Showing posts with label book theft. Show all posts
Showing posts with label book theft. Show all posts

February 13, 2017

Theft: Antiquarian Booksellers Association's reports dramatic book thief heist of 160 texts, some from the 15th and 16th centuries


The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers and the Metropolitan Police at Scotland Yard have confirmed a brazen the theft at a storage facility in Feltham, west London near Heathrow during the late evening and early morning hours of January 29-30, 2017. 

In what is being characterised as a well-planned and savvy burglary, thieves somehow avoided detection despite a 24-hour monitored intrusion detection system which included CCTV cameras and infrared motion detectors.  Entering the bonded warehouse by scaling up to the roof, the culprits breached the warehouse’s reinforced glass-fibre skylights, dropping down into the storage facility from above.

Once inside, they cherry picked books, some of which are incunabula, meaning they are editions printed in the first half-century of printing – the second half of the 15th century. Once the books were chosen, they were hoisted back up through the skylight and loaded onto a waiting vehicle. 

The thieves made off with 160 historic texts.  Bypassing other items, they specifically targets books from six sealed trunks belonging to three dealers,whose inventory was being held at the storage facility in advance of California's 50th International Antiquarian Book Fair.  

Some of the more recognizable (but not necessarily the most valuable) texts stolen during the brazen burglary are:


Two rare editions of Dante Alighieri's narrative poem "La Divina Commedia" (Divine Comedy), one published by Giolito in Venice in 1555 and another in Venice by Domenico Farri in 1569

Copernicus' major theory De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres), published in the year of his death, 1543. 

an early version of Italian polymath Galileo Galilei's famous Opera , (pictured below) who was tried for heresy in 1633 and sentenced to house arrest for his admiration of Copernicus.  This edition, by Carlo Manolessi, contains many unpublished writings, as well as various writings of opponents of Galilei, Capra, Colombe, Grazia, Grassi and others, with their with their refutations. Zeitlinger: "The first collected edition of Galileo's work". Lacking Dialogue of Maximum Systems and the Letter to Christina of Lorraine, then still at the Forbidden Index and which will have to wait until 1744 and respectively 1808 to be reprinted. However, the allegory of Della Bella, disguising the heliocentric system by Medici coat of arms, he succeeded to declare openly in the Frontispiece the Copernican heresy. Galileo is kneeling at the feet of three female figures inpersonificanti Astronomy, Optics and Mathematics; to them with his hand raised, shows the coat of arms from the center of which depart the light rays and the planets are arranged like the six globes of the coat of arms of the Medici. Riccardi: "This year, though less abundant of succeeding, and bran, it is nevertheless highly esteemed, and not easy to be complete, because the various treaties having numbering and frontispiece particular, they were often distracted by the whole body of works." "Questo esemplare corrisponde perfettamente a quello censito in Iccu. Cinti, 132; Gamba, 482; Zeitlinger, I, 1435-6; Riccardi, I, 518-9, n. 17; De Vesme, p. 255, n. 965; IT\ICCU\UFIE\000447.



An impressive copy of Jo(h)annes Myritius' "Opvscvlvm geographicvm rarvm, totivs eivs negotii rationem, mira indvstria et brevitate complectens, iam recens ex diversorvm libris ac chartis, summa cura ac diligentia collectum & publicatum. (Pictured below). Ingolstadt, Wolfgang Eder, 1590. In a contemporary vellum binding made with parts of a 15th-century missal mss., water-stained and wormed, some slight damage to spine, lack epistles & a full-page heraldic woodcut, and pp. 131-136 with the portrait and another full-page heraldic wood-cut, the penultimate leave with colophon and printer‘s device, and the final blank) 


Sir Isaac Newton's "Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy." (pictured below) Translated into English, and illustrated with a commentary, by Robert Thorp, M. A. Volume the First [all published]. London: Printed for W. Strahan; and T. Cadell, in the Strand, 1777. (and) Newton, Isaac. Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy translated into English and illustrated with a Commentary by Robert Thorp, D.D., Archdeacon of Northumberland. London: T. Cadell Jun. & W. Davies, 1802. The translator Robert Thorp's copy, with his name on title, extensively annotated by him in the mar-gins with diagrams.




Alessandro Meda Riquier of Meda Riquier Rare Books Ltd., in London lost a total of 51 books in the theft.  He estimates his company's losses at close to £1 million.

