Arnoud Gerits, President of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB), wrote in a letter to ILAB members dated June 2, 2012,
Shortly after the reopening of the Girolamini Library in Naples in April of 2012 the Director, Marino Massimo de Caro, announced that 1500 books were missing (April 17). On April 20 the Library was closed by the Naples Public Prosecutor. Marino Massimo de Caro has been suspended and was investigated for embezzlement. On May 18, 1000 books, 240 of which have ownership stamps from the Girolamini Library were found in storage in Massimo Marino de Caro’s home city of Verona, and on May 24 Mr. de Caro was arrested on the charge of embezzlement along with four others; a search warrant is out for a fifth. In the meantime Massimo Marino de Caro has confessed to the theft of thousands of books from the library and is cooperating with police in tracing them.
A number of stolen items from the library have been confiscated by the authorities in Munich (16 items), London (28 items), New York and Tokyo(uncertain numbers).
According to what is currently known and what Massimo Marino de Caro has confessed so far, it is very likely that the number of stolen books from the Girolamini Library is higher than 1500 but no definitive list of missing items has been published by Italian authorities so far. It appears also to be clear that the stolen books were spread out via the trade in several countries, in both Europe and elsewhere.
A number of the books can be recognized by a red library stamp (with a Madonna in the center) but not all books bear this stamp.
Italian authorities have requested assistance from the public prosecutor’s offices in several countries so far. They have also asked Interpol headquarters atLyon, France, for assistance.
We would therefore strongly advise our members to check their purchases of – mostly – Italian books from the 15th to the 17th centuries if these volumes were purchased in the time period between January to May of 2012.
In January of 2007, Herbert Schauer acquired the auction house F. Zisska & R. Kistner, which antiquarian booksellers Friedrich Zisska and Rolf Kistner had founded in 1983. They retired in 2006. Schauer changed its name to Zisska, Schauer & Co. KG.
The auction house issued a press release on Saturday, August 10, 2013. It reads, in part:
In the run-up to Auction 59 (9-11 May 2012), we were offered – through an intermediary – a valuable consignment of over four hundred books in private ownership in Italy. After careful scrutiny of the owners’ official credentials and the books themselves we said we were ready to accept the consignment.
On the evening before the auction (8 May 2012) we were informed by the Bavarian Landeskriminalamt that a number of books listed in Catalogue 59 would be confiscated on the grounds that ownership thereof was in question. As four of the books to be confiscated were from the private consignment mentioned above, to be on the safe side ZISSKA & SCHAUER decided to withdraw the whole consignment from the auction, particularly as information and rumours were spreading that there had been losses of books from the Girolamini Library in Naples. This suggested to us that there might be a connection with the consignment we had received from Italy.
The Italian authorities have been investigating the Director of the Girolamini Library and a large number of other persons accused. Among those accused is the intermediary who offered the consignment – allegedly in private ownership – to ZISSKA & SCHAUER. However, all the books in the consignment are still in Munich as no conclusive evidence has emerged to date that any of the books we received were in fact stolen from the Girolamini Library.
Quite extraordinarily, early on 2 August 2013 our Executive Director, Mr. Herbert Schauer, was taken from his apartment and arrested by the Munich criminal justice authorities. The Italian authorities had issued a European arrest warrant on the basis of self-exculpatory submissions made by a number of the accused in the Girolamini trials and had forwarded the warrant to the Bavarian authorities.
We are deeply shocked. All those who have worked with Mr. Schauer day in, day out over many years know that the accusations raised against him are preposterous, absurd and totally groundless. The auction house has immediately engaged the services of Dieter Löhr, lawyer and legal adviser to the Bundesverband Deutscher Kunstversteigerer (BDK), as legal counsel.
To ensure that preparations for Auction 62 (scheduled for 6 November 2013) are unaffected, it is essential to keep Mr. Schauer’s position occupied until he can return. Mr. Wolfgang Lacher, his business associate, will assume the role of managing director with immediate effect.
The Guardian’s Rome correspondent Lizzy Davies reported in January of 2013, that estimates of how many books had been stolen from the Library of Gerolamini varied, but could exceed 4,000 volumes, and included “works by Galileo Galilei” and a 1518 edition of St. Thomas More’s Utopia. She noted that prosecutors believe Senator Dell’Utri – a member of Silvio Berlusconi’s The People of Freedom Party whom one Italian newspaper described as a bibliophile – received ten stolen books, but denied that was the case.
She quoted Magistrate Giovanni Colangelo as saying “What was done to the Girolamini library was a premeditated, organised and brutal act, the sacking of an inestimable cultural heritage." She quoted Mellilo, Colangelo’s deputy, as saying, “The damage is irreparable."
