• <b><center>Leland Little Auctions<br>The Signature Winter Auction<br>December 3, 2022</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Dec. 3:</b> Brinkley, Francis. <i>The Art of Japan,</i> Boston, 1897. The very rare complete Shogun edition. $4,000 to $8,000.
    <b>Leland Little, Dec. 3:</b> Sun Tzu. <i>Art Militaire des Chinois, ou recueil d'ancins traités sur la guerre composés avant l'ere chrétienne, par différents généraux chinois,</i> Paris, 1772. First European edition. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Leland Little, Dec. 3:</b> First English Translation, St. Augustine's <i>Of the Citie of God: With the Learned Comments of Io. Lod. Vives…,</i> London, 1610. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b><center>Leland Little Auctions<br>The Signature Winter Auction<br>December 3, 2022</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Dec. 3:</b> Philipp Franz von Siebold (1796-1866). Five <i>Nippon</i> Folios on Japan, 1832 [and] later 19th century [and] 1931. $1,000 to $2,000.
    <b>Leland Little, Dec. 3:</b> Mason (George Henry). <i>The Punishments of China, Illustrated by Twenty-Two Engravings: with Explanations in English and French,</i> London, 1808/1817. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Leland Little, Dec. 3:</b> Hobbes, Thomas (of Malmesbury). <i>Leviathan, or the Matter, Form, and Power of a Common-wealth Ecclesiastical and Civil,</i> London, “1651,” ca. 1680. $800 to $1,200.
  • <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books<br> December 8, 2022</b>
    <b>Swann December 8:</b> Friedrich Justin Bertuch, <i>Bilderbuch für Kinder,</i> Weimar, 1792, 1798, 1802, 1805, 1822. $1,200 to $1,800.
    <b>Swann December 8:</b> Sebastian Münster, <i>Novae Insulae XXVI Nova Tabula,</i> Basel, 1552. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann December 8:</b> Sebastian Münster & Hans Holbein, <i>Typus Cosmographicus Universales,</i> Basel, 1532. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann December 8:</b> Franz Unger, <i>Die Urwelt in Ihren Verschiedenen Bildungsperioden,</i> 16 tinted lithographed plates, Weigel, 1858. $1,000 to $1,500.
    <b>Swann December 8:</b> Charles Varle, Wiliam Warner & Andrew Hanna, <i>Plan of the City of Environs of Baltimore,</i> Baltimore, 1801. $8,000 to $12,000.
  • <center><b>19th Century Rare Book & Photograph Shop<br>Catalogue 195<br>Magnificent Books & Manuscripts<br>Free on request</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop, Catalogue 195:</b> Benjamin Franklin on Electricity. Inscribed presentation copy.
    <b>19th Century Shop, Catalogue 195:</b> Frederick Douglass. Letter on civil war and the end of slavery.
    <b>19th Century Shop, Catalogue 195:</b> Carleton Watkins. A major American West photo album.
    <b>19th Century Shop, Catalogue 195:</b> Einstein. General Theory of Relativity inscribed by Einstein.
    <b>19th Century Shop, Catalogue 195:</b> The Federalist. Rare deluxe thick-paper copy.
    <b>19th Century Shop, Catalogue 195:</b> Emma Johnston. Archive of 350 salt prints by a Victorian female photographer.
  • <b>Bonhams, Dec. 13:</b> KEPLER INVESTIGATES PLANETARY MOTION. KEPLER, JOHANNES. 1571-1630. $400,000 to $600,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 13:</b> THE FINAL ILLUSTRATION OF POOH AND PIGLET IN THE HUNDRED ACRE WOOD. $250,000 to $350,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 13:</b> GUTENBERG BIBLE LEAF. $60,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 13:</b> ORTELIUS, ABRAHAM. 1527-1598. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 13:</b> KNIGHT, HILARY. "Christmas Dinner at Maxime de la Falaise's" $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 13:</b> GERSHWIN WORKING MUSICAL MANUSCRIPT PAGE FROM <i>OF THEE I SING.</i> $3,000 to $5,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 13:</b> GILBERT, W.S. Original typed manuscript for <i>The Story of the Mikado.</i> $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 13:</b> FINAL TYPED MANUSCRIPT FOR V.C. ANDREWS CLASSIC <I>FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC.</I> $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 13:</b> ANNOTATED TYPESCRIPT DRAFT FOR KIPLING'S FINAL MOWGLI STORY. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 13:</b> PRESENTATION COPY OF GUYS AND DOLLS. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 13:</b> CHARLES DICKENS' CHINA INKWELL FEATURING A BEE READING, FROM GAD'S HILL. $6,000 to $8,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 13:</b> NELSON'S BATTLE PLAN FOR TRAFALGAR. $200,000 to $300,000

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2009 Issue

A Stiff Prison Sentence for Book Theft: Equal Justice for All?