Speaking with Sky News Mr Riquier stated that 90% of German colleague Michael Kühn of Antiquariat Michael Kühn's books were taken, while Italian bookseller Renato Bado of Antiquariato Librario Bado E Mart S.A.S., from Padua estimates he has lost 60 percent of his holdings including the precious Copernicus.  Bado's stated losses are approximately £680,000. 

But why were the books at a storage facility in the first place? 

Storage facilities such as these are used for off-site storage of valuable rare books and archives in transit and in storage as they provide owners with condition reporting as well as a climate controlled settings to store objects at a museum-approved humidity. High relative humidity (RH) along with high temperature, can encourage potentially devastating biological damage to older texts.  Lower humidity or more accurately, controlled moisture content in equilibrium with lower RH slows can slow chemical deterioration and helps preserve historic texts. This makes bonded warehouses suitable for archives repositories, as well as for shipment intermediary points for historic books that are fragile.  

That is, of course, if the storage facility's security does what it is intended to do.

Theft to order or insider job?

A book antiquarian ARCA spoke with, who asked to remain anonymous, stated that he believes that the theft was ordered by a specific collector, since the stolen texts are quite recognisable and well documented.  Also with the announcement of the theft and the itemization of the texts stolen in the heist, they will be impossible to sell on the open market through legitimate auction houses or through book antiquarians.

Given the thieves went straight for the books, and appeared to know the vulnerabilities of the warehouse's security, it is plausible to consider that the thieves had awareness of what was being stored and how to enter the facility without being detected. 

Why steal rare books? 

Although the bulk of Nicolaus Copernicus’s book, demonstrating that the earth rotated around the sun, instead of the sun around the earth, was already finished in 1535, it was only printed in 1543, the year of the Polish astronomer’s death.

The first edition was printed in Nuremberg in 1543 and a second printing in Basel in 1566.  Around the globe, there are only 560 known copies of these two editions.   Purchased legitimately, like Lot 110 pictured below from a Christie's 2013 auction, first edition texts like this one are not only historically significant, but extremely valuable. 


The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers has published a lists detailing all the texts believed to have been stolen during the burglary.  They can be accessed here.

This listing which contains books and manuscripts from the 15th to the 20th century, covering a variety of topics including mediaeval book art, natural history, science, early renaissance printing, and travel has been logged with The Metropolitan Police's Stolen Art Database and stolen-book.org run by the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers.

Book and manuscript thefts have long been a problem for national libraries and private collectors.  Unfortunately when rare texts go missing, the actual monetary value of these works stands in second place to the incalculable history that is lost.

Since many of these texts may be identified by individual characteristics ARCA urges individuals involved in the rare book trade; collectors, institutions and book merchants to carefully check and verify all provenances, especially on historic texts printed in the second half of the 15th century.

The Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association asks for the book collecting public to be on alert and if anyone offers any of these titles, please contact the Metropolitan Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

For further details on the theft please contact ABA Secretary Camilla Szymanowska on 020 7421 4681 or at secretary[at]aba.org.uk or ABA Security Chair Brian Lake on 020 7631 4220 brian[at]jarndyce.co.uk.

By: Lynda Albertson

December 7, 2016

Seizure: Cairo International Airport - Islamic-era manuscripts and antiquarian books


On November 28, 2016 customs agents at Cairo International Airport foiled a plot to illegally export a shipment of antique Islamic-era books.  Suspicious of the 43-box shipping documentation on objects destined for Doha, Qatar, the items being exported were flagged for further controls.  Upon examination by customs officials, the shipment was found to contain a large quantity of antiquarian books and manuscripts.  Based on their initial findings, and the markings on some of the books, the shipment was frozen on suspicion that the objects may have been illegally acquired.  

Tawfiq Massad, Director General of Customs, authorized that the shipment be held, pending a comprehensive review.  His office in turn formally notified the antiquities authorities so that they could explore the collection's authenticity and its legal or illegal export status as it relates to Egyptian law. 

Working with Ahmed El-Rawi, head of the Recuperation Antiquities Section of Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities it was decided that a portion of the books and volumes fell under the protection of Egypt's Laws for rare and ancient books, e.g.