Professor Antonio Paolucci, Director of the Vatican Museums, and former Minister of Culture, told the daily newspaper La Stampa he was “saddened but not surprised” by the theft of so many books from the Library of Gerolamini. According to Ms. Davies, he said, in part, “In the Italy of a thousand museums and libraries, our immense national heritage is vanishing … and the cultural fabric of the country is coming apart.”
This case brings to mind the theft of hundreds of books from The John Crerar Library while it was on the I.I.T. campus in the 1970s and the more recent theft of scores of books from the Swedish Royal Library. In the 1970s, without authorization, longtime employee Delbert Wilson allowed “Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Putna” access to the rare book vault, as Jennifer S. Larsen recounted in AB Bookman’s Weekly in 1990 (“An Enquiry into the Crerar Library Affair”).
He continued even after Executive Director and Librarian William Budington reprimanded him for doing so. Left alone in the vault on a regular basis, Putna stole hundreds of books, including De revolutionibus orbium coelestium by Nicolaus Copernicus, De Motu Cordis by William Harvey, and De Humani Corporis Fabrica by Andreas Vesalius. To sell the books, Putna concocted a story about being the widower of a woman whose father - the fictitious Bruno von Menck - was killed by the Nazis toward the end of World War II, and she had inherited his fabulous book collection, which he proposed to sell on consignment.
In the spring of 1983, after The John Crerar Library merged with The University of Chicago, Robert Rosenthal, Curator of Special Collections at The University of Chicago, and his staff concluded 600 rare books and manuscripts were missing from the Crerar collections. When the FBI arrested Joseph Putna in January of 1983, they seized 328 stolen books.
Under the name Putnam, he had placed 247 stolen books on consignment with the esteemed antiquarian book dealer Warren Howell of San Francisco, who bought back thirty-nine books he’d sold and gave them to the U.S. Attorney in Milwaukee. Putna pled guilty to two counts of mail fraud and spent two years in a federal prison.
In 1983, The John Crerar Library filed a civil suit against Putna, Kay Barber (whom Putna passed off as his wife), Warren Howell, and John Howell–Books, seeking $400,000 in recompense for the stolen books and manuscripts Howell was able to sell and $600,000 in punitive damages, as William B. Crawford, Jr. reported in the Chicago Tribune in 1985. Howell died before it came to trail and his estate made an out-of-court settlement, and the estate paid no punitive damages, according to Ms. Larsen.
On Wednesday, July 24, 2013, Baltimore-based Bookseller Stephan Loewentheil returned two stolen antiquarian books worth approximately $255,000 combined to a representative of the Kungliga biblioteket at a ceremony held in the office of the U.S. District Attorney in New York City. The two books Loewentheil returned were 19th Century German-language book Das illustrirte Mississippithal, dargestellt in 80 nach der Natur aufgenommenen Ansichten vom Wasserfalle zu… Anthony an bis zum Golf von Mexico...by Henry Lewis and the 17th Century French-language book Description de la Louisiane, nouvellement découverte au sud-ouest de la Nouvelle-France, par ordre du roi ; avec la carte du pays, les moeurs et la manière de vivre des sauvages by Louis Hennepin. In 1998, Loewentheil had purchased these books, not knowing they were stolen, through the German auction house Ketterer Kunst.
Six years later, in 2004, a researcher’s request to see Das illustrirte Mississippithal led to the discovery that it and other books were missing. The thefts occurred from 1995 to 2004. The thief was Manuscript Department head Anders Burius, who committed suicide nine years ago.
He had been stealing books from the Royal Library since he was hired. Before that, he had stolen books from four other libraries as far back as 1986.
Burius stole the library cards as well as the books hoping that no-one would look for them. He also removed marks from the books that identified them as the property of the Royal Library.
Swedish police discovered he sold most of the books to Ketterer Kunst for cash under an alias. They also found he had hidden stolen books in his home and the garage of a friend.
The first book of the fifty-six to be returned was Cornelius van Wytfliet’s Descriptionis Ptolemaicae Augmentum. Last year, a librarian at the Royal Library identified it in the possession of New York-based map dealer W. Graham Arader III, who had purchased it in 2003 from Sotheby’s for approximately $100,000.
He returned it to Sotheby’s, which had purchased the atlas from a London dealer. The auction house reimbursed Arader and returned it to the Kungliga biblioteket. At the time of its return, Arader believed the atlas – one of only nine copies in the whole world – was worth about $450,000 and the combined worth of all fifty-six books was $9,000,000, as Patricia Cohen related in The New York Times article (“Swedes Find Stolen Atlas in New York”) in June of 2012.