Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2020 Issue

Sad Day for the Book Trade: Commentary on Carnegie Library Thefts

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Gregory Priore, 63, (left) archivist at the Carnegie Library and John Schulman, 56, (right) of Caliban Bookshop (Allegheny County photo).

By now the whole book world has heard that rare book librarian Gregory Priore, 63, who was the archivist and manager of Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Library William R. Oliver Special Collections Room from 1992 until April 2017 and an equally well known Pittsburgh dealer in fine books, John Schulman, 56, co-owner of the Caliban Bookshop, have both pleaded guilty to thefts from the library that could run into the millions. The pillaging of the collection was said to have run for years and was part of an ongoing scheme by the two men to personally profit from their clandestine actions. This truly is a sad day for the book trade and one that makes us question our basic assumptions and practices.

 

Who among us has handled rare and valuable material and has not been tempted to steal?

 

In my own career I worked at the Rare Books Department of the University of California Library at Berkeley in the 1960s. I had the keys to the stacks which also included the Bancroft Library. I was a youngster and my entire job was to see that nobody brought a pen into the room, to watch the readers to make sure they did not steal or write in the books and to return the material after use.

 

I watched the patrons; but, there was nobody watching me.

 

In those days there were no security cameras, there were very few other people with access to the stacks and the collection was brilliant. It would have been easy to pilfer. Yet, it never crossed my mind to lift a volume here or there.

 

Likewise as a college student I was a research assistant at the Archives of American Art, then located in the Detroit Institute of Art. Even in my low level intern type position I could wander at will around the private areas of the museum which housed the archives and holdings of the museum not on display. It was a veritable treasure house, and temptations lurked around every corner. I did not take, and nobody I knew even considered taking (although must admit when I first saw their Joseph Cornell assemblage collection it did cross my mind - they had so many and treated them so casually, would they even miss one?). Instead, I visited the Cornell cache almost daily, privately admiring the work which was housed higgledy-piggledy on shelves without any security.

 

And a few years later, as a young military wife during the Vietnam era, I became a curator at the Heron Museum of Art in Indianapolis. During my time at the museum, a member of the renowned Lilly family gifted their mansion, their artwork, books and decorative arts to our museum.

 

The walls were covered with Fragonards, the drawers were filled with Goya prints, the closets were jammed with Lalique and Spode, endless antique silver tea services, the finest cut glass epergnes, punch bowls, porcelain figurines -- just a massive amount of rare, expensive beautiful stuff.

 

There was no inventory, in fact it was my job to to make the inventory. I drove daily from my little cabin where the families of enlisted men lived out on the wrong side of town, across the railroad tracks to spend my work day at one of the grandest estates in Indianapolis.

 

Many days I was the only person in that huge home going through the china, the silver, the books and prints and making the preliminary notes for accessioning. Nobody was watching; I was alone. There was more than you could possibly imagine, and no one but me knew what it was in those closets and drawers. Yet I never once thought of pocketing a candlestick or a tea cup. I loved the Goya Los Caprichos prints but not for an instant did I consider stealing a few, or partnering with an outside dealer to make some quick cash on the side.

 

So what has happened here? What makes people steal, especially people in a position of trust? Why would a rare books librarian collude with an apparently reputable dealer to ravage a prominent collection and how could it have gone on for years without anyone being any the wiser? And more importantly, what’s to be done on the security side to keep it from happening again?

 

It is interesting to note that the thefts came to light when an appraisal was ordered for insurance purposes; it was then that the list of missing items began to emerge. During the subsequent investigation it appeared that cannibalizing the collection was an inside job. Two trusted inside people who weren’t being watched just helped themselves.

 

It makes us all, all who work in positions of trust, look bad. Very bad.

 

Here’s a comment from Vic Zoschak, outgoing president of the ABAA. In an email he wrote: John Schulman (Caliban Books) has not been an ABAA member since the summer of 2018. In July of that summer, the allegations of theft were made public, and we in the ABAA were shocked and disappointed to hear of same. Shortly after they did become public, Mr. Schulman resigned his ABAA membership. As to Mr Schulman’s recent guilty plea, we only know what was reported in the Pittsburgh Gazette.

 

With all that in mind, I’ll share with you the statement I made earlier on Jan. 14th to the ABAA membership regarding the Carnegie Library thefts:

 

To the membership-

 

The Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America is committed to honesty and integrity. Any profession, even one with a long-standing reputation for trust and ethical behavior such as ours, can be subject to bad actors. In this instance, your Association has used this unfortunate situation as an opportunity to look inward. As a result, in conjunction with ILAB, we are now in the final stages of developing an international stolen books database that will provide law enforcement and the rare book community with an effective tool to identify, track, and recover stolen books. We will be a stronger trade as a result.”

 

While that’s good as a policy statement after a theft has occurred, it doesn’t really address the question of how to prevent theft in the first place. Where is the watch bird watching you? Do we all need a regular audit? What other security practices will keep insider fingers out of the cookie jar?

 

Many of us do have agreements with university and special collections to help them market duplicates and donations that do not contribute to their core mission. How will those transactions look in light of this disgraceful incident?

