Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2017 Issue

A Long Ago Stolen Library Book and A Guilty Conscience Lead to a Remarkable Reunion

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Inspirational actress Maude Adams.

Few book thefts are resolved by a guilty conscience, particularly when the victim doesn't even know the book was stolen. Usually, the guilty conscience only comes into play after the thief is caught and is hoping for leniency. In this case, the thief, with no risk of ever being caught, returned the book, made financial amends to the library from which it was stolen, and returned the book in remarkable condition.

 

In 1982, a copy of Bid Time Return, by Richard Matheson, was taken from the Great Falls (Montana) Public Library. No one noticed. There were no computerized inventories in those days. The library operated on a card catalogue system. If the book had been borrowed and not returned, they would have noticed. Since it was simply removed, they did not. No one ever would have known the difference.

 

Except, of course, the thief. It is not clear why he didn't simply borrow the book or buy a copy. It was not a valuable book, and the thief did not steal it for the money. He wanted to read it, and read it he did. In a letter returning the book 35 years later, he said he read it 25 times. Clearly, the man loved this book, so much so that after wear from being read so much, he had the book restored. At some point, he even met author Richard Matheson and had him sign it. It seems as if his conscience could not have been much of an issue for those many years, but in time it caught up with him. It must not have been easy, but a few weeks ago, he sent the book back to the Great Falls Library, rebinding and author signature included. He loved the book, but it wasn't his. And one more thing – along with the book, he sent the library a check for $200, asking "for a chance at redemption."

 

He included a note explaining, "This is not my book, it belongs in the Great Falls Public Library — wrongfully taken, yes, but if you can, kindly take into consideration it has been loved and cared for all these years and know I am sorry for taking it." He did not hide behind anonymity either (hard to do when you send a check). However, the library chose not to reveal his identity.

 

What is this book that made such an impression on its reader? Richard Matheson was a science fiction/fantasy/horror writer. This particular book is a time travel story. Author Matheson spotted a portrait of turn of the century actress Maude Adams at an opera house in Nevada while traveling. He was taken by her portrait. It was the inspiration for Bid Time Return. In the story, a screenwriter with an inoperable brain tumor decides to spend his last days in a hotel keeping a private journal. While there, he spots the photograph of an 1890's actress. He falls in love with her, and through intense concentration, is able to make the journey back from the 1970's to 1896. They meet, realize they are destined for each other, but after a brief affair, the concentration is broken. He returns to the present and dies a short time later, with the book leaving unresolved the question of whether he really journeyed to the past or was it all in his mind.

 

As for Maude Adams, Matheson's inspiration for writing this story, she was born in Salt Lake City, daughter of a local actress. She and her mother made it to New York, where both performed on Broadway, though the daughter had the far more notable career. Maude performed in several plays by J. M. Barrie, which set her up for the starring role in Barrie's most notable play, Peter Pan. Indeed, time was a focal point of both Barrie's play, Matheson's book, and now the story of this long disappeared book.  

