20 February 2019: ILAB has been informed by the INTERPOL Jerusalem branch of a series of fake Jewish books in circulation since 2007.
Please read the information below and contact the authorities if any suspicious material appears in the book trade.
PURPLE NOTICE 845 CONCERNING SALE OF FAKE ANTIQUE JEWISH BOOKS (ISRAEL)
In 2007 an Israeli citizen was caught by the Israeli Customs Authority while attempting to smuggle from Jordan to Israel fake antiquities: "books" made of lead, imprinted with Jewish motifs and written in a mix of ancient Hebrew, Greek and Latin letters. Since then, the internet has been flooded by similar objects and other types of "Jewish" books, and there have been additional smuggling attempts. These fake objects are also for sale in the Jordanian market, where such books are offered for sale to tourists.
The Antiquities Theft Prevention Unit (ATPU) of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) noticed a massive increase of the phenomena since the beginning of the civil war in Syria. During the last five years, the ATPU has been dealing with, at least, one book offer each week. Most of the books' background stories talks claim that it was found in Syria under synagogue remains or in a secret cave in an unknown archaeological site. Many times, the owners of the books also state that the items were already smuggled out of Syria to either Jordan or Turkey by Syrian refugees - to make it sound more available. During the last year the ATPU were notified by members of Jewish communities in Europe who were offered to purchase such books.
Since 2007, and more often since the beginning of the civil war in Syria, the Antiquities Theft Prevention Unit (ATPU) of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), received hundreds of offers from Syrian, Jordanian, Turkish and Israeli nationals to buy these lead-made books and other fake books of various types. The books are made of lead, paper, parchment or another material. They are all imprinted with Jewish motifs, mostly copied from known ancient Jewish coin motifs: Menorahs (6-branched candelabrum), palm trees and branches, Shofar (ram's horn), and also with a Star of David (which became a Jewish symbol only around the 18th century AD). The lead-made books are also imprinted with text: In the lead books the text is in gibberish, written in a mix of ancient Hebrew, Greek and Latin letters with no actual meaning. In the paper and parchment books the texts are written only with Hebrew letters - usually modern letters, with some actual words but with no logical sentences and or syntax. Most of the books are heavily decorated, many times with gold-like Jewish motifs to increase their attraction.
After the first successful interception of the smuggled lead book, the IAA approached several experts in order to examine the book's authenticity.
All the lab tests pointed out that the lead is ancient - dated to 11th-13th century AD, and that the raw material came from lead mines in Sardinia. Yet, palaeographic examination of the letters and texts showed that the books are fakes. Moreover, there is no known parallel object which has been found in scientific archaeological excavation. The conclusion of this examination was that the lead was looted from an ancient building's roof tiles or pipes, then melted down and remade as a "Jewish" ancient book. At times, in order to increase the credibility of a book, it is offered with some authentic low quality and low value ancient coins which were allegedly found with the book.
29 October 2018: In a recent TV interview, ABAA / ILAB bookseller Ken Sanders discusses book theft and security.
Ken Sanders is a rare bookseller, based in Salt Lake City and active member on the ABAA security committee. The rare book trade works with investigation officials to help solve cases by sharing knowledge of the items and also giving access to its international network of booksellers to prevent theft and the resale of stolen goods.
15 October 2018: At the end of June, a 'Treacle' Bible was stolen from The Old Kirk in Kirkmaiden, Drummore, Scotland, a very small farming community, where it has been for over 400 years.
Copy specific information: it has a black cover and is lacking leaves at the start of Genesis and last part of Revelation. It dates from 1574, and is about 14 inches by 12.
The “Treacle Bible” derives from the reading of Jeremiah CH8 V22, other Bibles read “balm in Giliad” but this one says “Treacle in Gilead”
11 Oct 2018: Alert from an ILAB affiliated bookseller
A US-based bookseller and member of the ABAA alerted ILAB about recently purchased material bearing the Börsenverein Library’s stamp. It seems the library doesn’t typically deaccession material and was the victim of looting and related problems during WWII. If you happen to hold or have handled any of this material, kindly contact the person below for further details:
Dr. Ramon Voges
German National Library
Deputy Head German Museum of Books and Writing
Deutscher Platz 1
Phone: +49 341 2271-315
Please find below a link to an article, first published on BBC News Online on 28 October 2016 about the reappearance of a 15th century manuscript in Italy that has been missing for over 30 years. It is only one of 145 volumes stolen from the Passerini Landi library during repairs in 1985. Seventy-two have been recovered so far, but none have been found for years.
