In the News

Printed & Manuscript Americana Realizes $1 Million at Swann

New York - Swann Galleries’ Printed & Manuscript Americana sale on Thursday, April 16... read more

Einstein Letter Defending his Jewish Heritage to be Auctioned

Los Angeles - A fascinating letter by Albert Einstein on the Jewish People’s rights... read more

"William Steig's Sylvester and the Magic Pebble: A Golden Anniversary" Opens May 4

Amherst, MA --The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art celebrates the golden anniversary... read more

Book of Ottoman Dress is Top Lot at Freeman's Virginia House Museum Sale

Philadelphia — On Wednesday, April 10, Freeman’s had the privilege of auctioning nearly 500... read more

Heritage Auctions' Americana & Political Sale Includes Collection of Robert E. Lee Photographs

Dallas, TX - Consignments from five private collections, including one of the most comprehensive... read more

Series of Exhibits & Events at the Library of Congress for Whitman's 200th Birthday

The Library of Congress will celebrate the 200th anniversary of American poet and changemaker... read more

New Photobook Documents the Notorious Burning Man

Smallworks Press, an independent publishing company specializing in limited edition, exquisitely-printed books focusing on... read more

"Cuban Caricature and Culture" Opens at the Wolfsonian-FIU in June 2019

Miami Beach, FL — In a focused installation, The Wolfsonian-Florida International University will highlight... read more

Follow us on TwitterLike us on Facebook
Auction Guide
Advertise with Us
2015 Bookseller Resource Guide
Feature

When Rare Books Go Missing, Booksellers Band Together

Antiquarian booksellers discuss stolen books and how they combat thieves By Jeremy Dibbell Jeremy Dibbell is the Director of Communications and Outreach at Rare Book School, University of Virginia.

In January of this year, Kimberly Blaker of New Boston Fine and Rare Books reported to the ABAA’s Missing and Stolen Books Blog that this first edition of The Private Life of the Late Benjamin Franklin, published by J. Parsons in 1793, was stolen. The book was shipped to London in a fraudulent credit card transaction, and it has not yet been recovered. Courtesy of New Boston Fine and Rare Books.

While large-scale thefts from libraries and museums tend to make news, antiquarian booksellers are also frequently the targets of thieves, whether in open shops, at or en route to and from book fairs, or when shipping books purchased over the Internet. Since the beginning of the year, the Missing and Stolen Books Blog of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (ABAA) has recorded fourteen separate instances of thefts or items gone mysteriously missingfour have been recovered so farand they offer something of a cross section of the kind of theft commonly observed in the trade.

One entry details material missing from under a dealer’s table after the Papermania show in Hartford, Connecticut, this past January, which had been purchased by the dealer at the show. Both White Fox Rare Books in Vermont and Roy Young Bookseller, Inc. of Ardsley, New York, reported items absent from shipments back from the California International Antiquarian Book Fair in Pasadena in February, and L & T Respass Books of Northampton, Massachusetts, reported a Confederate imprint pamphlet removed from its booth during the same fair.

Books lost during shipment is a particularly vexing problem, said ABAA security committee chair Garrett Scott, as frequently it is unclear when or how this happens and where along the chain responsibility for the losses should be fixed. Peter Stern of Peter Stern & Co. in Boston reported one case where a book he had placed in a UPS Drop Box turned up just days later in another local bookseller’s shop, someone having jimmied the box open and robbed its contents. The book was recovered, but, Stern said, he won’t be using drop boxes to mail packages anymore.

Online credit card fraud has been the modus operandi in several of the thefts reported this year, including a series of at least six thefts, believed related, from booksellers Peter Stern, Brick Row Book Shop of San Francisco, and Krown & Spellman Books of Culver City, California. The books were shipped to Miami and Colorado Springs and remain missing. Stern said he neither expects that the books will be recovered nor assumes that the booksellers will be compensated for their losses, and that in response to these crimes he’s now requiring that books purchased by credit card be shipped to the billing address associated with the card. Until this recent case, he said he had seen so little fraud over the years that it’s just “not even on the radar.”

One ongoing case of credit card fraud is that of Christian Essian, who went by the name Christian Nettle (and reportedly several other aliases as well). Essian is known to have ordered rare books from several dealers in the US and the UK and had them shipped to a Bloomsbury address in London. He was arrested in February and will face trial in July. The Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association (ABA) and the ABAA security committees have requested that any member bookseller who either sold books to or purchased books from Essian contact Pom Harrington, convenor of the ABA’s security committee, as well as the Art and Antique Squad in London. More details should come to light following Essian’s trial this summer.

Page 1 | 2 | Next