Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2015 Issue

Conference Set to Address the Problem of Theft of Rare Books and Related Material

The British Library is sponsoring a major conference this month to tackle the large, though often under-the-radar problem of theft of rare books and related material. Scheduled for Friday, June 26, the conference is titled, The Written Heritage of Mankind in Peril: Theft, Retrieval, Sale and Restitution of Rare Books, Maps, and Manuscripts.

 

Theft from libraries and other institutions has long been a problem, but much of it has gone unnoticed, the result of poor bookkeeping. Often, libraries have had no idea material was missing. Even harder to notice has been cases where a thief has excised pages from a book, such as maps or plates, and then returned the rarely viewed book to the shelves, no one the wiser. These books and pages can often be worth six figures, but security does not measure up to what you would find in a bank or jewelry store. The temptation for thieves can be magnetic where security is low.

 

Those who think the risk is limited to libraries and institutions do not understand the law. The library may be sloppy, but the ultimate victim may turn out to be the honest collector or dealer. Purchasing stolen merchandise does not make you the owner. It must be returned to the owner and the owner does not have to pay you a penny to get its own property back. Your only recourse is to the person from whom you purchased the book. If you purchased it from the thief, and that person is gone or has spent your money, you are out of luck. You cannot get blood from a stone, or your money back from someone who has spent it. If you purchased it from an intervening victim, such as a bookseller who bought it in good faith, you can recover your purchase price from that dealer, but that too assumes the dealer has the money to repay you. If he or she has gone broke and does not have the funds to repay you, you are still out of luck.

 

Four panel discussions are planned for this very busy day. The first addresses the extent of the problem, including some “notorious examples” of rare book theft. The panel includes the former head of rare books at the Royal Library in Copenhagen, international head of books and manuscripts at Christie's New York, and a law professor at Seoul National University. The second panel discusses the legal framework of retrieving stolen books. Panelists are the former chief in the money laundering and asset forfeiture department at the U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York, the senior legal advisor for the National Library of Sweden, and a lawyer from Berlin. As a note, the Swedish Library was the victim of some major thefts a few years back. The third panel is focused on the perspective of the rare book trade. Panelists are the European head of restitution at Sotheby's London, the President of ILAB (International League of Antiquarian Booksellers), and the founder and President of the 19th Century Shop in Baltimore. The final panel covers preventing theft and trafficking of rare books. Panelists are a representative of the manuscripts, maps, and pictures division of the Swedish National Library, the director of collections at the French National Library, and a senior legal advisor from the Austrian National Library.

 

There will be an introductory from the head of collections at the British Library. The keynote will be provided by the head of private international law at Marmara University in Turkey. There is, naturally enough, a break for lunch, and a wine reception at the conclusion.

 

The target audience for this conference is “those who deal with rare books and other priceless written materials, including representatives of dealers, collectors, auction houses, national collections, law enforcement officials, security experts, attorneys and others.” The organizers are encouraging attendees to continue to address the problem and develop solutions in the days after the conference. The plan is to have a follow-up seminar in New York next year.

 

