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.
Book collecting is an incredibly accessible pastime - collectors can spend as much or as little as they'd like, and there is plenty of information available to inform their choices. Some rare books, however, are so scarce that only the most elite can afford them. Here's a look at some of the rarest books in the world.
Hunayn ibn Ishaq, Al-Kindi, Al-Razi, Al-Farabi, Ibn Sina, Al-Ghazali, Muhammud ibn 'Abdun, 'Abd'l-Rahman ibn Ismail, Ibn Bajjah, Ibn Rushd, these are all names that most of the West are unfamiliar with, but are some of the ones to which we owe a great deal. They were responsible for safeguarding and spreading the knowledge that came from the Greeks, but which had been lost, due to lack of interest by the West.
Oh, how I love extravagant sixteenth- and seventeenth-century displays of over-the-top erudition. Things like the Dictionarium Græcolatinum (1568), Ortelius's Thesaurus geographicus (1578), Raleigh's History of the World (1614), Alsted's seven-volumeCompendium philosophicum stretching to 2,404 folio pages (1626), Brian Walton's polyglot Bible in six huge folios (1654–57), and Chauvin's Lexicon rationale (1692). These are books that Tony Grafton was reading in his crib, but to the rest of us they're insane compendia of obscure learning that we'll never hope to master.
Sometime during March-April, 1949, John-not-yet-Jack Kerouac, 27 years old and living with his parents as "The Wizard of Ozone Park" (Queens, NYC), as his Beat friends referred to him, bought a cheap reprint edition of short stories by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. He annotated the book, and entered his ownership signature. Dostoyevsky was an important influence on Kerouac; his novel,The Subterraneans, was consciously modeled on Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground, one of his favorite books, and there are many references to the Russian author in Kerouac's novels and letters.
On Valentine's Day we celebrate a holiday of love, commitment, chocolate… and 19th-century norms on reproduction and dating? Yes, the 1800s: A reminder that sex wasn't always fun or accurate. And there's no better antiquarian book to savor on Valentine's Day than 'Physiological Mysteries and Revelations in Love, Courtship, and Marriage; An Infallible Guide-Book for Married and Single Persons in Matters of the Utmost Importance to the Human Race' (1842). Now say that three times fast.