Spiderman2

The Amazing Spider-Man was not able to prevent himself from being stolen.


By Michael Stillman

We have seen several high profile book theft cases come down in recent years. The target is often a library, in particular, the rare book room. Some people simply stuff a book or pamphlet in a briefcase and walk out. Others, even more ominously, slice the pages, plates, or maps out of rare books. This is even more egregious, in our opinion, as it can take years, if ever, before the library realizes something is missing, and when it does, it finds that the work has been irretrievably damaged.

Perhaps the most notable case in recent years was that of E. Forbes Smiley, the Martha's Vineyard map seller who stocked his inventory by slicing maps out of antiquarian books in such places as the Yale and Harvard University Libraries, the New York and Boston Public Libraries, the Newberry Library and British Library. Smiley admitted to stealing 97 items, though some suspect he stole more. The value of the items stolen by this upper crust map seller exceeded $2 million. He was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison.

The British Library expressed outrage at the leniency of Smiley's sentence, though they did not seem so troubled by the case of Farhad Hakimzadeh, sentenced in Britain recently. Hakimzadeh was an Iranian scholar who liked to collect as well as write about books in his specialty. Unfortunately, he didn't always like to pay for them. He conducted numerous thefts at the British and Bodleian (Oxford) Libraries. He too used a knife to extract certain pages from the books, leaving them permanently defaced. The value of the items he stole has been estimated at $1.5 million. He was sentenced to 2 years in prison last January. On appeal a few weeks ago, his sentence was reduced to one year. The court's explanation in reducing Hakimzadeh's sentence was, "This was not a case of someone stealing to improve his library then preventing scholars from accessing those books in the future. All the books have been recovered and so have the pages." That statement is hard to figure. Evidently the court concluded that Hakimzadeh had no intention of keeping the books for himself. He must simply have forgotten to check them out, and thoughtfully sliced out only the pages he wanted so the rest of the books would remain available for others to borrow. This time, the British Library expressed disappointment with the court's ruling.

James Brubaker, alias "montanasilver," was not a great scholar like Hakimzadeh, or a merchant to the wealthy like Smiley, but he was a respectable citizen, a retired high school chemistry teacher who made a living as an eBay seller. He stole and sliced from libraries all across the Northwestern states of America and western Canada. All in all, he left with more than he brought from around 100 libraries, taking an estimated 10,000-20,000 items with him to stock his inventory. Late last year, he was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison, the judge actually going above the prosecution's recommendation of 2 years.

And so this takes us to the case of Scott Meherg, a 28-year-old person of indeterminate residence in the Chicago area. Meherg sounds like someone who is a bit down and out. His public defender said he has had drug issues for a number of years. One day in 2007, Meherg walked into Graham Crackers Comics of Naperville, Illinois, and walked out with a copy of the Amazing Spider-Man comic number 2. Unlike the others, he did pay for it, but with a forged check. That's as good as stealing, though not as subtle and unnoticeable as the means employed by the previous gentlemen. The value of his theft is easy to compute by the amount of the forged check he wrote - $980.99.