 

What about the folks who unwittingly bought stolen merchandise thinking it came from a reputable source? What will become of those transactions? This was not a one time thing, this was an ongoing scam that covered years.

 

And even more troubling, the book trade, the stuffiest, prissiest, most high nosed (.....”After you my dear Alphonse…”) occupation on the planet just took a hit to our collective reputations which we did not deserve. Worse yet, I suspect we will all be tarred with the same brush and it will take a long time to recover.

 

Bad. Very bad.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Jane Austen, <i>Sense and Sensibility: A Novel, By a Lady,</i> 3 volumes, London, 1811. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Virginia Woolf, <i>Kew Gardens,</i> limited edition, signed by Woolf & Bell, London, 1927. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> <i>[Arabian Nights],</i> Calcutta II version, 4 volumes, Calcutta & London, 1839-1842. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Princess Diana, 6 ALS to <i>Harper’s Bazaar</i> editor, anticipating Christie’s sale of her dresses for charity, 1995-97. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Jane Austen, <i>Emma,</i> first edition, London, 1816. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Hirohito & Nagako, Emperor & Empress of Japan, 2 photographs signed, showing Nagako in kimono & obi bearing the imperial seal. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Princess Diana, 6 autograph letters signed to <i>Harper’s Bazaar</i> editor Elizabeth Tilberis, anticipating Christie’s announcement of a sale of her dresses for charity, 1995-97. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Sarojini Naidu, complete galley proof of <i>The Broken Wing</i> signed with several holograph pages & an autograph letter signed to writer Edmund Gosse, 1916. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Fernando Pessoa, <i>Mensagem,</i> first edition, presentation copy, signed & inscribed, Lisbon, 1934. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Graham Greene, <i>The Basement Room,</i> first edition, Greene’s personal copy, signed with annotations throughout, London, 1935. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Abraham Lincoln, partly-printed document signed, call for troops issued during America’s first national draft just days before the NYC draft riots, 1863. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b><br><i>Les Chansons de Bilitis</i> by Pierre Louÿs, illustrated by George Barbier & F.L. Schmied, Paris, 1922. $8,000 to $12,000.
  • <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>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Leon TOLSTOÏ. <i>Anna Karenina.</i> Moscou, 1878. First and full edition of the Russian novel, in the author’s language.<br>Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Mark TWAIN. <i>Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer's comrade).</i> New York, 1885. First American edition.<br>Est. 5 000 / 6 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Walt WHITMAN. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> Brooklyn, New York, 1856. Second edition gathering 32 poems. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Karen BLIXEN. <i>Out of Africa.</i> Londres, 1937. First edition in the UK, before Danish translation and American release.<br>Est. 1 500 / 2 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Ernest HEMINGWAY. <i>A Farewell to Arms.</i> New York, 1929. First edition with $2.50 on the dust and A on the copyright page.<br>Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Ulysses.</i> Paris, Shakespeare and Company, 1922. First edition published by Sylvia Beach. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Dubliners.</i> Londres, 1914. First edition. Nice copy in publisher’s cardboard. Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Franz KAFKA. 8 novels in German first edition, published in München, Leipzig and Berlin 1916-1931. Est. from 300 / 400 to 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> David Herbert LAWRENCE. <i>Lady Chatterley's Lover.</i> Florence, 1928. Privately printed first edition. Est. 4 000 / 5 000 €
    John STEINBECK. <i>The Grapes of Wrath.</i> New York, 1939. First edition. Nice copy with $2.75 on the cover. Est. 1 000 / 1 200 €
  • <center><b>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Road West: The Steve Turner Collection of African Americana<br>February 20, 2020</b>
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Harriet Tubman Cabinet Card by H.S. Squyer, Auburn, NY, 1892. $10,000 to $15,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Scarce <i>Events of the Tulsa Disaster,</i> First Edition, 1922. $4,000 to $6,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Unpublished CDV of Frederick Douglass by Benjamin F. Smith, 1864. $3,000 to $5,000
    <center><b>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Road West: The Steve Turner Collection of African Americana<br>February 20, 2020</b>
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> California Imprint of <i>President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation</i> Broadside, 1864. $10,000 to $15,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> John C.H. Grabill Cabinet Card of Buffalo Soldier Wearing Buffalo Coat, ca 1886. $8,000 to $10,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Rare <i>What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking,</i> 2nd Cookbook Published by African American. $6,000 to $8,000
    <center><b>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Road West: The Steve Turner Collection of African Americana<br>February 20, 2020</b>
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Frederick Douglass Walking Stick, 1888. $3,000 to $5,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Only Known Slave Narrative Published Independently in California, <i>Life and Adventures of James Williams.</i> $2,000 to $4,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Rare First Edition of History of Black Literature, Abbé Grégoire <i>De La Littérature des Nègres</i>. $2,500 to $3,000
    <center><b>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Road West: The Steve Turner Collection of African Americana<br>February 20, 2020</b>
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> African American Soldier and Medal of Honor Winner Christian A. Fleetwood CDV, PLUS. $8,000 to $10,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Jack Johnson vs. Jim Jeffries Pennant, 1910 Reno, Nevada. $2,000 to $4,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Joe Gans Photograph at 1906 Goldfield, Nevada Fight by Percy Dana. $600 to $800

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