• <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 18:</b> <i>The Birds of America; from Original Drawings by John James Audubon</i> $6,000,000 to $8,000,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 18:</b> <i>The Birds of America; from Original Drawings by John James Audubon</i> $6,000,000 to $8,000,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 18:</b> <i>The Birds of America; from Original Drawings by John James Audubon</i> $6,000,000 to $8,000,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 18:</b> <i>The Birds of America; from Original Drawings by John James Audubon</i> $6,000,000 to $8,000,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 18:</b> <i>The Birds of America; from Original Drawings by John James Audubon</i> $6,000,000 to $8,000,000.
  • <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> AN EARLY DUTCH POCKET GLOBE ATTRIBUTED TO WILLEM BLAEU, AFTER C.1618. £70,000 to £100,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> BLAEU, Johannes (1596-1673). £50,000 to £70,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> BLAEU, Johannes. <i>Theatrum Statuum Regiae Celsitudinis Sabaudiae Ducis, Pedemontii principis, ... pars prima, exhibens Pedemontium ...</i> Amsterdam, 1682. £70,000 to £100,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> DUDLEY, Sir Robert, self-styled Duke of Northumberland and Earl of Warwick. <i>Arcano del Mare.</i> Florence, 1661. £500,000 to £700,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> The Mainz Psalter: <i>Psalterium Benedictinum cum canticis et hymnis,</i> for Bursfeld use. [Mainz:] Johann Fust and Peter Schoeffer, 29 August 1459. £5,000 to £10,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Currier & Ives, <i>The Mississippi in Time of Peace,</i> hand-colored lithograph, 1865. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Hartmann Schedel, <i>Liber Cronicarum...,</i> Nuremberg, 1493. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Claudius Ptolemaeus, <i>Geographicae Enarrationis Libri Octo,</i> Lyons, 1535. $20,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Thomas Jefferys, <i>The American Atlas,</i> London, 1776-77. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> John Speed, <i>A Prospect of the Most Famous Parts of the World,</i> 20 miniature maps, London, 1665. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> <i>Biblia Das ist: Die Gantze Heilige Schrifft Durch D. Martin Luther Verteutscht,</i> illustrated cartographic Bible, Basel, 1665. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Early Hawaiian-language school geography, Lahainaluna Seminary, 1840. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Cornelis de Jode, <i>Africae Vera Forma, et Situs,</i> Antwerp, 1593. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Maria Vincenzo Coronelli, <i>America Settentrionale Colle Nuove Scoperte Sin All Anno,</i> Venice, 1688. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Johann Christoph Volkamer, <i>Nürnbergische Hesperides,</i> Nuremberg, 1708-1714. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Johann Bayer, <i>Uranometria, Omnium Asterismorum Continens Schemata...,</i> 51 celestial charts, c. 1603. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 17:</b> Manuscript map of Commodore Perry’s Black Ship squadron at Edo Bay, with manuscript sketchbook, ink & watercolor, Japan, c. 1853. $2,500 to $3,500.
  • <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> SHAKESPEARE, William. <i>Comedies, Histories and Tragedies. Published according to the true Originall Copies.</i> The second Impression. London, 1632. £120,000 to £180,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> [GOETHE, Johann Wolfgang von (1749–1832)]. <i>Das Römische Carneval.</i> Berlin and Gotha, 1789. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> [SHAKESPEARE, William]. Manuscript part for a contemporary analogue to <i>Henry IV,</i> part I, n.p. [perhaps Oxford or London], n.d. [c.1580s – before c.1620]. £25,000 to £35,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> GOETHE, Johann Wolfgang von (1749–1832). <i>Faust. Ein Fragment... Ächte Ausgabe.</i> Leipzig: Georg Joachim Göschen, 1790. £3,000 to £5,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> SHAKESPEARE, William. <i>The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark. As it is now Acted at his Highness the Duke of York's Theatre.</i> London, 1683. £60,000 to £90,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> [GOETHE, Johann Wolfgang von (1749–1832)]. <i>Die Leiden des jungen Werthers.</i> Leipzig: Weygand, 1774. £15,000 to £20,000.

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2015 Issue

Row 14B, Bay 3, Shelf 2: A Most Incredible Story of a Missing $600,000 Print, the Police, FBI, a Resigning Library President, and Lost & Found at the Boston Public Library

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Library President Amy Ryan (left) holds the $600,000 Dürer while Conservation Officer Lauren Schott holds the Rembrandt.

In the summer of 2014, some people at the Boston Public Library realized that a valuable print was missing. The missing item was Albrecht Dürer's Adam and Eve (some call it The Fall of Man), estimated at $600,000. The estimate for this 1504 print is no exaggeration, a copy having sold at Christie's in 2013 for $662,500. Additionally, a Rembrandt sketch valued at $30,000 was missing.

 

However, it was not until April of this year that the head of the library, President Amy Ryan, was informed that the valuable works were missing. The reason for the delay is unclear, but it may well have been a case of officials below Ms. Ryan being embarrassed that such a valuable item under their care had disappeared. Presumably, a lot of searching was conducted during that period of nearly a year.

