Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2020 Issue

The Guillotine Falls Slowly

13d38644-57d5-4b13-be87-a6a74d9c5827

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

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Charles Loupot, <i>Les Cigarettes Mekka,</i> 1919. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Plinio Codognato, <i>Cicli Fiat,</i> circa 1910. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> L.N. Britton, <i>Warning! Consider the Possible Consequences,</i> c. 1917. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Leonardo Bistolfi, <i>Première Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs Modernes,</i> 1902. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Leonetto Cappiello, <i>Paquet Pernot / Biscuits Pernot,</i> 1910. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jul 15:</b> Jessie Tarbox Beals, archive of signed photographs, 15 silver prints, c. 1930. $6,000 to $8,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Francesco Nonni, <i>Font Meo / Acqua Minerale Naturale,</i> 1924. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Frederick Winthrop Ramsdell, <i>American Crescent Cycles,</i> 1899. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> <i>Be a Tight Wad! Own Something!</i> designer unknown, 1925. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> Candido Aragonese de Faria, <i>Chamonix–Mont–Blanc,</i> c. 1910. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 5:</b> W.E.J., <i>Irishmen Avenge the Lusitania,</i> c. 1915. $2,000 to $3,000.
  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Your Own Sylvia:<br>Sylvia Plath’s letters to Ted Hughes and other items,<br>Property of Frieda Hughes<br>9 to 21 July 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Sylvia Plath. Family photograph album ("The Hughes family Album"), 1957-1962. £30,000 to £50,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Sylvia Plath. Typed letter signed, to Ted Hughes, on "my own private doctrine", with a poem, 5 October 1956. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Sylvia Plath. Pen and ink portrait of Ted Hughes, [1956]. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Your Own Sylvia:<br>Sylvia Plath’s letters to Ted Hughes and other items,<br>Property of Frieda Hughes<br>9 to 21 July 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath. Joint autograph letter signed, to William and Edith Hughes, March 1960. £8,000 to £12,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Photographic portrait by David Bailey, inscribed by Plath, 1961, and another press photo. £800 to £1,200.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Tarot de Marseille. Deck of cards owned by Sylvia Plath. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 9 – 21 July:</b> Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Pair of gold wedding rings. £6,000 to £8,000.
  • <center><b>Trillium Antique Prints & Rare Books<br>Fine Art<br>Antique Engravings & Lithographs<br>Works on Paper<br>Accepting bids until July 31</b>
    <b>Trillium, July 31:</b> Cleveley, Jukes, & Cook - View of Charlotte Sound, New Zealand. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Trillium, July 31:</b> Peron - Platypus. $300 to $600.
    <b>Trillium, July 31:</b> Loon & Pitt - Map of the World published 1680 - <I>Orbis Terrarum nova et accuratissima tabula.</i> $5,000 to $8,000.
    <b>Trillium, July 31:</b> Maitres de l'Affiche by MUCHA - La Dame aux Camelias. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <center><b>Trillium Antique Prints & Rare Books<br>Fine Art<br>Antique Engravings & Lithographs<br>Works on Paper<br>Accepting bids until July 31</b>
    <b>Trillium, July 31:</b> Cause - Peony, Crocus, Dog's Tooth Violet. $400 to $800.
    <b>Trillium, July 31:</b> Redoute, Folio - Lemmonnier's Iris - Iris Monnieri. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Trillium, July 31:</b> Audubon, Imperial Folio - Common American Deer. $6,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Trillium, July 31:</b> Gould - Cuvier's Toucan (Ramphastos Cuvieri). $5,000 to $8,000.
  • <b>ANZAAB Highlights Catalogue:</b> OUTHWAITE, Ida Rentoul. FROG TEACHER LEADING ELF PUPILS ... Watercolour, c.1920.
    <b>ANZAAB Highlights Catalogue:</b> SATO, Gyro. [GENDAI RYOKI SENTAN ZUKAN]. Tokyo : Shinchosa, 1931.
    <b>ANZAAB Highlights Catalogue:</b> CARROLL, Lewis. ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND. London : Macmillan and Co., 1868.
    <b>ANZAAB Highlights Catalogue:</b> FLEMING, Ian and MILLER, Albert. CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG. New York : Random House, 1968.
    <b>ANZAAB Highlights Catalogue:</b> PHOENIX. Adelaide : Adelaide University Union, 1939.
    <b>ANZAAB Highlights Catalogue:</b> BOWEN, Emmanuel. A complete map of the Southern Continent. London : 1744.
    <b>ANZAAB Highlights Catalogue:</b> NORTHFIELD, James. AUSTRALIA. Melbourne : Northfield Studios and J.E. Hackett, c.1935
  • <center><b>The Transatlantic Book Fair<br>July 22-27, 2021</b>
    <b>Transatlantic Book Fair, Jul. 22-27:</b> SHAKESPEARE, William. <i>Comedies, Histories and Tragedies. Published according to the true originall copies.</i> London, Tho Cotes, for Robert Allot, 1632.
    <b>Transatlantic Book Fair, Jul. 22-27:</b> STAHL, Augusto. <i>Panorama of Rio de Janiero.</i> c.1859. 3-part albumen print panorama (266 x 1186mm.).
    <b>Transatlantic Book Fair, Jul. 22-27:</b> WILDE, Oscar. <i>Lady Windermere's Fan</i>. London: Elkin Mathews & John Lane, 1893. Presentation copy.
    <center><b>The Transatlantic Book Fair<br>July 22-27, 2021</b>
    <b>Transatlantic Book Fair, Jul. 22-27:</b> DE TOCQUEVILLE, Alexis. <i>De la Democratie en Amerique.</i> Paris: Pagnerre, 1850. Thirteenth Edition. Presentation copy.
    <b>Transatlantic Book Fair, Jul. 22-27:</b> CHAUDRON, A[delaide] de V[endel]. <i>Chaudron’s Spelling Book.</i> Mobile (AL): S.H. Goetzel, 1865.
    <b>Transatlantic Book Fair, Jul. 22-27:</b> SAINT CHER, Hugh of. <i>Commentary on Peter Lombard’s Sentences, with the Abridgement of the Sentences.</i> Eastern France, illuminated manuscript., first half of the fifteenth century.
    <center><b>The Transatlantic Book Fair<br>July 22-27, 2021</b>
    <b>Transatlantic Book Fair, Jul. 22-27:</b> LANE, Thomas. <i>The Crystal Palace.</i> London, 1851.
    <b>Transatlantic Book Fair, Jul. 22-27:</b> B[ULWER], J[ohn]. <i>Anthropometamorphosis: man transform’d: or, the artificiall changling historically presented…</i> London: William Hunt, 1653.
    <b>Transatlantic Book Fair, Jul. 22-27:</b> VOLTAIRE, François-Marie Arouet de. <i>Oeuvres de M. de Voltaire.</i> Dresden, George-Conrad Walther (i.e. Leipzig, Breitkopf), 1748-1750.
    <center><b>The Transatlantic Book Fair<br>July 22-27, 2021</b>
    <b>Transatlantic Book Fair, Jul. 22-27:</b> HAWKING, Stephen & Leonard Mlodinow. <i>The Grand Design.</i> London: Bantam Books, 2011.
    <b>Transatlantic Book Fair, Jul. 22-27:</b> FIELDS, James T. <i>Yesterdays with Authors.</i> With fine manuscript letter by Charles Dickens, and autograph letters from Forster, Landor, Mitford and others.
    <b>Transatlantic Book Fair, Jul. 22-27:</b> <i>Kit, the Arkansas Traveller Broadside.</i> Chromolithograph.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions