Rare Book Monthly

Articles - August - 2015 Issue

In The News: Tons of Old Books Thrown Away; Two Stolen Manuscripts Recovered

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Hüseyin Sen receives his award (from Konya government website).

Libraries lose books, sometimes through theft, sometimes through carelessness, never for a good reason. A library in Thailand lost tons of books, quite literally, for the worst reason we've come across in a long time. The victim of this loss was Silpakorn University in Bangkok, and lest you think this is some obscure, mediocre school, it serves 28,000 students and holds the reputation as the top fine arts school in the country.

 

Their library is in the process of undergoing a significant renovation. It required temporarily removing many of their old books. Meanwhile, the library needed to dispose of some more recent books and magazines of little value. You can probably see where this is going. The library called up a local junk shop that advertised for waste paper to recycle. The librarians made a deal. They agreed to sell 3 tons of unwanted books to the junk dealer for 600 baht. That's not a lot of money. It translates to $175 in U. S. currency.

 

A few days later, the junk shop owner and four men arrived at the library with their truck. Most of the librarians were on lunch break at the time, but one official who was there pointed to a pile of books. They filled up the truck and took them back to the shop. Evidently, no one at the library noticed, at least not for several days.

 

Meanwhile, some of the university lecturers and collectors discovered the old books at the junk shop. They reportedly were incensed to think the university was selling its old books to such a place. Fortunately, they bought most of them up, though at five times the price the junk dealer paid for them. Not so fortunately, a few hundred pounds of the books had become soaked in a rain storm and had already been recycled. Arrangements are being made to sell the books back to the library, presumably for what the lecturers and collectors paid as their aim is to see them back where they belong.

 

The librarian responsible for making the sale turned in a letter of resignation but the university declined to accept it. The head of the library explained that this wouldn't solve anything and he wanted the librarians to all work together to prevent such problems from reoccurring. He asked people to sympathize with the librarians "because they also love these books." As for the junk dealer, he had a better excuse for not realizing the books were valuable and should not be recycled. "I didn't know they were rare books," he was quoted as saying. "I left school when I was in fourth grade."

 

 

 

A pair of very old manuscripts, stolen from a library in Turkey in 2000, were discovered at the University of Pennsylvania library and returned to their rightful owner. This positive conclusion came about through some thorough sleuthing by a student at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands. This was one enormously lucky break for the Turkish library, which just serves to show how difficult tracking down stolen material can be. Another roughly 100 manuscripts stolen at that time are still missing.

 

In 2000, 103 manuscripts, 7 books, and 62 covers from other books were stolen from the Yusuf Aga Manuscript Library in the Central Turkish province of Konya. The reason the old covers were stolen is evidenced by this find. The thieves not only attempted to remove identifying markers from the manuscripts, they used the old covers to fashion new (yet old) covers for the manuscripts to better disguise them. These manuscripts were very old, dating back to the 13th century.

 

The two returned manuscripts were purchased by American collector Lawrence Schoenberg. Lawrence was a son of the noted composer and artist Arnold Schoenberg. He also was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and a member of their Library Board of Overseers. Lawrence died last year. He gave his collection to the University of Pennsylvania.

 

Meanwhile, at the University of Utrecht, Hüseyin Sen was studying for his Ph. D. Sen is from Turkey and has a deep interest in old Turkish manuscripts. Medieval Arabic manuscripts are part of his studies at UU (if that's what they call the university). He was researching bird houses, which might seem like an obscure topic, but they were commonly found in mosques. In the back of his mind, he was aware of the earlier theft from the Konya library. When he came across a couple of old manuscripts contained in the Schoenberg collection at the University of Pennsylvania, they sounded familiar. He dug in deeper. He began comparing various points and reached the conclusion these must be among the manuscripts stolen from the Turkish library.

 

Sen knows Sare Davutoglu, wife of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. He sent her an email, which she forwarded to the Director of the Konya library. The identification was confirmed, and the manuscripts were returned by the University of Pennsylvania Library to their owner. Sen was rewarded with a plaque and thanks by the Konya Governor at a celebration in his honor.

 

Of course, this still leaves another hundred manuscripts missing, and if it takes a perfect storm of coincidences like this to find just two, it will be a long time coming before the rest are retrieved. The international nature of these thefts, and the obscurity of the items and their origin, gives a glimpse at just how difficult it is to stop the trafficking of stolen books and paper. Still, it must be done.


Posted On: 2015-08-01 12:45
User Name: scientiabk

The Lawrence Schoenberg in this story was NOT the son of the composer Arnold Schoenberg. Arnold Schoenberg did have a son named Lawrence (Larry), who is still alive.