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams, Jan. 19 – 27:</b> RUTH BADER GINSBERG’S PERSONAL COPY OF THE 1957-58 HARVARD LAW REVIEW, HEAVILY ANNOTATED BY HER.
    <b>Bonhams, Jan. 19 – 27:</b> RUTH BADER GINSBURG’S TEXTBOOK FOR HER “CIVIL PROCEDURE” CLASS AT HARVARD, HEAVILY ANNOTATED BY HER.
    <b>Bonhams, Jan. 19 – 27:</b> RUTH BADER GINSBURG’S TEXTBOOK FOR COLUMBIA LAW SCHOOL CLASS ON JURISPRUDENCE, HEAVILY ANNOTATED BY HER.
    <b>Bonhams, Jan. 19 – 27:</b> HONORARY DOCTORATE AWARDED TO RUTH BADER GINSBURG BY SMITH COLLEGE, 1994.
    <b>Bonhams, Jan. 19 – 27:</b> A COPY OF JUSTICE GINSBURG’S ARTICLE, “WOMEN IN THE FEDERAL JUDICIARY,” SIGNED AND INSCRIBED BY THE JUSTICE TO SENATOR NANCY KASSEBAUM.
    <b>Bonhams, Jan. 19 – 27:</b> A COPY OF SANDRA DAY O’CONNOR’S ARTICLE, “THEY OFTEN ARE HALF-OBSCURE: THE RIGHTS OF THE INDIVIDUAL AND THE LEGACY OF OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES,” PRESENTED TO RUTH BADER GINSBURG.
    <b>Bonhams, Jan. 19 – 27:</b> A DELUXE EDITION OF ANTONIN SCALIA’S MAKING YOUR CASE: THE ART OF PERSUADING JUDGES, FROM AN EDITION OF 2000, SIGNED AND INSCRIBED TO RUTH BADER GINSBURG.
    <b>Bonhams, Jan. 19 – 27:</b> A FIRST EDITION OF SONIA SOTOMAYOR’S <i>MY BELOVED WORLD,</i> SIGNED AND INSCRIBED TO RUTH BADER GINSBURG.
    <b>Bonhams, Jan. 19 – 27:</b> A FIRST EDITION OF AL GORE’S “THE ASSAULT ON REASON,” SIGNED AND INSCRIBED TO RUTH BADER GINSBURG.
    <b>Bonhams, Jan. 19 – 27:</b> <i>BELOVED</i> BY TONI MORRISON, SIGNED AND INSCRIBED BY THE AUTHOR TO RUTH AND MARTIN GINSBURG.
    <b>Bonhams, Jan. 19 – 27:</b> A FIRST EDITION OF GLORIA STEINEM’S “MY LIFE ON THE ROAD,” SIGNED AND INSCRIBED TO RUTH BADER GINSBURG.
  • <b>Il Ponte Casa d’Aste, Jan. 25:</b> DANTE ALIGHIERI (1265-1321). <i>Commedia.</i> Venezia: Vindelino da Spira, 1477. Estimate: € 40.000 - 60.000.
    <b>Il Ponte Casa d’Aste, Jan. 25:</b> DALI, Salvador (1908-1989) - William SHAKESPEARE (1564-1616). <i>Romeo e Giulietta.</i> Milan: Rizzoli, 1975. Estimate: € 25.000 - 35.000.
    <b>Il Ponte Casa d’Aste, Jan. 25:</b> MALVASIA, Cornelio; MONTANARI, Geminiano. <i>Ephemerides novissimae motuum coelestium.</i> Modena: Cassiani, 1662. Estimate: € 8.000 - 12.000.
    <b>Il Ponte Casa d’Aste, Jan. 25:</b> JANSSONIUS, Johannes. <i>Atlantis majoris quinta pars, Orbem maritimum [Novus Atlas, volume V: carte marittime].</i> Amsterdam: Janssonius, 1650. Estimate: € 12.000 - 18.000.
  • <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>A Record Breaking Season</b>
    <b>Swann:</b> <i>The Book of Mormon,</b> first edition, Palmyra, NY, 1830. Sold Sept. 30 — $112,500.
    <b>Swann:</b> Vincent Van Gogh, <i>Homme à la Pipe: Portrait du Docteur Gachet, Evening,</i> etching, 1890. Sold Nov. 2 — $161,000.
    <b>Swann:</b> Edward Ruscha, <i>Stains,</i> title page, one of 70, signed, 1969. Sold Nov. 9 — $112,500.
    <b>Swann:</b> John James Audubon, <i>Carolina Parrot, Plate 26,</i> hand colored aquatint, 1828. Sold Dec.9 — $137,000.
    <b>Swann:</b> Edmund Dulac, <i>The Snow Queen,</i> watercolor, gouache, pen & ink, 1910. Sold Dec. 16 — $125,000.
  • <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>26 January 2022<br>Printed Books & Maps,<br>The Sinclair Hood Library of Archaeology,<br>The Charles Tomlinson Poetry Library</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter, Jan. 26:</b> Biggs (Thomas, Hope, Theodore C & Fergusson, James). <i>Architecture at Ahmedabad, The Capital of Goozerat,</i> 1st edition, London: John Murray, 1866. £3,000 to £5,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Jan. 26:</b> Daniell (Thomas and William). <i>Oriental Scenery. One Hundred and Fifty Views of the Architecture, Antiquities and Landscape Scenery of Hindoostan,</i> 6 parts, 1812-16. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Jan. 26:</b> Hamilton (Sir William & Pierre Francois Hugues d'Hancarville). Collection of Etruscan, Greek and Roman Antiquities from the Cabinet of the Hon.ble Wm Hamilton, volumes I & II only (of 4), Naples, 1766-67. £7,000 to £10,000.