 

One can also presume that President Ryan was not pleased. The keeper of the library's special collections, Susan Glover, was soon placed on leave after the loss became known. The Boston Police and FBI were brought in to investigate the case. A few weeks later, Ms. Ryan announced that an outside party would be brought in to thoroughly evaluate the library's security system.

 

The primary theory behind the items missing, naturally enough, was theft. However, officials were dubious that this was the typical case of an outsider coming into the library and sneaking off with the print tucked under a jacket. Security may not have been perfect, but it wasn't lax at Boston Public either. The works were kept in an alarmed, locked room and could only be seen by visitors with an appointment. The result was that speculation focused on it being an inside job. Only an insider, it was reasoned, would be able to enter the room under cover of authority and make off with the items without raising suspicion.

 

There was also one other theory. That was that the works were simply misplaced. Of course, after a year of searching, the odds were dimming that this relatively benign explanation would prove correct. Still, it should be noted that there are around 1.3 million items in the Boston Public Library's Print Department. Percentagewise, 2 is not a high number. I misplace things all the time, though I have far fewer than 1.3 million possessions. Then again, I never misplace something worth $600,000. That is likely also true of the police and FBI officers who investigated the case. And, it appears to also be true of Boston's mayor, who was quite displeased with the goings on at Boston Public.

 

Despite the involvement of the police and FBI, plus the pledge to bring in outside security experts, Mayor Martin Walsh was not placated. After-the-fact investigation was insufficient in his eyes as a response to something he believed never should have happened. That included not just that valuable items were missing, but that the library's president was not informed of this for almost a year. His fear, naturally enough, was theft, and there was more than the loss of a $600,000 print that concerned the Mayor, as bad as that was. It led to the question of was there more missing items, perhaps theft on a much grander scale unrecognized by those in whose care they were placed.

 

Indeed, it later was recognized that some gold coins were missing. However, it appears these may have been missing for decades, long before Ms. Ryan assumed the role of library president.

 

In fairness to the officers and workers at the Boston Public Library, we should note that library theft is hardly an isolated incident. It may well be a plague. Considering the size of Boston Public's collection, the sophistication of some thieves, and what has happened at other notable libraries (the British and Swedish national libraries come to mind, along with some very prestigious universities), this is somewhat understandable. Besides which, public libraries aren't granted unlimited resources these days.

 

Nevertheless, the mayor's office called for a meeting with the library's Board of Trustees. That was held on June 3, and despite the mayor's representative, his Chief of Staff, Dan Koh, requesting President Amy Ryan not be present, Board Chairman Jeffrey Rudman insisted she participate. Koh made it clear he would not hold back criticism for fear of hurting anyone's feelings. Koh stated that he and the Mayor were concerned more items may be missing, that the issues were not being taken with sufficient concern by library officials, and the Board was not acting sufficiently independently of the library's President. Rudman, who strongly supported the work of President Ryan, said that he respectfully disagreed.

 

Despite Board support, Ms. Ryan evidently felt her position had become untenable considering the dissatisfaction expressed by the city's highest officials. Later that day, she resigned, effective July 3. While expressing her gratitude to the Board of Trustees for their support, Ms. Ryan stated, “I am choosing to step aside at this time to allow the work of the Boston Public Library to continue without distraction.”

 

What happened next was even more surprising. The following day, Ms. Ryan announced that the two items, missing for almost a year, had been found. They were, so to speak, hiding in plain sight. Perhaps not plain sight, as they were obscured by other works on the shelf, but they were discovered just 80 feet away from the place they should have been. There they were, hidden among the other material in Row 14B, Bay 3, Shelf 2. Conservation Officer Lauren Schott discovered them while conducting another search. Miss Schott was quoted as saying, “I was shocked to find the two prints, but it really was just luck of the draw. Anyone of the team that’s been looking for the Dürer and Rembrandt could have found them.”

 

President Ryan released a statement in which she said, “We’re thrilled to have found these treasures right here at home. They were found safe and sound, simply misfiled. BPL is still committed to enhanced security and a full inventory, but today is a day of celebration for the entire team at BPL. The staff couldn’t be happier after hundreds of hours of searching. I want to thank the FBI, Boston Police Department, and US Attorney’s Office for their work throughout this period.”

 