To be the product of Egyptian civilization or the successive civilizations or the creation of art, sciences, literature, or religion that took place on the Egyptian lands since the pre-historic ages and during the successive historic ages till before 100 years ago. --Law No. 8 of 2009, as amended in 2014 on the protection of rare and ancient books and manuscripts, 

Sixty-six rare books and volumes were seized in total; some dating back to the early printing age.  The rare Islamic-era books, having been published during the period needed to be considered as a heritage asset, will be sent to the Egyptian National Library and Archives.  Forty-four volumes, that still bore the stamps of the Al-Azhar library, will be returned to the university's library collection.

November 1, 2016

Recovery - Medieval Manuscript: "Matricula et Statuta paratici fabrorum ferrariorum"


Italian authorities announced last week that they have recovered a stolen Medieval manuscript, titled Pallastrelli 43 or Matricula et Statuta paratici fabrorum ferrariorum, a historical document related to the economic exchange and work of blacksmiths from the city of Piacenza. 

The calf-skin parchment, which dates from the fifteenth century and is made up of 34 finely-detailed vellum pages inscribed in neatly-written red and black ink, was carefully bound between two wooden manuscript boards that serve to form the front and back covers of the book. Spotted on an online auction website for €600, an honorary inspector in Lazio reported his identifications to the the city of Piacenza's archive authorities, who in turn contacted the Carabinieri that one of the library's manuscripts had been spotted.  

The stolen manuscript was one of 145 texts, dating from the 14th to the 17th century, that were stolen in 1985 from the Biblioteca Passerini-Landi in Piacenza during a period when the library had to be shuttered for restoration and renovation work.  The theft is believed to have occurred sometime during repair works on the roof of Palazzo San Pietro which had been damaged due to heavy snows over the winter. 

When the theft was discovered, each of the well-inventoried books were reconciled and a list compiled was given to the the Carabinieri where they were listed in the unit's stolen art Leonardo database system. Between 1986 and 2013 a total of 72 volumes were recovered due to the watchful eyes of investigators and those familiar with the collection. Some volumes were recovered in Germany, some in Switzerland and some in Italy.  A portion of the stolen manuscripts were traced to auction house catalogues in Europe which is why these are heavily monitored by the Italian authorities. 

Then alas, the trail apparently went cold, that is until October 2016.

The Biblioteca Passerini-Landi was created in 1791 to house the merger of the Royal Library, established by Ferdinand of Bourbon with books donated by the Jesuits, along with the collection of the Library Passerini. The Library contains a distinguished collection of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, any of which, still circulating in the illicit market would be highly prized by antiquarian collectors.  
Note:  Library identifiers have been removed
In addition to the Biblioteca Passerini-Landi, other important libraries, such as the Girolamini Library in Naples, the Library of the Abbey of Montecassino, the Biblioteca dei Servi di Milano, the National Library of Sweden, the Danish Royal Library in Copenhagen and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris have each suffered thefts that serve to sustain the illicit market in stolen books and manuscripts.

During the city's press conference Captain Francesco Provenza of the Comando dei Carabinieri per la Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale (TPC) of Monza reminded the audience that "the market for archival literary heritage might be a niche market but it is a flourishing one." He further stated that "some collectors are willing to pay huge sums for these works. Even the supply chain is well-established: the thief, if he doesn't list the work for sale on his own, already knows what channels are out there for finding potential customers." 

Italian authorities have charged three individuals living outside Milan for complicity, for helping or encouraging another individual to commit a crime in collection with this theft. It is hoped that their identification will open the door a bit wider on where the other half of the stolen Passerini-Landi books and manuscripts are. 

Since 1996, thousands of specialist antiquarian bookdealers worldwide have used the internet to offer rare art books online. Some antiquarian bookdealers are part of larger trade associations, like the Italian Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association (ILAI), the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB) or the International Online Booksellers Association (IOBA). But there are also numerous independent booksellers who sell their books independently or who offer similar association services.

To combat the sale of illicit material, the ILAB maintains a stolen book database that contains a listing of stolen books, manuscripts and maps beginning with thefts that have occurred from June 15, 2010 onward.  With this database buyers can check (for free) to see if a book they have been offered has been reported as stolen.  Some data in their database is available for older thefts, but this data tends to be limited and less comprehensive. 

But even with these safeguards, dealing with members of bookseller-organizations or professional booksellers - rather than private individuals selling secondhand art books on eBay or elsewhere - does not guarantee quality of descriptions, fair trade, or clean provenance, despite the official wrappings of membership.  It merely means that there is an organizational structure where book dealers can be found, oftentimes honest, but sometimes dishonest.  