Malcolm Kottler, Scientia Books, ABAA ILAB


Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Christie’s London, Jul. 9:</b> Pushkin, Alexander. <i>Evgenii Onegin. A novel in verse.</i> A first edition of the most important work in Russian literature in its original parts, 1825–32. £120,000 to £160,000
    <b>Christie’s London, Jul. 9:</b> Gogol, Nikolai. <i>Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka.</i> A rare first edition of Gogol's first masterpiece, 1831–32. £70,000 to £100,000
    <b>Christie’s London, Jul. 9:</b> Darwin, Charles Robert. <i>On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.</i> First edition, owned and read by two contemporaries of Darwin. London: John Murray, 1859. £140,000 to £200,000
    <b>Christie’s London, Jul. 9:</b> Galilei, Galileo. <i>Sidereus Nuncius.</i> First edition, announcing the first astronomical discoveries made with the telescope. Venice: Tommaso Baglioni, [March] 1610. £300,000 to £500,000
    <b>Christie’s London, Jul. 9:</b> The seal of Wulfric. England, first half 11th century. £70,000 to £100,000
    <b>Christie’s London, Jul. 9:</b> Bible, <i>Ezechiel</i> in Latin. [Northern Italy, 5th century]. £120,000 to £180,000
    <b>Christie’s London, Jul. 9:</b> Blaeu, Jan and Willem Blaeu. <i>Grooten Atlas [Atlas Major]</i>. Amsterdam: Johannes Blaeu, 1664. £450,000 to £650,000
    <b>Christie’s London, Jul. 9:</b> Petites Heures of Charles VIII use of Paris, in Latin. An exquisite Hours illuminated by the Master of the Chronique Scandaleuse. [Paris, 1490s]. £300,000 to £500,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ian Fleming, <i>Goldfinger,</i> first edition, inscribed to Sir Henry Cotton, MBE, London, 1959. Sold for $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Joseph Brant, Mohawk Chief, ALS, writing after pledging support to King George III against American rebels, 1776. Sold for a record $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Sonia Delaunay, <i>Ses Peintures</i> . . ., 20 pochoir plates, Paris, 1925. Sold for a record $13,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Diana, Princess of Wales, 6 autograph letters signed to British <i>Vogue</i> editor, 1989-92. Sold for $10,400.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Alexander Hamilton, ALS, as Secretary of the Treasury covering costs of the new U.S. Mint, 1793. Sold for $12,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Benjamin Graham & David L. Dodd, <i>Security Analysis,</i> first edition, inscribed by Graham to a Wall Street trader, NY, 1934. Sold for $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> George Barbier & François-Louis Schmied, <i>Personnages de Comédie,</i> Paris, 1922. Sold for $9,375.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Alphonse Mucha, <i>Ilsée, Princesse de Tripoli,</i> Paris, 1897. Sold for a record $13,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ralph Waldo Emerson, <i>The Dial,</i> first edition of the reconstituted issue, Emerson’s copy with inscriptions, Cincinnati, 1860. Sold for a record $3,250.
  • <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. <i>On the Origin of Species.</i> Presentation Copy. Sold for $500,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. Autograph Letter Signed, 3 pp, negotiating the 2nd American edition with Appleton. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Hemingway, Ernest. Autograph Letter Signed, 8 pp, Paris, 1924, to his father discussing Bullfighting, Stories, and his new baby. Sold for $25,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Corialanus.</i> London, 1623. 1st printing [Extracted from the First Folio]. Sold for $50,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Swift, Jonathan. <i>Gulliver's Travels.</i> London, 1726. 1st edition, Teerink's A edition, fine, large copy. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Fitzroy, Robert. Autograph Letter Signed to agent Thomas Stilwell, informing him of the progress of H.M.S. Beagle. Sold for $17,575.
    <center><b>Bonhams<br> Property from the Collection of Nicole and William R. Keck II</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Sonnets.</i> 1901. 2 volumes. Printed on vellum and illuminated by Ross Turner, bound by Trautz-Bauzonnet. Sold for $13,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Beardsley, Aubrey. <i>The Birth, Life, and Acts of King Arthur.</i> 1893-94. 2 volumes. Contemporary painted vellum gilt by Chivers. Sold for $5,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Assisi, St. Francis. <i>The Canticle of Brother Sun.</i> Illuminated on vellum, for the Grolier Society. Sold for $7,575.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Rackham, Arthur. <i>Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.</i> 1/500 copies signed by Rackham. Sold for $4,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Proust, Marcel. <i>Du coté de chez Swann.</i> 1st edition, 1st issue. Inscribed by Proust. Sold for $8,825.
  • <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini. June 27</b>
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> KENNEDY ONASSIS, JACQUELINE Typed letter signed to Oleg Cassini. $400 to $600
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> [CASSINI-KENNEDY FASHIONS] Important archives related to the development of fashions for Mrs. Kennedy… $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> [CASSINI-KENNEDY FASHIONS] Detailed ledger of the Kennedy White House years… $500 to $800
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> KELLY, GRACE. Four autograph letters to Oleg Cassini. $5,000 to $8,000
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini. June 27</b>
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> CASSINI, OLEG. Group of Kennedy-era original fashion sketches. $1,000 to $1,500
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> KENNEDY ONASSIS, JACQUELINE. Autograph letter signed to Oleg Cassini. $800 to $1,200
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> CASSINI, OLEG. Fashion sketch titled “Mrs. Kennedy-Palais de Versailles-State Dinner.” $800 to $1,200
    Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini: [CASSINI, OLEG - KENNEDY, JACQUELINE.] Group of approximately 130 original fashion designs… $800 to $1,200.
  • <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> Blaise Cendrars and Fernand Léger, <i>La Fin du monde filmée par l’ange N.-D.,</i> Paris, Editions de la Sirène, 1919
    <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> André Breton, <i>Second manifeste du Surréalisme,</i> Paris, Editions Kra, 1930
    <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> Paul Eluard and Pablo Picasso, <i>La Barre d’appui,</i> Paris, Editions « Cahiers d’Art », 1936
    <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> Blaise Cendrars and Fernand Léger, <i>La Fin du monde filmée par l’ange N.-D.,</i> Paris, Editions de la Sirène, 1919
    <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> Hans Bellmer, <i>Die Puppe,</i> Paris, G.L.M., 1936
    <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> Salvador Dali, <i>La femme visible,</i> Paris, Editions Surréalistes, 1930

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