Do we need more drastic measures to prevent the theft of books, maps, manuscripts and other art on paper? On 26 June 2015 internationally renowned experts – librarians, archivists, lawyers, auctioneers and rare book dealers – discussed one of the global problems of the antiquarian book trade in the 21st century: the theft of books, manuscripts and prints from public collections such as, in recent years, the Girolamini Library in Naples, the National Library of Sweden, the Danish Royal Library in Copenhagen and, right now, from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris. ILAB President Norbert Donhofer was invited to speak at the conference at the British Library, which will be followed up by another international meeting in New York in 2016.
This is to inform you about the latest developments in the “De Caro-Affair”.
During the meeting in Naples at the end of September, the Chief-Prosecutor, Dr Francesco Piscitelli, assured both Fabrizio Govi, President of ALAI, and myself, that the Girolamini-Affair and the accompanying issues of Philobiblon/Bloomsbury and Christian Westergaard, had nothing to do with each other.
Although I would not claim the recent reactions as an immediate follow-up to the Naples-Meeting, I strongly believe that this meeting moved some things in the right directions: all the books of the Philobiblon/Bloomsbury auction – originally scheduled for early June, postponed to the end of September – as well as the eleven books that had been confiscated from the stock of the Danish bookseller Christian Westergaard, have just been released.
The former Director of the Girolamini-Library at Naples, Marino Massimo de Caro, had meanwhile given an interview to an Italian newspaper in which he accused antiquarian booksellers worldwide, as well as auctioneers, to manipulate old and valuable books – scratching out stamps, removing old ownership labels and/or gluing those to others, etc.etc. This interview is, of course, scandalous, not only because of the fact that in a civilized country where the ‘Roman Law” was created – the foundation of modern law by all means – it is also scandalous because a person, although sentenced to seven years in prison and awaiting some more trials, is able to give such an interview! It is also a scandal because the interviewer – I refuse to say: reporter – had not even tried to receive a statement from both ILAB and ALAI.
We have refused to file a law-suit against both the reporter and Mr De Caro, but the President of ALAI, Fabrizio Govi, and the former Director of the Italian National Libraries, Dr Daniele Danesi, have responded to this interview in a serious and widely read newspaper in Italy. ALAI has also placed this note on its website, and has also opened a section on its website where intellectuals, librarians, and, of course, booksellers, can sign this protest – and so far quite a few have signed it.
We have been unable to provide you with a correct English translation of the statements of Fabrizio Govi and Dr Daniele Danesi, we have therefore attached the pdf of the Italian Newspaper article, as well as an Italian transcript of the articles, and an English Google translation of those articles (it can help understanding the Italian version. Passages that were too obscure have been kept in italics).
We would be happy if you, dear Fellow-Presidents, would forward this information to your members, and, if possible, load it up to your website.
Norbert Donhofer, President of ILAB
A letter from ILAB President Norbert Donhofer:
Shortly after my visit at Naples where I had met with Italian authorities, I received a letter from Dott.ssa Rossana Rummo from the 'Ministero dei beni e delle attivitá culturale e del turismo. The title of this letter was:
"Risposta a nota di protesta dell'International League of Antiquarian Booksellers".
Our Italian colleagues have translated not only her letter to me but also Fabrizio Govi's and my answer to her, as well as Dott.ssa Rummo's response to our letter.
We are forwarding all the three letters to you. Feel free to forward those to your members and/or publish them on your website.
Norbert Donhofer, President of ILAB
Following our strategy to bringing as much light as possible in the Girolamini thefts, the Committee had asked the Munich based auction house Zisska & Lacher (formerly Zisska & Schauer) to provide us with a list of the books which had been confiscated or withdrawn from their auction No 59 in May of 2012 (the books from the Girolamini library). The auction house had agreed to sending us such a list, but, unfortunately, they could provide us only with a hard paper copy. The reason for this is that the PC of the then responsible manager – Herbert Schauer – had been confiscated by the Bavarian Police as well, and no other electronic copy of this list was available.
