Rare Book Monthly

Articles - August - 2015 Issue

Prints Stolen from French National Library Recovered – It was an Inside Job

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Magnificent reading room at the Richelieu Library (from French National Library website).

Forty-three prints, stolen from the Richelieu-Louvois branch of the French National Library, have been recovered. The prints have been valued at roughly $200,000. The thief reportedly has confessed. It was an inside job.

 

Last March, the library became aware that the prints were missing. They became aware in the manner so many libraries learn that material is gone. It was discovered not through their own procedures, but the result of a visitor who asked to see the book in which they were contained. The prints, which were engraved from paintings by Belgian painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder in the 16th century, had been cut from the book. Library officials quickly contacted authorities and put out a notice with ILAB (International League of Antiquarian Booksellers) and various European libraries that might be able to help find the material.

 

Twenty of the missing engravings were located with a Belgian bookseller. The bookseller revealed that he had purchased them from a Dutch collector. The collector then identified his source, a low level employee of the French National Library. The employee confessed and additional missing engravings were found in his possession.

 

It has also been revealed that 20 maps are missing from a very old atlas, and these too were said to have been stolen by a library employee. It was not made clear whether this was the same employee, though that seems likely. The library has not said when it believes the material was stolen.

 

The library's security was quickly blasted by the CGT-BNF, the employees' union at the French National Library. However, it wasn't library officials they went after so much as the government which funds the library. Naturally, an employees' union is not the most objective group, but their message is still revealing. While acknowledging improvements in terms of security cameras, the union said that documentation of the collections is inadequate, reminiscent of the independent critique recently provided to the Boston Public Library (see article elsewhere in this month's issue of Rare Book Monthly). They described the National Library as "a library of the twentieth century, if not of the nineteenth century, with its files and paper catalogs, its not referenced collections in catalogs IT, communication applications on paper newsletters..."

 

Not surprisingly, the union focused on the reduction of employees, along with millions of euros in budget cuts. The CGT-BNF claimed that 260 jobs have been cut since 2009. Workers' self-interest notwithstanding, it's hard to imagine how any library could lose 260 employees without suffering in terms of security.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Helvelius. Two Autograph Letters Signed to Francis Aston, Royal Society Secretary, noting his feud with Robert Hooke, 5 pp total, 1685. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Newton, Isaac. Autograph manuscript on God, 4 pp, c.1710, "In the beginning was the Word...."?$100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. First edition, first issue. Untrimmed copy in contemporary boards. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Lincoln, Abraham. Signed photograph, beardless portrait with Civil War provenance. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> IMPEACHMENT. Original engrossed copy of the first Andrew Johnson impeachment resolution vote. $120,000 to $180,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Mucha, Alphonse. 11 original pencil drawings for?<i>Andelicek z Baroku,</i> "Litte Baroque Angel," Prague, 1929. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Einstein, Albert. Annotated Galley Proofs for <i>The Meaning of Relativity.</i> 1921. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Silverstein, Shel. Original maquette for <i>The Giving Tree,</i> 34 original drawings. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Roth, Philip. Typed Manuscript with substantial autograph corrections for an unpublished sequel to <i>The Breast.</i> $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Taupin, Bernie. Autograph Manuscript, the original draft of lyrics for Elton John's "Candle in the Wind," 2 pp, 1973. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. <i>De Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Padua: 1643. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> CESALPINO, ANDREA. <i>Peripateticarum Quaestionum Libri Quinque.</i> Venice: 1571. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Francis Scott Key, <i>Star Spangled Banner,</i> first printing, c. 1814-16. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> William Sydney Porter, a.k.a. “O. Henry,” archive of drawings made to illustrate a lost mining memoir, c. 1883-84. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> [Bay Psalm Book], printed for Hezekiah Usher of Boston, Cambridge, c. 1648-65. $50,000 to $75,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Noticia estraordinario,</i> probable first announcement in Mexico City of the fall of the Alamo, 1836. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Patrick Gass, first edition of earliest first-hand account of the Lewis and Clarke expedition, Pittsburgh, 1807. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Diploma from the Princeton Class of 1783, commencement attended by Washington & Continental Congress. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Sprague Light Cavalry!</i> color-printed broadside, NY, 1863. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>The Lincoln & Johnson Union Campaign Songster,</i> Philadelphia, 1864. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Lucy Parsons, labor organizer, albumen cabinet card, New York, 1886. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Daniel L.F. Swift, journal as third mate on a Pacific Whaling voyage, 1848-1850. $3,000 to $4,0000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Two photos of Thomas Moran, Grand Canyon, silver prints, 1901. $1,500 to $2,500.

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