Showing posts with label maps and manuscripts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label maps and manuscripts. Show all posts

August 13, 2013

Stefano Alessandrini on "The Thieving Director: the Horrifying Theft of Thousands of Books and the Thief who was Paid to Protect Them" (The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2013)

In "The Thieving Director: the Horrifying Theft of Thousands of Books, and the Thief who was Paid to Protect Them", Stefano Alessandrini discusses the theft of ancient manuscripts and books in Napoli:
The extraordinary Girolamini Library of Naples is home to almost 160,000 ancient manuscripts and books and opened its doors to the public in 1586. Built alongside the Church and Convent of the Girolamini, the library served as the convent’s Oratory and is believed to be one of the richest libraries in Southern Italy.
 
The collection, which includes many rare editions dating from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, is centered on Christian theology, philosophy, sacred music, and the history of Europe and the Catholic Church. After the massive Irpinia earthquake, which struck Campania in 1980 the church, gallery and library were closed. The collection, off limit to anyone except scholars, suffered a lengthy period of neglect, and it is believed that many volumes disappeared. It is presently owned by the Italian State.
 
On 12 September 2011 two manuscripts from the Girolamini Library and a 14th century Missal from the Archdiocese of Bari, were returned to Italy after a protracted legal dispute and eventual settlement with Sotheby’s auction house in London and the manuscript’s last owners, who believed they had purchased the documents in good faith. This custodian event took place at the Italian Embassy in London in the presence of Italy’s Deputy Attorney General of the State Maurizio, Fiorilli, the federal prosecutor who also successfully pushed for the return of looted artifacts from the J. Paul Getty Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and other American Museums.
Stefano Alessandrini is a prominent leader of Italy's Archaeological Group, and adviser to the Ministry of Culture and the Advocate General of Italy on the recovery of looted antiquities.
  
This article is continued in the ninth issue of The Journal of Art Crime, edited by ARCA Founder Noah Charney. The Journal is available electronically and in print via subscription and Amazon.com. The Associate Editor, Marc Balcells (ARCA '11), is a Graduate Teaching Fellow at the Department of Political Science, John Jay College of Criminal Justice -- The City University of New York.

July 26, 2013

Royal Library of Sweden celebrates the return of two rare manuscripts stolen by Anders Burius and recovered by Baltimore-based book dealer Stephan Loewentheil

by A. M. C. Knutsson, ARCA Student 2013

On Wednesday the 24th of July, the second return ceremony for books stolen from the Royal Library of Sweden took place in the office of the New York District Attorney.  Last year the Wytfliet Atlas was the first to be returned to the Royal Library after it was identified in the possession of a New York-based dealer who had purchased it in 2003 from Sotheby’s, who reimbursed the dealer before returning it to the Library.

The two new returns are the ‘Das illustrirte Mississippithal’ by Henry Lewis, which was the first book to be discovered missing from the Royal Library and a 1683 French book by Louis Hennepin on the Louisiana territory.  A full list of the books that remain missing can be found here. Both of these books were purchased by Baltimore-based dealer Stephan Loewentheil from Ketterer Kunst, a German auction house where many of the stolen books had been sold. Learning about the thefts, Loewentheil, who in turn had sold the books, bought them back and returned them to the Royal Library at his own expense. Loewentheil explained his actions in the following words, "Although as a bona fide purchaser, I didn't have any legal liability, from a moral standpoint it bothered me.”

The head librarian and CEO of the Royal Library, Gunilla Herdenberg commented on the return, saying that the return means a lot to the Library as well as the Swedish cultural heritage. It is important, she asserts, to show that these types of thefts can be resolved.

The thefts from the Royal Library took place between 1995 and 2004. They were conducted by Anders Burius, the head of the Manuscript Department, who at discovery committed suicide. More than 50 books remain missing, but it is believed that the increased publicity with the return of the resurfaced books in conjunction with further effort at identification both by the Library and the FBI might prove fruitful.

The juridical representative of the Royal Library has ensured that the Library is constantly working to localize the missing books. The economic value is irrelevant when it comes to the damage conducted to the Library and the cultural heritage of Sweden.  These books are intended for the enlightenment of mankind and the return of the books is the only right thing to do from an ethical standpoint.