We have, however, managed to create a SEARCHABLE pdf-document after we had scanned some 80 pages we had received from the auction house. The list starts with the few books which were confiscated by the authorities before the auction had started. The next part of the list – some 50 to 60 items – had not been included to auction 59 out of unknown reasons. The last and most extensive part of the document covers all the withdrawn items of auction 59.
Zisska & Lacher have provided us also with a huge file of illustrations of the first 450 lots of auction 59. It is simply impossible to pick out the illustrations of the withdrawn items from this file, and add these to the catalogue descriptions. This would cost a lot of time, energy, and money. The Committee will, however, not hesitate to forward this file of images to anybody who might be interested in receiving it.
The Committee believes it to be important that with providing our affiliates with this pdf-document unforeseeable difficulties like the ones our member Christian Westergaard had to face, can be avoided. If any of our affiliates has another copy of one the books which were withdrawn by Zisska & Schauer in 2012 in his/her stock, he/she should immediately add relevant information – when had this copy been purchased, who was the seller, etc. – to this item.
We would be extremely glad if you, dear Fellow-Presidents, would forward this message to your members.
On behalf of the Committee I would like to express my sincere thanks in advance!
Norbert Donhofer – President of ILAB (on behalf of the ILAB Committee) – September 2014
Since spring of 2012 the issue of the massive thefts in the Girolamini Library and other Italian libraries had kept busy both the Italian Justice as well as ILAB. The latest developments in this case – the arrest of the Danish dealer Christian Westergaard and the confiscation of eleven books out of his stock – gives ILAB no other choice as to announce an official note of protest against the department of investigation. This note of protest will be sent to officials in both the Ministry of Culture of Italy and the Ministry of Justice of Italy, and it will be spread out to librarians, journalists, and the public worldwide.
In March 2012 Professor Tomaso Montanari first brought to light a cultural theft, which then appeared to be limited to the Girolamini Library, based in Naples. We now know that the Director of the library at the time, Marino Massimo de Caro, widened his trail in plundering through other libraries in Italy as well: Montecassino, Naples Municipal Library, Ministry of Agriculture Library, a Seminary in Padua, and the Ximines Observatory Library in Florence. Soon after the discovery of the theft the Italian authorities announced that four books from the Girolamini Library were offered in Auction 59 (May 2012) at the Munich Auction House Zisska and Schauer, and arranged for them to be seized by the German police. The auction house thereupon recalled all books from this consignment - a total of 540 titles - and handed them over to the German authorities in Munich, where these books have been stored to this day.
The President of ILAB at the time - Arnoud Gerits - then informed the members of ILAB in an open letter and he immediately offered his assistance and cooperation to the Italian investigating authorities to uncover the truth of this scandal. When Tom Congalton was elected the new President of ILAB in the autumn of 2012, he gave renewed assurances to the Italian authorities of ILAB’s willingness to assist in every conceivable manner to get to the bottom of this case. Both offers, as well as many others made subsequently, went unanswered by the Italian authorities.
On April 8 in 2013, the President of the Italian Association of Antiquarian Booksellers, ALAI, Fabrizio Govi, attempted to relate the criminal route of Marino Massimo de Caro in a speech in the Library of Congress; in the edition of the “The New Yorker” of December 16 in 2013, Nicholas Schmidle described in detail how the former Director of the Girolamini Library was further implicated. Both of these, the speech made by Fabrizio Govi and Nicholas Schmidle’s article, were also brought to the attention of the Italian authorities.
In 2013 the Italian antiquarian bookseller Giuseppe Solmi was arrested by the Italian Carabinieri, and released a short time later. The charge: dealing in books stolen from one of the libraries in which Marino Massimo de Caro was operating. On the 2nd of August of the same year the auctioneer Herbert Schauer was arrested on the strength of a European arrest warrant, and deported to Italy several weeks afterwards. The charge: dealing in books stolen from one of the libraries in which Marino Massimo de Caro was operating and participation in a criminal association. Herbert Schauer was condemned to a five-year prison sentence early this summer, but meanwhile the arrest of Mr. Schauer was lifted by the Italian Court of Cassation.