Rare book connoisseurs need to exercise caution when purchasing ancient manuscripts from dealers and individual sellers, especially when they see an appealing centuries-old book or manuscript that doesn't come with a clear collection history.  They should also raise their eyebrows to books and documents with strategic tears or missing portions of the book's pages as libraries often place stamps at the beginning or the end of a book or manuscript and these tell-tale signs of theft are often torn away so as to allow the seller the opportunity to plead ignorance as to the book's illicit origin. 

Speaking in relation to the Girolamini Library theft, Giovanni Melillo, the then Deputy Prosecutor of the Naples Tribunal, who lead the library theft's prosecution, said at a 2013 presentation I attended at the ISPAC meeting in Courmayeur “The rule ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is what governs the rare-book market.”

Buyer beware.

By Lynda Albertson   





August 27, 2013

ARCA's Fifth Annual International Art Crime Conference: Third Panel featured Nicholas M. O’Donnell, Jerker Rydén, Joris Kila

Judge Tompkins (left) with Nicholas O'Donnell, Jerker
Rydén, and Joris Kila (right)
by Sophia Kisielewska, ARCA Intern

After a delicious lunch served by the staff of La Locanda in the beautiful chiostro everyone settled back into their seats to listen to Panel Three. Moderating the panel was Judge Arthur Tompkins, a District Court Judge in New Zealand and a professor on ARCA’s Postgraduate Certificate program.

The first panelist was Nicholas M. O’Donnell, a litigation partner with Sullivan & Worcester LLP in Boston and New York, whose practice focuses primarily on complex civil litigation, representing collectors, dealers, artists and museums. O'Donnell is also the editor of The Art LawReport. O’Donnell’s presentation, “American Wartime Art Restitution Litigation in the 1990s and Beyond—Has it All Been Worth It?” looked at the difficult subject of art restitution, specifically its reception in America since the 1998 Washington Conference, when awareness of the problem was ignited.

O'Donnell used a number of case studies to understand if there has been a shift in how restitution cases are being addressed in courts. He said that the Portrait of Wally affair, and the case of Maria Atlmann and her claim of five paintings by Gustav Klimt, seemed to infer that a change had occurred, however the use of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and the fact that courts are regularly dismissing claims based on statutes of limitations seems to indicate that courts are still very much against the claimants in art restitution cases.

O’Donnell emphasized that in almost all cases the battleground is the statute of limitations but he also pointed out that the FSIA has its own issues. To demonstrate his point he spoke of the Chabad Lubavitch library dispute. Currently Russia is being fined $50,000 for every day it defies the judgment held by US District Court for the District of Columbia on January 16 2013. Charges will be halted once Russia returns thelibrary of the late Menachem Schneerson to the plaintiffs, the current leadership of the worldwide Chabad Lubavitch movement, which they seem unlikely to do. O’Donnell spoke of the impact of this case on international relations and the art world and in his closing slides he reviewed what the future litigation, legislation, and diplomacy in cases of wartime restitution in the United States might consequently look like.

The second presentation was given by Jerker Rydén, the Senior Legal Advisor of the Royal Library of Sweden. Rydén has worked as a judge, a lawyer in private practice, and a national delegate to international copyright proceedings as well as senior legal advisor of the National Heritage Board of Sweden. In the recent past he has worked closely with assistant United States attorney Sharon Cohen Levin of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to help track and recover unique and valuable historical works that had been stolen from the library collections. In his presentation, “Skullduggery in the Stacks: Recovering stolen books for the Royal Library of Sweden” he discussed the legal and practical issues that faces the Royal Library of Sweden as it attempts to recover the 62 books that were stolen by Anders Burius, a former director of the Royal Library Manuscript Department, who was arrested in 2004 and who later committed suicide. [More details provided here by A.M.C. Knutsson]

Rydén used this case to explain the many techniques that are used by book thieves, such as breaking books into sub-parts and stealing and erasing finding aides (i.e., card catalogue entries) which means that such thefts can go undiscovered for decades. He spoke of the role of auction houses and booksellers in aiding book thieves by not doing their due diligence on the sellers and by not asking for provenance on the items. He went on to describe the book recovery efforts of the law enforcement in the United States and in Europe and the recovery efforts of industry organisations, such as international databases. At the end of his presentation Rydén made a point of saying that the effects of such thefts can damage the collective memory of a nation, which he described as ‘just like permanent brain damage’. 