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>26 January 2022<br>Printed Books & Maps,<br>The Sinclair Hood Library of Archaeology,<br>The Charles Tomlinson Poetry Library</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter, Jan. 26:</b> Moore (Lieutenant Joseph & Captain Frederick Marryat). Eighteen Views taken at & near Rangoon, [1825]. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Jan. 26:</b> Williamson (Captain Thomas & Howitt, Samuel). <i>Oriental Field Sports; Being a Complete, Detailed and Accurate Description of the Wild Sports of the East;</i> 1st edition, London, 1807. £5,000 to £8,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Jan. 26:</b> Knoop (Johann Hermann). <i>Pomologia, dat is Beschryvingen en Afbeeldingen van de beste zoorten van Appels en Peeren, Fructologia …,</i> 3 volumes in 1, Leeuwarden: A Ferwerda and G. Tresling, [1758]. £1,000 to £1,500.
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>26 January 2022<br>Printed Books & Maps,<br>The Sinclair Hood Library of Archaeology,<br>The Charles Tomlinson Poetry Library</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter, Jan. 26:</b> North America. Wyld (James), Map of the Colony of British Columbia and the British & American Territory West of the Rocky Mountains, Including Vancouvers Island and the Gold Fields, 1858. £1,500 to £2,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Jan. 26:</b> Pocket Globe. A Correct Globe with the New Discoveries, circa 1785. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Jan. 26:</b> Wales. Morden (Robert), Twelve 'playing card maps' of Wales, circa 1676. £1,000 to £1,500.
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>26 January 2022<br>Printed Books & Maps,<br>The Sinclair Hood Library of Archaeology,<br>The Charles Tomlinson Poetry Library</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter, Jan. 26:</b> Society of Dilettanti. <i>Antiquities of Ionia,</i> 5 volumes: 1821, 1797, 1840, 1881 & 1915. £3,000 to £5,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Jan. 26:</b> Churchill (Winston Spencer). <i>The People's Rights,</i> 1st edition, 1st issue, London: Hodder & Stoughton, [1910]. £1,000 to £1,500.
    <b>Dominic Winter, Jan. 26:</b> Paz (Octavio). <i>Blanco,</i> 1st edition, limited numbered edition, Mexico: Joaquín Mortiz, 1967. £500 to £800.
  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br> Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including Americana<br>Online<br>Now through January 25, 2022</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, Now to Jan. 25:</b> Audubon, John James. The "Wild Turkey" manuscript — capturing one of the nation's most iconic symbols of unity. $250,000 to $350,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Now to Jan. 25:</b> (Flag) — Commemorative Thirteen-Star Flag. Pre-Civil War, Thirteen-Star Flag of the United States, from the collection of Charles Kuralt. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Now to Jan. 25:</b> Fitzgerald, F. Scott. <i>Tender is the Night</i>. First edition, presentation copy, and a former mystery. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Now to Jan. 25:</b> Audubon, John James. The "Wild Turkey" manuscript — capturing one of the nation's most iconic symbols of unity. $250,000 to $350,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Now to Jan. 25:</b> Salinger, J.D. <i>The Catcher in the Rye.</i> A strikingly fresh first edition of Salinger's essential novel. $20,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Now to Jan. 25:</b> Whitman, Walt. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> “America's second Declaration of Independence” — signed by Whitman. $150,000 to $200,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Now to Jan. 25:</b> [Dylan, Bob]. Some of the earliest known professional portraits. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Now to Jan. 25:</b> Y-Worth [Yarworth], William. <i>Cerevisiarii Comes: Or, the New and True Art of Brewing…</i> A rare and early English work on the art of brewing. $5,000 to $7,000.

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