The latest case in relation to this affair concerns the Danish antiquarian bookseller Christian Westergaard. He was arrested several weeks ago in front of his family. The charge: dealing in books stolen from one of the libraries in which Marino Massimo de Caro was operating. To be sure, Christian Westergaard was released the same day, but the eleven books that had been secured by the Danish police during a mutual assistance procedure remained in safekeeping by the Danish police. The most astonishing thing about the latter case is the fact that all eleven books were also included in the catalogue of Zisska and Schauer's Auction 59 and hence had already been secured by the German authorities since May 2012. For all eleven of the books that had been secured by him, Christian Westergaard was subsequently able to prove when, where and from whom he had acquired them. This includes also books he had acquired from the Macclesfield Auction at Sotheby’s in London (2006ff).
It was only a few days before the start of the first auction of Philobiblon/Bloomsbury (Rome) when the Carabinieri confiscated all lots of the auction by order of the court at Naples. It was suspected that some books of this auction had been stolen from the Girolamini library. The President of ALAI, Fabrizio Govi, appointed two independent experts to check the books, and Mr. Danesi and Mr. Parkin reported that not a single book of the auction could be traced back to an Italian Public Library.
ILAB protests against this unprofessional approach by the Italian authorities in the strongest terms. A simple glance at the lists of the items stored in Munich would have shown straightaway that the books seized in Denmark could not possibly be those volumes that were stolen by Marino Massimo de Caro, nor does it appear to be clear to the investigating authorities that in the vast majority of cases there are naturally a number of copies of printed books, whatever age they may be, that differ in their state of preservation, binding, or provenance.
ILAB further protests against the fact that, through the procedures chosen by the Italian authorities, respectable citizens and business people are falling under suspicion of criminal actions and consequently their reputations are being frivolously compromised. The shock experienced by the families of those arrested under undignified circumstances is also mentioned here for the sake of completion.
ILAB is also protesting against the fact that, as a result of these measures, an entire profession is being stigmatized and might be at risk of losing its credit standing with private and institutional clients, as well as banks, which has taken decades to build up.
ILAB is a long way from giving advice to the Italian judiciary, but we are renewing our offer to the investigating authorities to assist in having these criminal actions thoroughly cleared up and to cooperate unconditionally. By providing you with some expertise required to differentiate between different copies of the same title, we might be able to help prevent a repetition of potentially embarrassing and unnecessary events such as the regrettable arrest of Christian Westergaard. Once again ILAB requests the Italian authorities to provide us with lists of the stolen books which could be included in our stolen books database.
As President of ILAB, I would be happy to meet with the relevant authorities at any time.
Norbert Donhofer, President of ILAB (on behalf of the Committee of ILAB) - August 2014
I am very sorry to be the bearer of bad news which are related to the thefts at the Girolamini-Library at Naples and Marino Massimo de Caro.
Christian Westergaard, from Denmark, was arrested some days ago - and later released - for supposedly handling stolen Italian books. The books in question had no immediate Italian provenance (some came from the Macclesfield Library) but were on an Italian list of stolen books, presumably those known to have been stolen by De Caro and his accomplices. Because Christian and other dealers openly list their stock online, it seems that the Italian investigators just matched authors and titles, without reading the detailed notes, or examining the photos on the web, which would have demonstrated that these were not the copies in question. It is also more than curious that all of the eleven books that were confiscated by the Danish Police were titles that had appeared in auction 59 at Zisska & Schauer, Munich, in May of 2012. All of the then withdrawn books– totaling up to 540 – are still kept under lock by the Bavarian Police and that factor was forgotten by the Italian investigators! It may therefore even be that they do not fully understand that these books exist in multiple copies.
It is nowadays known that De Caro had stolen from at least five other libraries: Montecassino, Naples Municipal Library, Ministry of Agriculture Library, a Seminary in Padua, and the Ximines Observatory Library in Florence. It is also known meanwhile that it was not only Italian books he had stolen but valuable books in other languages and printed in other countries as well. We should therefore no longer talk about the “Girolamini-Issue” but the “De Caro-Issue”.
