DECLARED LOST: Recovering Stolen Books




Saturday October 29, 2005, 10:00AM
Rabb Lecture Hall, Boston Public Library
Boston, Massachusetts

Whose responsibility is it to police the world of books? What do stories of the theft and breaking of books have to tell us about the economics of our cultural heritage?

A panel of lawyers, scholars, librarians, and book dealers addressed these and other questions in this symposium scheduled to coincide with the Boston Antiquarian Book Fair. DECLARED LOST strove to foster dialogue about books, theft, trade, and cultural heritage.

In the afternoon, attendees were invited to a special tour of the Department of Rare Books and Manuscripts at the Boston Public Library, given by Curator of Manuscripts, Earle Havens. Mr. Havens drew special attention to collections that have suffered losses and thefts before coming to the Boston Public Library, including the personal library of John Adams, and the library of Thomas Prince, two of the earliest and largest private library collections in America, as well as the personal manuscript collection of Mellen Chamberlain, Librarian of the Boston Public Library, 1878-90.

 

Members of the panel:

Nicholas Basbanes is author of A Gentle Madness and the forthcoming Every Book Its Reader: The Power of the Printed Word to Stir the World (HarperCollins). He explored the story of Stephen Blumberg, who stole close to thirty thousand books valued at $20 million from more than 300 libraries throughout the United States and Canada.
Ken Sanders of Ken Sanders Rare Books in Salt Lake City, former chair of the security committee of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (ABAA), who has helped bring several book thieves to justice and exposed numerous frauds and forgeries, discussed internet techniques and strategies for exposing and combating theft and deception in the trade.
Jeff SpurrJeff Spurr, Islamic and Middle East Specialist in Harvard University’s Fine Arts Library, discussed the case of Jose Torres, who stole an estimated $1.5 million worth of books and prints from Harvard’s libraries.
Michael Thompson is a Chicago attorney who specializes in cultural property law and past president of the Caxton Club of Chicago, will discuss the recovery of Holocaust-era displaced books.
David Szewczyk is a partner in the Philadelphia Rare Books & Manuscripts Company and current co-chair of the security committee of the ABAA, will offer his perspective on two cases in which he helped to identify and recover stolen books.