Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2020 Issue

The Guillotine Falls Slowly

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A 1615 Breeches Bible

For some years now the story of rare books and parts of others stolen from the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh has been devolving.  To the outside world this was simply another multi-million dollar crime committed in a world grown cynical from constant reports of theft, manipulation, exaggeration, and sometimes physical intimidation in almost every American zip code.  It’s inevitable such news periodically washes up.  That some aspects of such criminality attach to the theft of library books seems a bridge too far but the underlying facts admitted by two defendants recently pleading guilty in Pittsburgh tell us that veniality is alive and well, even in the august world of rare and important material.

 

The facts are straightforward.

 

Greg Priore, 63, worked as sole archivist and manager of the Carnegie Library’s rare book room in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The library was well established and said to have an extensive collection of rare books, many of which are thought to be valuable.  But that library and most others with valuable holdings these days rely more on trust than security systems because such security is expensive and must be balanced against the public’s declining interest in seeing such material first hand.  That’s today’s reality.

 

In this way, famous, old and valuable material can molder in library collections, still be thought important in some sectors but be less appreciated in others.   In the case of the Carnegie Library some time back the value of the material began to significantly outweigh it’s benefits.  Adding complexity, to save money the library relied on a single individual, Mr. Priore, so there was no other set of eyes to confirm if proper standards were maintained.

 

And they weren’t.

 

Mr. Priore did not act alone.  He was a librarian who could remove the material but needed a skilled outsider to sell the material and found one just down the street, John Schulman of Caliban Books, who also pleaded guilty.  They will both pay a price.

 

As happens in these cases justice is comparative.  Here’s the law in Pennsylvania:

 

If someone steals items valued between $50 and $200, they can be charged with a second degree misdemeanor and face a prison sentence of up to 3 years. The two most serious charges related to theft by unlawful taking in Pennsylvania are first degree misdemeanor and felony.  Both men have pleaded guilty.

 

For an $8,000,000 theft you would expect the sentence to be quite long but you will be wrong.  The expected sentence is for a year or two and it seems okay.  Institutions mostly want their material back and are invariably embarrassed to have been the scene of a crime.  That makes cooperation important and both defendants appear to be cooperating.

 

As an aside, the valuation will be subject to some second guessing.  Is the valuation at retail, wholesale, auction or fantasy?  In the meantime some of the material has been returned and other items will invariably reappear in the years ahead so the story will go on.

 

A stolen item that got its picture taken for at least one recent story on the theft is a 1615 edition of the Breeches Bible, which looks to be worth less than $500 given its haggard state.  Maybe its signed?  Can’t tell.

 

Here’s a link to a recent story that recently appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

 

 

https://www.post-gazette.com/news/crime-courts/2020/01/13/carnegie-library-rare-books-theft-greg-priore-john-schulman-guilty-plea/stories/202001130088

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Books & Works on Paper<br>Including Autographs & Memorabilia<br>31 March 2020</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar. 31:</b> Rackham (Arthur). The Old Hag Standing Outside a Cottage, original drawing, signed by the artist, [c.1909]. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar. 31:</b> Rowling (J.K.) <i>Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone,</i> FIRST EDITION, first printing, signed by the author, original pictorial wrappers, 1997. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar. 31:</b> Castiglione (Giuseppe, after). Twelve plates from <i>Twenty views of the European Palaces of the Yuanming yuan,</i> 1783-1786. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <center><b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Books & Works on Paper<br>Including Autographs & Memorabilia<br>31 March 2020</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar. 31:</b> Spanish Antiphonal.- Antiphonal manuscript, [Spain], ca. 1650. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar. 31:</b> Almanach de Gotha.- Almost complete run 1769 to 1945, 12mo & 8vo, Gotha, C.W. Ettinger [- Justus Perthes]. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar. 31:</b> Bible, Greek.- New Testament [Greek], Novum Iesu Christi D.N. testamentum, ex bibliotheca regia, 2 parts in one, Robert Estienne, Paris, 1550. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <center><b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Books & Works on Paper<br>Including Autographs & Memorabilia<br>31 March 2020</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar. 31:</b> Lithgow (William). <i>The Total Discourse of the rare Adventures… from Scotland, to the most famous kingdoms in Europe, Asia, and Affrica…,</i> woodcut illustrations, 4to, I. Oakes, 1640. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar. 31:</b> Spanish Interest.-16th -18th Century. Large collection of letters related to prominent members of the Spanish court and clergymen,; v.s., late 16th-mid 18th century. £1,800 to £2,200.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar. 31:</b> Darwin (Charles). <i>The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex,</i> 2 vol., FIRST EDITION, first issue8vo, John Murray, 1871. £1,500 to £2,000.
    <center><b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Books & Works on Paper<br>Including Autographs & Memorabilia<br>31 March 2020</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar. 31:</b> Loewy (Raymond) ARR. Mickey Mouse, original gouache and air brush illustration of Mickey Mouse, signed by artist., n.p. [1946]. £1,500 to £2,000.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar. 31:</b> Potter (Beatrix) & Sendak (Maurice). <i>The Tale of Peter Rabbit,</i> NUMBER 2 OF 250 SIGNED COPIES, WITH AN ORIGINAL DRAWING BY SENDAK, New York, 1995. £1,500 to £2,000.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar. 31:</b> Wolstenholm (Jonathan) ARR. Books on Books, original watercolor, signed and dated by the artist, 2005.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Abraham Lincoln, <i>Emancipation Proclamation by the President of the United States,</i> pamphlet, 1862. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Family papers of the distinguished Ruby-Jackson family, Portland, Maine, 1853-1961. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Family papers of the Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens & the persons who served him, 1866-1907. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Autograph book with inscriptions by orators Moses Roper & Peter Williams, 1821-54. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Archive of letters, postcards, and greeting cards sent by Romare Bearden, 1949-87. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b><br>E. Simms Campbell, <i>A Night-Club Map of Harlem,</i> in inaugural issue of Manhattan, 1933. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Papers of the comedian Nipsey Russell, including a letter from MLK, 1929-2000. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Early German-American anti-slavery broadside, <i>Sclaven-Handel,</i> Philadelphia, 1794. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Edmonia Lewis, prominent sculptor, carte-de-visite by Henry Rocher, c. 1866-71. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b><br><i>The Black Panther: Black Community News Service,</i> 44 issues, San Francisco, 1967-1971. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Withers, <i>I Am A Man, Sanitation Workers Strike,</i> silver print, 1968. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> <i>March For Freedom Now!,</i> poster for the 1960 Republican Convention. $4,000 to $6,000.

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