Raptis Rare Books Adopts Invisible Marking System to Protect Books from Theft

- by Michael Stillman

Matthew Raptis with a Shakespeare Fourth Folio.

Raptis Rare Books has become the first antiquarian bookseller to employ what is known as "synthetic DNA" to protect its clients from theft. Synthetic DNA is an invisible marker that is placed on books that provides a unique identification. This marker is produced by SelectaDNA, which provides synthetic DNA for various crime prevention purposes. The maker explains that the synthetic DNA uses a combination of thousands of unique microdots which assures that each item can be identified with certainty when located. Once a stolen book is found, either for sale, in another collection, or in the possession of thieves, it can be identified, even if the thieves attempt to hide its identification by altering the book.


The marker does not deface the book because it is invisible. It is only visible when viewed under a specific wavelength of ultraviolet light. SelectaDNA keeps a database of marked items so authorities anywhere can quickly identify the source of an item. Once they do, its ownership can be irrefutably established.


Matthew Raptis, owner of Raptis Rare Books, said, "Raptis Rare Books takes extraordinary measures to ensure authenticity of its collection of literary treasures. The use of SelectaDNA is an excellent complement to our rigorous authentication protocols, which provides our clients with added confidence in purchasing these rare literary gems."


The synthetic DNA is sprayed onto the item to be identified. This gives rise to one of the more interesting applications of the marker. It can placed in a spray applicator by a store's doorway. With the use of a panic alarm button or existing alarm system, it can be released. When the intruder leaves, he is sprayed with the marker, which is not easy to remove. It is sort of like the exploding colored die that banks include with a sack of money when they are robbed. The difference here is the thief may not know that he has been sprayed, or where the telltale marker has covered his skin or clothing.


This is an excellent idea for protecting books. Various library stamps and similar markings used to establish ownership can deface books and show thieves what needs to be altered or removed to cover up its history. Additionally, this could be a great way of establishing long term provenance if a record is kept of the changing ownership associated with the unique marker.