This article was first published on the website of Archives Fine Books in Australia, member of ANZAAB and affiliated to ILAB. It is published here with the permission of the author Dawn Albinger and shows the integrity of our trade. Taking our book sleuthing to a new level in 2017…
How we cracked the cold case of a book missing from the rare books department of a major institution.
Only a few months ago the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) had to report the theft of a considerable number of works by Pieter Bruegel along with rare and valuable maps and atlases. The BnF immediately got into contact with the European libraries and with the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB). An ILAB security message was sent out to all affiliates worldwide, the theft was announced on the ILAB Stolen Books Database. Now the French police reports that the thief has been caught.
In the 1990s rare and valuable 17th century books were stolen from the National Library of Sweden. Now some of them have been returned to Sweden with the help of two American antiquarian booksellers. The official repatriation ceremony took place in Manhattan, New York. (Reblogged from The Art Newspaper)
Do we need more drastic measures to prevent the theft of books, maps, manuscripts and other art on paper? On 26 June 2015 internationally renowned experts – librarians, archivists, lawyers, auctioneers and rare book dealers – discussed one of the global problems of the antiquarian book trade in the 21st century: the theft of books, manuscripts and prints from public collections such as, in recent years, the Girolamini Library in Naples, the National Library of Sweden, the Danish Royal Library in Copenhagen and, right now, from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris. "Thefts of rare books, maps and manuscripts from libraries are a growing, global problem", the Art Newspaper summarizes. "The portable nature of these works and the fact that many libraries lack up-to-date catalogues of their sizable collections - some of which were assembled centuries ago - make them prime targets. Two weeks before the conference, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France announced that several 16th- and 17th-century engravings by Brueghel as well as atlases dating from the 16th to 18th centuries had been stolen from its collection. An investigation is currently underway." ILAB President Norbert Donhofer was invited to speak at the conference at the British Library, which will be followed up by another international meeting in New York in 2016.
Recent news concerning the Girolamini thefts and the ongoing investigations: In an official press release the Bavarian authorities announce that they will return some 500 books which were confiscated at the Munich auction house Zisska & Schauer (now Zisska & Lacher) in May 2012 in connection with the thefts from the Girolamini Library in Naples. The books dating from 16th and 17th centuries and worth over 2 million euros will be handed over to Italian judicial authorities in Munich on 13th February 2015.
On Sunday, November 9th, Il Sole 24 Ore devoted an entire page to recent problems in the Italian rare book trade, featuring two excellent articles by Daniele Danesi and Fabrizio Govi. These articles moved me to speak a few words prior to the Bloomsbury Rome auction of November 12, with its books "released from confiscation" ("dissequestrati"). Had he not been abroad, I am certain that Fabrizio, who succeeded me as president of the ALAI in 2010, would have done exactly the same. I recognize that in this time of severe economic crisis and in the aftermath of the "Girolamini Affair" and related criminal activities, Fabrizio has demonstrated outstanding leadership in speaking out on behalf of ALAI members, and defending them against irresponsible allegations and harassment by Italian authorities.
Maggs Bros Ltd. has been dealing in rare books and manuscripts since 1853. As one of the world's longest-established antiquarian book dealers, they are specialists in the fields of Voyages and Travels, English literature, Medieval Manuscripts and Miniatures, Bibliography, Incunabula and Early Printed Books, Natural History and Science, Autographs and Manuscripts, Military and Naval History, Bindings, Private Press Books and other related areas.
In wider society, many today consider the Classics irrelevant, and very few children encounter them even in translations now, let alone in the original languages. This then is a far cry from the relentless Classical education Graves himself received, and it is in part at least his own doing. By knocking them off their pedestal, along with the moral authority of Christianity, Graves and his contemporaries simultaneously ensured a future interest in the Classics, and killed off their serious study, except from a historical perspective. In my opinion, if any trace of Greek and Roman literature survives 1000 years from now, it won't be Tacitus' Annals being read, but Robert Graves' novels.
"Among our famous clients at the "Libreria", as a matter of fact, the author of The name of the rose shares many things with us: beside our "Piedmontesity" and the love for books, we also share the delight in playing with words and puzzles. Even the fact of having the same name has helped the relationship: we are jealously keeping the letters, still handwritten which he signed «Omonimamente Suo…», those in which he pointed out some inaccuracy in my catalogue, and even his complaints because a book he was looking for was already sold to others." In part 5 of "Living With - And From - Books" Umberto Pregliasco tells anecdotes of his namesake Umberto Eco, and reveals who first translated Mickey Mouse into the Italian language.
Away to Scotland for a rather special rare book trade occasion last week. A retirement party for our old friend Elizabeth Strong (McNaughtan's Bookshop) – not just a retirement party but also a welcome party for Derek and Anna Walker, who are taking over this much-loved bookshop on Haddington Place from Elizabeth. A big day for her, but perhaps an ever bigger one for them. The closing of one era, the opening of another – a passing on of the baton from one generation to the next. A time for celebration. A time for reflection. A goodish crowd of bookish folk. Edinburgh stalwart Ian Watson (John Updike Rare Books) was there. Cooper Hay had come over from Glasgow. Andrew Hunter (Blackwell's Rare Books) was up from Oxford. Family, friends, customers. A few choice words from our president, Oscar Graves-Johnston. A few words of farewell, welcome and introduction from Elizabeth. A few words of appreciation and anticipation from the Walkers.
"German and Italian antiquarian booksellers and auctioneers are very fond of using abbreviations in their catalogs, sometimes on a rather lavish scale. This little dictionary, the first one of its kind, may come in handy to help unfamiliar readers.