The panel was brought to a close with a presentation by Joris Kila who is a senior researcher at the University of Vienna and reserve Lieutenant Colonel in the Dutch army. He is board member of the World Association for the Protection of Tangible and Intangible Cultural Heritage in Times of Armed Conflict in Rome, chairman of the International Cultural Resources Working Group and a member of the Research Forum on the Law of Armed Conflict and Peace Operations in the Netherlands as well as being a guest lecturer and researcher at the Netherlands and Austrian Defense Academies.

Dr. Kila's presentation, “An update on Armed Conflict and Heritage”, focused on the status of cultural property in recent areas of conflict. He described how cultural heritage has always been available for damage and manipulation thanks to its place in museums and other public spaces and its incontestable link to glorified and idealized pasts and as such it will continue to be heavily disputed and contested in future wartime conflicts as well as in pre- and post conflict phases. The damaging or destruction of cultural property is attacking the identity of the opponent while at the same time looting of cultural objects can be beneficial for the opposing forces such as insurgents for financial reasons thus generating a security issue to be taken into account by military organizations. Because of these issues it is clear that cultural property needs protecting in areas of conflict. Kila pointed out that research into current conflict and heritage aspects is lacking and is in desperate need of funding.

Dr. Kila's presentation covered a number of new developments and dilemmas in the international heritage discourse such as heritage and identity, trauma scapes, issues of increasing iconoclasm and debates about selecting what to preserve. Finally he spoke of today's situations in Egypt, Libya and Syria, as he has experienced and witnessed it in person, and emphasized that the situations in these war zones must be factored into these discussions.

August 25, 2013

ARCA 2013 Conference: James Moore on the stolen Palermo Nativity by Caravaggio; James Bond on the book theft from the Biltmore House; and Judith Harris on the private collecting appetite for looted antiquities

James "Alex" Bond (left), Rene Du Terroil (rear),
 Judith Harris (center), and James Moore (right)
by Laura Fandino, ARCA Intern
In the second panel of ARCA’s  5th conference, presenters James Moore and James "Alex" Bond walked us through two events that made their way into the art crime world: The mysterious theft of Caravaggio’s masterpiece, The Nativity with Saint Francis and Saint Lawrence, and  the successful recovery of 90 books from the Biltmore’s House in Ashville, North Carolina. Following their presentations and discussions, journalist Judith Harris spoke on the continuing of private collecting of illicit art and archaeology, despite - and in part consequent to - today's more rigorous policies of provenance in acquisitions at auctions and by museums. The panel was moderated by Rene M. du Terroil who currently directs the internationalization initiative for the Italian and Spanish campuses of the Instituto Europeo di Design (IED).
James Moore opened up the panel with an illustrated discussion in which he narrated the events which led to the second most famous theft in the history of art crime, the theft of The Nativity with Saint Francis and Saint Lawrence in 1969 in Palermo, Sicily. He began his presentation speaking about Caravaggio, the artist who gave life to the stunning painting of the Nativity. Caravaggio is a well-known Italian artist who at very early age managed to achieve artistic success and fame. At the age of twenty Caravaggio began a career as an artist and then went on to produce many now-famous masterpieces.
Caravaggio’s successful artistic career, emphasized Moore, was the product of his refusal to follow the conventional artistic styles of the time, focusing rather on realistic, naturalistic and symbolist detail condensed into the most vivid biblical scenes.  His artistic fame, regrettably, was always accompanied by his “irascibility and an unpredictable and violent temper,” which eventually led to a homicide in Rome for which he was found guilty. Caravaggio escaped gaol, however, and fled to Naples, Malta and Sicily.  In 1609, while he was in Sicily he painted the Saint Lawrence Nativity for the Oratory of San Lorenzo in Palermo.

The theft of the Nativity took place in October 1969. On the day of the heist, the thieves entered the oratory through what Moore called a “poorly locked side door” and then cut the painting out of its frame.  After 44 years of waiting for the return of one of Caravaggio’s greatest masterpieces, Moore wondered, “Is there any hope that the painting will be found?” Sadly, none of explanations for the crime have produced any significant information on the whereabouts of the painting that today is valued at more than $20 million, yet Moore remains hopeful as he invites us to recall the recovery of The Taking of Christ, another of Caravaggio’s master works, after 100 years of absence.