Meherg was identified through a photo lineup and fingerprints he left on the check. He was arrested last fall and recently pleaded guilty. On May 7, the DuPage County Court pronounced sentence on Meherg. He is to serve 7 years in prison.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Fonsie Mealy’s<br>Christmas Rare Books<br>& Collectors’ Sale<br>6th and 7th December</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 6-7:</b> The Corner-stone Document of Irish Freedom. 1916 PROCLAMATION OF THE IRISH REPUBLIC. £140,000 to £180,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 6-7:</b> Joyce's Modern Masterpiece, in its one-and-hundredth Year. Joyce (James). <i>Ulysses.</i> Paris, Shakespeare & Co. 1922. £15,000 to £25,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 6-7:</b>A Request from Mr. Joyce. Joyce (James). Autograph Letter Signed to 'Dear Mr [Thomas] Pugh,' dated 6.8.1934. £6,000 to £8,000.
    <center><b>Fonsie Mealy’s<br>Christmas Rare Books<br>& Collectors’ Sale<br>6th and 7th December</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 6-7:</b> Dun Emer Press: Yeats (Wm. Butler). <i>Stories of Red Hanrahan,</i> 8vo Dundrum 1904. Signed by Author. £1,000 to £1,500.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 6-7:</b> Binding: <i>Specimens of Early English Poets,</i> 8vo Lond. (For Edwards, Pall Mall) 1790. £500 to £700.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 6-7:</b> Harry Clarke: Walter (L. D'O.) <i>The Years at the Spring,</i> An Anthology of Recent Poetry. 4to New York (Brentano's) 1920. Special signed limited edition. £1,500 to £2,000.
    <center><b>Fonsie Mealy’s<br>Christmas Rare Books<br>& Collectors’ Sale<br>6th and 7th December</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 6-7:</b> Kipling (Rudyard). <i>Works,</i> including Writings, Novels, Poems etc. Bombay Edition, 31 vols. roy 8vo Lond. (MacMillan & Co.) 1913-1938. Signed by Author. £1,500 to £2,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 6-7:</b> Dunraven (Edwin, Third Earl of). <i>Notes on Irish Architecture,</i> Ed. by Margaret Stokes, 2 vols. lg. folio Lond. 1875-1877. Castle Hackett copy. £1,500 to £2,400.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 6-7:</b> Kirby (Wm.) & Spence (Wm.) <i>An Introduction to Entomology,</i> 4 vols. 8vo Lond. 1822. With hand-coloured plates. £200 to £300.
    <center><b>Fonsie Mealy’s<br>Christmas Rare Books<br>& Collectors’ Sale<br>6th and 7th December</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 6-7:</b> Heaney (Seamus). <i>Death of a Naturalist,</i> 8vo Lond. (Faber & Faber) 1966 First Edition - Third Impression. Signed, & inscribed on title page 'Seamus Heaney’. £800 to £1,200.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 6-7:</b> Glasgow Printing: Homer - <i>Iliad and Odyssey,</i> 4 vols. in 2, Glasgow (Robert & Andrew Foulis) 1756-1758. £1,0000 to £1,500.
  • <b><center>Aste Bolaffi<br>Rare Books and Autographs<br>December 14-15, 2022</b>
    <b>Aste Bolaffi, Dec. 14-15:</b> Two first editions by Adrian Spigelius in a Sammelband: <i>De humani corporis fabrica</i> from 1627 and <i>De formato foetu</i> from 1626. €15,000 to €20,000.
    <b>Aste Bolaffi, Dec. 14-15:</b> Splendid coloured copy by Frederick De Wit, <i>Atlas maior,</i> Amsterdam, 1705. €20,000 to €30,000.
    <b>Aste Bolaffi, Dec. 14-15:</b> First edition by Marco Ricci, <i>Varia Marci Ricci Pictoris prestantissimi Experimenta,</i> Venice, Orsolini, 1723-1730. €20,000 to €25,000.
    <b><center>Aste Bolaffi<br>Rare Books and Autographs<br>December 14-15, 2022</b>
    <b>Aste Bolaffi, Dec. 14-15:</b> First edition by MicheleMarieschi, <i>Magnificentiores selectioresque Urbis Venetiarum prospectus,</i> Venice, 1741. €30,000 to €40,000.
    <b>Aste Bolaffi, Dec. 14-15:</b> Magnificent album by Louis-Leopold Boilly, Collection de dessins, calques et acquerelles, 1822. €20,000 to €25,000.
    <b>Aste Bolaffi, Dec. 14-15:</b> Rare musical score by Gioachino Rossini from 1858. €6,500 to €7,500.
  • <b><center>Sotheby’s<br>Music<br>Online Auction<br>2-13 December 2022</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 2-13:</b> J. Brahms. Important series of 44 autograph letters signed, to Friedrich Chrysander, mostly unpublished, 1869-1894. £80,000 to £120,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 2-13:</b> J. Sibelius. Remarkable collection of 22 letters signed, to Werner Janssen, 1934-1957. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 2-13:</b> [Mozart, W.A.] F. Zeffirelli. Stage set design for the Covent Garden production of "Don Giovanni", signed, 1963. £1,000 to £1,500.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 2-13:</b> J. Rutter. Autograph composing manuscript of "A Ukrainian Prayer", 2022. £3,000 to £4,000.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions