Rare Book Monthly

Articles - March - 2019 Issue

Bodleian Library Asked to Return Stolen Books... Over Four Centuries Later

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Robert Devereaux - Earl, General, poet, Queen's cousin, traitor, book thief.

Is there a point at which books, once stolen, no longer need to be returned, or is there no statute of limitations? Does the obligation to return literally last forever? Faro 1540, a group from the small southern Portuguese city of Faro, believes that obligation, at a minimum, exceeds 400 years. They want a collection of books, now at the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford, returned. They were looted in 1596.

 

The man responsible for this crime was Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, a cousin and once a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I. They later had a falling out, but relations were still copacetic in 1596.

 

Devereux was something of a rogue, a dashing young man who, in one way or another, made his way into Elizabeth's heart. Some have thought it was romantic, at least on her part, but Devereux was 31 years her junior. He was also the stepson of Robert Dudley, the one man whom Queen Elizabeth wished to, and might have married, but for the political issues it raised. While she was most displeased that Dudley married another, and detested the woman he married, she did end up liking his wife's son. Devereux was charming.

 

He also could be insolent, and at times disobeyed commands, but the Queen's affection led to forgiveness and looking the other way. He made the most of his situation. The result was that, despite previous blunders, Devereux was placed in charge of forces in 1596 during the never-ending Anglo-Spanish War. They attacked Cadiz, a Spanish city not well-defended. It was an easy victory for Devereux, who ransacked the place. That battle is well-known, but Devereux also burned and ransacked another city - Faro. While located in Portugal, the country was then under control of Spain.

 

Unlike Cadiz, Faro was a poor city. There wasn't much to ransack there. Devereux was apparently displeased, and as a result, took something he didn't personally value all that much, the Bishop of Algarve's library. Algarve is a region of southern Portugal of which Faro is the capital. There were 65 books, consisting of 91 volumes, taken from the library. Also taken, though apparently from a second location, was the oldest book printed in Portugal, a 1497 Pentateuch.

 

Devereux's lack of high regard for the books he stole can be seen by the fact that he ended up giving them away. He gave them to his friend, Sir Thomas Bodley. Bodley founded the Bodleian Library at Oxford, which is why the books are there today. They have been there since the library opened in 1602.

 

A year after the ransacking of Faro, Devereux was unsuccessful in a mission to capture Spanish treasure ships, and did not follow orders. His relationship with the Queen began to deteriorate. He would lose a source of income and eventually find himself under house arrest, but Elizabeth still had a soft spot for him. Devereux should have quit while he was ahead, but pushed his luck even farther, attempting a palace coup. That was beyond Queen Elizabeth's tolerance level and in 1601, Devereux was beheaded. It is doubtful the people of Faro felt much sympathy.

 

It has been over four centuries since these events took place, and if most of the world has forgotten, not everyone in Faro has. In 2009, a group of local citizens formed Faro 1540 for the purpose of promoting and defending the environmental and cultural heritage of Faro. More recently, they requested that the library of the Bishop of Algarve be returned. The request was made of the Bodleian Library, the second and current Queen Elizabeth, and various British officials. An official answer has not been received as of this writing. We would be surprised if a positive response is forthcoming. The library is very large, very old, and one can only imagine what the history is of all of those books that have resided in the library for centuries. The librarians must be looking at this request as a foot in the door of the proverbial can of worms.

 

Europe has been through a lot of wars, and a lot of plundering in its thousands of years of history. If 400 years is within the statute of limitations, how about 1,000 or 2,000 years? Plundering was the way of the world in antiquity too. Piracy and privateering were also once common, and Devereux's mission was something between an act of war and an act of privateering. One thing that does seem cut and dried here is the circumstances of the Bishop's books ending up at the Bodleian, and it wasn't the result of a voluntary transfer. This is a strong case for something so long ago, but if it is decided that the bell never tolls, no matter how long, what sort of disputes will we see over, not only books, but all sorts of property in the years ahead? Will anything ever be resolved?

Rare Book Monthly

  • <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.
  • <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.

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