In the presentation, "Heritage Collecting: Image, Passion and the Law,"  Journalist Judith Harris described the act of collecting as an “innately human passion” initially performed as a  “sport of kings,” whose prestige later placed it on the agenda of merchants and bankers, among others. Such activity, say sociologists who have analyzed the passion for collecting, is shaped by the surrounding cultural processes, which increase the collectors' desire for the halo prestige which ownership brings.
The theft oft Bellini's 15th C. Madonna with Child  in 1993,  the purchase of important Italian antiquities by an unknown New York collector, and the recent mysterious discovery near Rome of an ancient Egyptian sphinx in an abandoned greenhouse, ready for shipment, exemplify the essential but problematic question of “Who is buying it?” According to Harris, the dark side of collecting is that the passion of the private collector continues to foster looting despite the security measures of museums and auction houses.

According to experts in the field, stated Harris, this continuing illegal traffic in antiquities for private collections reflects in part the lack of a census of minor pieces of art, including in many public collections. In addition, the mediocre and rather incomplete inventories of many libraries and public museum storage areas in Italy have contributed to the disappearance of valuable works. The Bibliotecadei Girolamini, an important library in Naples, was looted of some 4,000 books; its director is blamed for the theft. Altogether, circa 1,500 books - some dating from the Middle Ages - were sold or given to private collectors. Among them was an Italian politician, Marcello Dell’Utri.  

Finally, Harris directed us towards the Art Collecting Legal Handbook, a compendium of comparative legislation on collecting in twenty-eight different countries. Particularly interesting are the Handbook's comparisons of legal norms for “due diligence.” Authors Bruno Boesch and Massimo Sterpi underscore the importance of this today: “Collectors, private and public, need to know where they stand in law... Private collectors need to grapple with the complexity of the eventual transfer of collections of far greater financial value than ever before.”

August 24, 2013

Saturday, August 24, 2013 - , No comments

Book thefts and recovery: How the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers Use Stolen-book.org

by A. M. C. Knutsson

Reporting and retracing stolen books might to the uninitiated seem like an herculean mission, with vast edition runs and reproductions it can seem impossible to identify a stolen copy even if it would re-emerge on the market. However, as with most objects years of love and use have set their marks also on these once indistinguishable edition copies and the people involved with the books can often recognize ‘their’ copy at a glance. Here we shall consider the leading stolen book database stolen-book.org, which works with the venerable task of reuniting books with their owners.

Stolen-book.org is the largest specialized stolen book database currently in existence and most dealers and major auction houses rely on their email alerts in order to keep up with stolen printed material and manuscripts. There are some smaller, national lost-book databases but with their limited scope and their haphazard maintenance they do not pose a considerable competition to stolen-book.org.
Stolen-book.org was instigated as part of the main ILAB (International League of Antiquarian Booksellers) website in 2010 when that website was redesigned and the older version of stolen-book was restructured. This worldwide database covers maps and documents as well as full books. It builds on information submitted by ILAB affiliates, currently over 1850 members all over the globe. Members can submit information on stolen books through a private section on the site. A basic template is provided, which included sections for specifics of binding, ex libris or provenance characteristics. The editor reviews the submitted forms and frequently updates the database, either daily or several times a day. Usually an email is issued to all affiliates a few minutes after a new stolen book posting informing of newly conducted thefts.

Public access to Stolen-book.org is free access for basic details of stolen goods. However, the bookseller’s section, which contains more in-depth information, requires a login and is available only to affiliates.

In addition to bookseller’s loss reports, Stolen-book.org includes thefts from public libraries and other book and document holding institutions.

Last November ILAB was invited to the IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) security conference with the aim to strengthen ties between institutional libraries and to make librarians realize that the main motive behind library thefts is to make a monetary profit. Therefore, quick co-operation and interchange of information between libraries and law-enforcement agencies through ILAB and stolen-book.org would improve chances of fast returns of stolen property.

With Special thanks to Gonzalo Fernandez Pontes, ILAB Security Chair, for supplying the information about Stolen-book.org.