Along with the British Library, the conference is being organized by the Institute of Art and Law of the Union Internationale des Avocats. For more information about the conference, and making reservations to attend, you can visit the following website: www.bl.uk/events/the-written-heritage-of-mankind-in-peril.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Freeman’s | Hindman, June 25: [Keats, John] Spenser, Edmund: The Works of that Famous English Poet, Mr. Edmond Spenser. $50,000 - $80,000.
    Freeman’s | Hindman, June 25: (Walton, Izaak): The Compleat Angler or the Contemplative man's Recreation. Being a Discourse of Fish and Fishing. $30,000 - $50,000.
    Freeman’s | Hindman, June 25: Thomas, Gabriel: An Historical and Geographical Account of the Province and Country of Pensilvania; and of West-New-Jersey in America. $25,000 - $35,000.
    Freeman’s | Hindman, June 25: [Carroll, Lewis]: The Game of Alice in Wonderland. $2,000 - $3,000.
    Freeman’s | Hindman, June 25: Athias, Joseph, et al.: Biblia Hebraica. $7,000 - $10,000.
    Freeman’s | Hindman, June 25: [Warhol, Andy, and Jens Quistgaard] Dansk Designs Salesman's Presentation Catalogue. $2,500 - $3,500.
  • Sotheby’s, June 26: Poe, Edgar Allan. Tamerlane — the most poignant rarity in American literature. 400,000 - 600,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, June 26: The Declaration of Independence. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal..." 2,500,000 - 5,000,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, June 26: William Blake. “Poems with very wild and interesting pictures” 1,200,000 - 1,800,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, June 26: Thomas Taylor [artist]. The original cover art for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. 400,000 - 600,000 USD
  • Bonhams, June 15-25: 18th Century American Sea Captain's Journals of Voyages to Hawaii, China, and South America. $35,000 - $45,000
    Bonhams, June 15-25: Admiral Richard E. Byrd's Autograph Diary from Bolling Advance Base, Winter 1934. $40,000 - $60,000
    Bonhams, June 15-25: Thoreau, Henry David. Walden; Or, Life in the Woods. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1854. $4,000 - $6,000
    Bonhams, June 15-25: Cellarius, Andreas. Harmonia macrocosmica seu atlas universalis et novus, totius universi creati cosmographiam generalem, et novam exhibens. $20,000 - $30,000
    Bonhams, June 15-25: Nobelist George Stigler's Copy of Ricardo's Classic on the Science of Economics. $20,000 - $30,000
    Bonhams, June 15-25: Histoire charmante de l'adolescente sucre d'amour. Paris: F. L. Schmied, 1927. $15,000 - $20,000
    Bonhams, June 15-25: Fine Copy of Walras's Classic on the Theory of Marginal Utility. $12,000 - $18,000
    Bonhams, June 15-25: Arion Press Moby Dick. Melville, Herman. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, June 15-25: Venegas, Miguel. Noticia de la California, y desu conquista temporal, y espiritual hasta el tiempo presente. $7,000 - $9,000
    Bonhams, June 15-25: Carelton Watkins, Yosemite and the West. Portfolio of 21 imperial albumen prints. $6,000 - $9,000
    Bonhams, June 15-25: An Unpublished Archive of Thornton Wilder Correspondence to F.J. O'Neil. $6,000 - $9,000
    Bonhams, June 15-25: Vesalius, Andreas. 1514-1564. Suorum de humani corporis fabrica librorum epitome. $100,000 - $150,000
  • Bonhams, June 25: Vesalius, Andreas. 1514-1564. De humani corporis fabrica libri septem. $200,000 - $300,000
    Bonhams, June 25: Gersdorff, Hans Von. 1455-1529. Feldtbuch der wundartzney. $40,000 - $60,000
    Bonhams, June 25: Pare, Ambroise. C.1509-1590. La Methode Curative des Playes, et Fractures de la Teste humaine. Avec les pourtraits des Instruments necessaires pour la curation d'icelles. $25,000 - $30,000
    Bonhams, June 25: Reisch, Gregor. 1470-1525. Margarita Philosophica. $20,000 - $30,000
    Bonhams, June 25: Bright, Richard. 1789-1858. Reports of Medical Cases, Selected with a View of Illustrating the Symptoms and Cure of Diseases by a Reference to Morbid Anatomy. $12,000 - $18,000
    Bonhams, June 25: Berengario da Carpi, Giacomo. C. 1460-1530. Tractatus de fractura calve sive cranei. $10,000 - $15,000
    Bonhams, June 25: Vicq D'Azyr, Felix. 1748-1794. Traite d'antomie et de physiologie. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, June 25: Croce, Giovanni Andrea Della. 1509?-1775. Chirurgia libri septem... $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, June 25: Bruno Da Longburgo. 1200-1286. La cyrogia di Maistro Bruno: Expertissimo in quella. Tradutta in vulgare. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, June 25: Schwann, Theodor. 1810-1882. Mikroskopische Untersuchungen uber die Ubereinstimmung in der Struktur und dem Wachsthum der Thiere und Pflanzen. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, June 25: Cowper, William. 1666-1709. The Anatomy of Humane Bodies, with Figures Drawn after the Life… $6,000 - $9,000
    Bonhams, June 25: Bidloo, Govard. 1649-1713. Anatomia humani corporis, centum & quinque tabulis, per artificiossis. G. de Lairesse ad vivum delineatis. $6,000 - $9,000

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