British Library Conference on Rare Book Trafficking

On June 26, the British Library will host “The Written Heritage of Mankind in Peril: Theft, Retrieval, Sale and Restitution of rare books, maps and manuscripts,” a conference focused on the illegal trading of priceless cultural materials. The full-day seminar, open to dealers, librarians, collectors, auction house staff, security experts, and interested others, may be a response in part to the Girolamini Library thefts that rocked the rare book world in 2014 and more recent suggestions that Middle Eastern regimes are profiting from plundered books and antiquities. (A report last week claims that ISIS is selling ancient Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts online.)

Next week’s conference includes a panel discussion devoted to the perspective of the rare book trade, featuring Richard Aronowitz-Mercer, head of restitution Europe at Sotheby’s, Norbert Donhofer, president of International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, and Stephen Loewentheil, founder and president of 19th Century Rare Book and Photograph Shop in Baltimore. View the full schedule of events here.

The conference’s organizers hope that participants and attendees will begin the process of developing solutions to combat global rare book trafficking. A proposed follow-up program in New York in 2016 would then assess progress and continue the effort.

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