August 13, 2013

Stefano Alessandrini on "The Thieving Director: the Horrifying Theft of Thousands of Books and the Thief who was Paid to Protect Them" (The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2013)

In "The Thieving Director: the Horrifying Theft of Thousands of Books, and the Thief who was Paid to Protect Them", Stefano Alessandrini discusses the theft of ancient manuscripts and books in Napoli:
The extraordinary Girolamini Library of Naples is home to almost 160,000 ancient manuscripts and books and opened its doors to the public in 1586. Built alongside the Church and Convent of the Girolamini, the library served as the convent’s Oratory and is believed to be one of the richest libraries in Southern Italy.
 
The collection, which includes many rare editions dating from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, is centered on Christian theology, philosophy, sacred music, and the history of Europe and the Catholic Church. After the massive Irpinia earthquake, which struck Campania in 1980 the church, gallery and library were closed. The collection, off limit to anyone except scholars, suffered a lengthy period of neglect, and it is believed that many volumes disappeared. It is presently owned by the Italian State.
 
On 12 September 2011 two manuscripts from the Girolamini Library and a 14th century Missal from the Archdiocese of Bari, were returned to Italy after a protracted legal dispute and eventual settlement with Sotheby’s auction house in London and the manuscript’s last owners, who believed they had purchased the documents in good faith. This custodian event took place at the Italian Embassy in London in the presence of Italy’s Deputy Attorney General of the State Maurizio, Fiorilli, the federal prosecutor who also successfully pushed for the return of looted artifacts from the J. Paul Getty Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and other American Museums.
Stefano Alessandrini is a prominent leader of Italy's Archaeological Group, and adviser to the Ministry of Culture and the Advocate General of Italy on the recovery of looted antiquities.
  
This article is continued in the ninth issue of The Journal of Art Crime, edited by ARCA Founder Noah Charney. The Journal is available electronically and in print via subscription and Amazon.com. The Associate Editor, Marc Balcells (ARCA '11), is a Graduate Teaching Fellow at the Department of Political Science, John Jay College of Criminal Justice -- The City University of New York.

December 24, 2009

Report on the IFCPP Art and Book Theft Conference at Ohio State


by Doug McGrew

Perhaps when you recall incidents of cultural property theft your mind dwells on incidents in Europe or major institutions within the United States. Along this same process you remember priceless works of art created from oil and canvass missing from those institutions. Your thought process would only be partially correct.

On November 10th 2009, the Heartland Chapter of the International Foundation for Cultural Property Protection organized a daylong seminar titled: Cultural Heritage at Risk, Art and Book Theft: Past, Present, Future. Nearly 100 attendees from the cultural property community around the state of Ohio and beyond attended this event organized by Douglas McGrew and hosted at The Ohio State University’s Wexner Center for the Arts.

The mission for this seminar was simple and unique. Change the perception on what others view as cultural property and change your personal networks. Invitations were sent to a wide base of professionals in the cultural property community. This was an intentional casting according to Doug McGrew and one he believes made this event a successful venture. “We deliberately invited curators, registrars, librarians, archivist, collectors and law enforcement professionals. We wanted them in the same room, sharing observations, meeting new folks outside of their traditional networks. At the end of the day, hopefully, the attendees gained a new understanding of what cultural property is and how to protect our heritage.”

To accomplish this mission featured speakers Noah Charney and Travis McDade were enlisted to share their research and efforts to protecting cultural assets. Professor Travis McDade with the University of Illinois shared findings with the group focusing on thefts of rare books and manuscripts. Thoughtfully Prof. McDade covered cases with connection to the Ohio area and particularly touching on individuals with ties to Columbus the host city for this seminar. Mr. Charney continued the event covering some well known cases but also provided valuable information on prevention and recommendations for improving current procedures within the attendee’s institutions.

The speaking portion of the day was concluded with a roundtable discussion with McDade and Charney. Joining this discussion were:

· Patrick Maughan – former director of security the Ohio State University

· John Kleberg – former director of the Department of Public Safety, the Ohio State University

· Paul Denton – current chief of police, the Ohio State University

The roundtable provided expertise from all sides of the cultural property community, demonstrating the need to have a diverse professional network. After sharing their professional experiences creating, administering and protecting cultural property the entire panel received questions from the guest. The event concluded with the screening of the documentary The Rape of Europa.

Post mortem discussions have been very fruitful and the positive feedback received from participants has been overwhelming. Planning is currently underway for the next installment of what will become a series of events under the Cultural Heritage at Risk banner.