I am also very concerned about a detail some dealers told me. For some time they had been aware that someone had been checking out their online stock; ABEbooks alerts you when someone looks at a description (the auto e-mails say: Someone is interested in one of your books; to find out more click on this ‘link’, and when they did so they would find twenty or so books at a time, with no common denominator, other than they were early sciences and mostly Italian). This had happened several times and it is very likely that this is what they were doing with Christian Westergaard as well.
That would mean that Italian authorities are now checking the online stocks of our affiliates! That could also mean that every dealer handling continental books could be subject to the same criminal charges being brought, which however innocent one may be, is damaging in itself even when subsequently you are found to be innocent. And this also means that the Italian authorities have lists of the stolen items which they have never showed or given us!
ILAB had offered both help and cooperation to clear up these crimes for more than two years, and so did ALAI but up to now all the letters that were sent to the Italian investigators by Fabrizio Govi, Arnoud Gerits, and Tom Congalton have remained unanswered. This situation has become totally unacceptable as Italian authorities do not seem to understand that they are intentionally damaging the reputation of both individual dealers and the whole trade.
I will therefore, on behalf of ILAB, address a note of protest to the Minister of Culture of Italy, Dr. Dario Franceschini, the Minister of Justice, Dr. Andrea Orlando, and the head of investigation, Dr. Antonella Serio. I WILL ALSO REQUEST AGAIN FOR LISTS OF THE STOLEN ITEMS. This note will also be published on our website, on the websites of our members, in relevant magazines, and in newspapers.
I would be pleased if you, dear Presidents, would forward this message to your members!
Norbert Donhofer (ILAB President) - August 2014
More than a year has passed since the discovery of the thefts and forgeries of books from the Girolamini Library. According to the judges, the director of the Library, Marino Massimo De Caro was primarily responsible for the thefts. He was arrested and convicted to seven years in prison in the first of several trials that he will have to face. This trial also involved his accomplices. The trial against several booksellers (including 3 ILAB affiliates), who according to the prosecutors have helped him in selling the stolen items, has been postponed to an as yet unspecified date.
ILAB and ALAI are very concerned about two major issues. First of all, the Italian authorities have not or cannot satisfy our repeated requests to provide us with a list of the stolen books, probably because such a list does not appear to exist. As the trial sentence indicated, De Caro himself has confessed to destroying all of the paper catalog cards recording the stolen books, and apparently no other inventory exists. This brings up the prospect that books from the Library may surface on the market for years to come, with little or no warning that they have been stolen. ILAB maintains a database of stolen books but apparently these books seem destined never to be recorded there. We strongly urge our affiliates to perform due diligence when buying books from an unknown source.
The second issue is that apparently the Italian authorities are not concerned with the production of the forgeries that De Caro has disseminated throughout the antiquarian book marketplace, especially in the United States. Our worry is that, if nobody will investigate further in this field, we will never know who physically produced those forged books, how many are still circulating, and, last but not least, how they were manufactured, in order that we might be better able to recognize them in the future. The apparent disinterest in investigating this process brings up the frightening prospect that these forgeries might continue to proliferate and appear on the market long after the authorities are no longer interested in the stolen books themselves.
Fabrizio Govi (ALAI President) - October 2013
Please read the following message carefully: it concerns a massive theft from an important library in Italy. As soon as more information becomes available we will inform you. Committee member Norbert Donhofer and Italian President Fabrizio Govi are working very hard to get all the necessary information, but in the meantime we must advise everyone to be careful and cautious.
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 at Lyon, 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.
We will provide our members with a list of stolen books from the Girolamini Library as soon as Italian authorities have published such a document. This is the direct contact to the Italian authorities.
Carabinieri Comando Tutela Patrimonio Culturale
Via Anicia 22
00155 Roma – Italia
phone +39 06 585631 / fax +39 06 58563200 / email@example.com
The responsible officer in charge is Colonello Raffaele Mancino. This gentleman knows who we are, what we are doing and he greatly appreciates our efforts.
Please keep also in mind that the stolen books were not only spread out to auction houses and the trade by Marino Massimo de Caro and his helpers, who have been arrested meanwhile, but also by other persons who simply had been used by De Caro and his gang. It is therefore thinkable that trustworthy persons have offered books to you!
Arnoud Gerits (ILAB Past President) - July 2012