que por el Círculo de 90 Leguas Vienen a la Laguna de Tescuco... Méx, 1748.
    <b>Morton Subastas on Bidsquare:</b> Cruces y Campa / Aubert / Valleto. Pareja Imperial, Fusilamiento de Maximiliano, Tipos Mexicanos... ca,1875.
  • <b>Bonhams: Treasures from the Eric C. Caren Collection: How History Unfolds on Paper, Part VII (Online). March 6-14, 2019</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Albert Einstein A remarkable letter on God in English, one of his most eloquent and quoted, 1 p, July 2, 1945. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Benjamin Lincoln's commission as Major General in the Continental Army, February 19th, 1777. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Broadside. A Poem Upon the Bloody Engagement That Was Fought on Bunker's-Hill. 1775. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Early, full printing of the Star-Spangled Banner in The Yankee, October 7, 1814. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Paul Revere. Engraving, “The Boston Massacre Perpetrated on March 5, 1770," in <i>Massachusett's Calendar 1772.</i> $8,000 to $12,000.
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    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Earliest known newspaper coverage of Babe Ruth, "a St Mary's schoolboy," Baltimore, April 4, 1914. $6,000 to $9,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Franklin, Benjamin. <i>The Independent Whig.</i> First Magazine Published in America, Philadelphia: Keimer, 1723-4. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Smith, Joseph. <i>The Book of Mormon.</i> Palmyra: Printed by E.B. Grandin for the Author, 1830. First printing. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> Last Words of Joseph Smith. Autograph Letter Signed from a Mormon disciple, conveying a contemporary account of the Prophet's final words, Nauvoo, July 27, 1844. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 6-14:</b> John Brown's Body. Autograph Letter Signed from the daughter of John Brown attempting to arrange the return of her father's body, North Elba, Essex Co, NY, November 29, 1859. $4,000 to $6,000
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  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Feb 21:</b> NASA archive with 351 photographs, silver & chromogenic prints, 1960-2002. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Feb 21:</b> Edward S. Curtis, suite of 18 cyanotypes, 1910-14. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Feb 21:</b> Edward S. Curtis, <i>Horse Capture, Atsina,</i> unique copper plate for <i>The North American Indian,</i> 1908. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Feb 21:</b> John Whipple, <i>Harriet Beecher Stowe,</i> salted print from a calotype negative, 1853. $10,000 to $15,000.
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    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Feb 21:</b> Ansel Adams, <i>Taos Pueblo,</i> limited, signed first edition of the artist's first book, 12 silver bromide prints, 1930. $30,000 to $45,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Feb 21:</b><br>JFK in his motorcade about 2 mins before his assassination, chromogenic print, 1963. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Feb 21:</b> Anton Guilio Bragaglia, 6 photomechanical postcards with facsimile signatures, 1911-13, printed 1932. $30,000 to $45,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Feb 21:</b> Société Anonyme, Inc, group of 9 postcards, including 8 real photo postcards, 1920-30. $25,000 to $35,000.
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