All's well that ends well. Maybe. The sudden turn of events left a few people scratching their heads. However, those at the library are confident the missing prints were there all along, not returned to the wrong shelf more recently. Meanwhile, Ms. Ryan's resignation still stands. A library president has seemingly resigned because a couple of prints were put back on the wrong shelf. Other than this small case of misfiling, Ms. Ryan has a sterling reputation in the field. There are undoubtedly some valuable lessons to be learned from this very strange case at the Boston Public Library, but whatever they are escapes me.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 18:</b> CLEMENS, SAMUEL L. <i>The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain.</i> Hartford: The American Publishing Company, 1876. $14,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 18:</b> BATEMAN, JAMES. <i>The Orchidaceae of Mexico and Guatemala.</i> London: J. Ridgway & Sons for the author, [1837]-1843. $60,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 18:</b> WHITMAN, WALT. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> Brooklyn: [For the author by Andrew and James Rome,] 1855. $150,000 to $200,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 18:</b> LEE, HARPER. Three “Seckatary Hawkins”-related books inscribed and signed by Harper Lee. $60,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 18:</b> POE, EDGAR ALLAN. <i>The Raven.</i> New York: Wiley and Putnam, 1845. $120,000 to $180,000.
  • <b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Seeking Consignments.</b> Churchill (Winston) & Others. 1944 Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference, 27 April 1944. £8,000 to £12,000.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Seeking Consignments.</b> Joyce (James). <i>Ulysses.</i> First English edition, 1922. £800 to £1,200.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Seeking Consignments.</b> Belzoni (Giovanni Battista). <i>Plates Illustrated of the Researches and Operations...in Egypt and Nubia,</i> FIRST EDITION, 1821-1822. £14,375 inc Buyers Premium.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Seeking Consignments.</b> Astor (John Jacob). A collection of rare letters, 9 January 1812- 4 September 1837. £26,000 inc Buyers Premium.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Seeking Consignments.</b> Rowling (J.K.) <i>Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone,</i> FIRST EDITION, first issue, 1997. £27,500 inc Buyers Premium.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Seeking Consignments.</b> Royal Family. Photograph of Queen Elizabeth, George VI, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, signed, 1946. £3,640 inc Buyers Premium.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Seeking Consignments.</b> Collodi (Carlo). <i>Le avventure di Pinocchio. Storia di un burattino,</i> FIRST EDITION, 1883. £8,401 inc Buyers Premium.
  • <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> ALBUM AMICORUM OF SCHELOMITH FLAUM. Autograph album containing drawings, autograph quotations and signatures from over 47 contributors, India, Europe, America, Israel and elsewhere, 1923–50. £40,000 to £60,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> FLEMING, Ian (1908–1964). <i>Live and Let Die.</i> London: Jonathan Cape, 1954. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> HISTORY OF CINEMA. Animal Farm (1954), an animation archive from the Halas and Batchelor studios, [c.1954]. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> LE HAY, Jacques – [Charles de FERRIOL]. <i>Recueil de Cent Estampes representant differentes Nations du Levant...</i> Paris, 1714. [With:] <i>Explication des cents Estampes.</i> Paris, 1715. £25,000 to £35,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> THE LAST JUDGEMENT, historiated initial 'A' on a leaf from an Antiphonal on vellum illuminated by Nikolaus Bertschi [Augsburg, first quarter 16th century]. £7,000 to £10,000.
    <b>Christie’s London, Dec. 11:</b> VALTURIUS, Robertus (1413–1484). <i>De re militari.</i> [Verona:] Johannes Nicolai de Verona, 1472. £170,000 to £250,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>Macbeth: A Tragedy.</i> London, 1673. FIRST SEPARATE AND FIRST QUARTO EDITION. THE CHARLTON HESTON COPY. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> HEMINGWAY, ERNEST. <i>In Our Time.</i> Paris, 1924. FIRST EDITION, PRESENTATION COPY. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> HAWTHORNE, NATHANIEL. <i>Fanshawe, A Tale.</i> Boston, 1828. FIRST EDITION OF AUTHOR'S FIRST BOOK. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> THOREAU, HENRY DAVID. <i>Walden; Or, Life in the Woods.</i> Boston, 1854. FINE COPY OF THE FIRST EDITION. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies.</i> London, 1685. THE FOURTH FOLIO, Brewster/Bentley issue. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> STEIG, WILLIAM. Original maquette and 58 finished drawings for <i>The Agony in the Kindergarten,</i> one of Steig's most important books. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> VERNE, JULES. <i>A Journey to the Centre of the Earth.</i> New York & London, 1872. FIRST EDITION, RARE AMERICAN ISSUE, with Scribner & Welford cancel title. $5,000 to $8,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 5:</b> KING, STEPHEN. <i>Carrie.</i> New York, 1974. INSCRIBED FIRST EDITION, OF AUTHOR'S FIRST BOOK. $1,200 to $1,800.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 4:</b> APPLE MACINTOSH PROTOTYPE. 1983. The earliest known Macintosh with "Twiggy" drive, one of only two known working machines. $120,000 to $180,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 4:</b> PLATO. <i>Timaeus</i> [AND] <i>Critias</i> [from Ficini's 1484 Opera]. A LANDMARK OF SCIENTIFIC THOUGHT. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 4:</b> LOVELACE, AUGUSTA ADA. Sketch of the Analytical Engine Invented by Charles Babbage Esq. London, 1843. FIRST EDITION, JOURNAL ISSUE, MOST IMPORTANT PAPER IN EARLY DIGITAL COMPUTING. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 4:</b> APPLE-1 COMPUTER. Signed by Steve Wozniak, used in development of Apple II. $200,000 to $300,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 4:</b> DARWIN, CHARLES. 1809-1882. <i>On the Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection.</i> London, 1859. FIRST EDITION. $80,000 to $120,000.

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