Steven D. Feldman, from Herrick, Feinstein LLP, representing the Royal Library stated, “Stephan Loewentheil’s decision to return these two cultural treasures to the Royal Library of Sweden should serve as an example for ethical book dealers and collectors in the United States and around the world.  As Mr. Loewentheil demonstrated, these stolen books should be returned to the people of Sweden and the Royal Library, their true owner, and made available to the public.  They should not be secreted away in private collections.”

In the words of Stephan Loewentheil, “Our clients love books and people who love books tend to want to do the right thing, so they were happy to sell the books back to me.”

Anyone who holds any information regarding the missing books (a complete list is available at www.wytflietatlas.com) is encouraged to contact Jerker Rydén at the Royal Library of Sweden.

For more information:


September 11, 2009

Ptolomeo sufre de nuevo

Map of Ptolemy
The following article on Spanish map and manuscript thefts has been contributed to ARCAblog by Juan José Prieto Gutiérrez of Biblioteca de la Facultad de Derecho, Universidad Complutense de Madrid. An English translation will follow shortly.

Ptolomeo sufre de nuevo.
El húngaro Zslot Vamos sustrae documentos históricos de instituciones públicas españolas.

Se dice que la imitación lleva implícito un alto grado de homenaje, admiración y respeto.

¿Es Zslot Vamos un imitador que pretendía emular a Cesar Gómez Rivero, autor del robo de la Biblioteca Nacional Española? No podemos asegurarlo pero lo que si es cierto es que ambos sentían fascinación por el astrónomo griego Claudio Ptolomeo.

El pasado siete de agosto en Pamplona el destino se truncó para Vamos, fue detenido por el presunto delito de haber robado sesenta y siete mapas de gran valor histórico mayoritariamente del siglo XVI.

Su afición por este tipo de material le llevó a robar al menos en siete centros, Biblioteca Pública de Soria, Biblioteca Pública de Castilla y León en Valladolid, Universidad de Salamanca, Biblioteca Pública de Logroño, Universidad de Navarra, Archivo General de Navarra y Biblioteca de Castilla La Mancha, en el Alcázar de Toledo.

En el momento de su detención llevaba un mapa de carreteras donde tenía indicado una ruta de expoliación; “visitaría” veintiocho ciudades españolas, tres portuguesas (Lisboa, Coimbra y Oporto), y otras en Italia y Francia.

Zslot aseguró al Grupo de Patrimonio Histórico de la Unidad Central Operativa (UCO) de la Guardia Civil que las piezas robadas eran para su disfrute personal y no deseaba venderlas en el mercado negro.

Modus Operandi

Para acceder a las bibliotecas utilizaba un pasaporte eslovaco falso a nombre de Anton Ziska, además tenía otro por si le fallaba a nombre de Gabor Josef Cservenka.

Se presentaba como periodista especializado en temas históricos para conseguir un carné de investigador.

Para llevar a cabo sus robos se ayudaba de cuchillas de cúter, si las instituciones carecían de detector de metales y, de cuñas de plástico de los cuellos de sus camisas, previamente afiladas y convertidas en pequeños cuchillos en aquellos centros provistos de sistemas de seguridad.
Pero a pesar de lo cuidadoso que parecía en sus operativas iba dejando pistas, durante el año 2007 había visitado varias bibliotecas accediendo a ellas con sus verdaderos datos personales.

España, atrapa al ladrón

Las bibliotecas y archivos españoles han vuelto a ser atacadas. En marzo de 2008, después de que en agosto de 2007 la BNE denunció la desaparición de diecinueve valiosos grabados. se inició la Operación Biblión por el Grupo de Patrimonio Histórico de la Unidad Central Operativa (UCO) de la Guardia Civil tras la desaparición en la Real Biblioteca del Monasterio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial de un mapa desplegable que formaba parte de un tratado sobre cosmografía y expediciones geográficas, editado en 1537 en Basilea; operación que finalizó con éxito tras la detención de Zslot Vamos por el supuesto robo de al menos sesenta y siete documentos históricos.

Los robos en bibliotecas y archivos poseedores de materiales bibliográficos históricos y accesibles al público no son casos aislados.
Sucede con frecuencia que son descubiertos pasados los años, durante rutinarios inventarios o al ser consultados por otro investigador, hecho que dificulta la detención del responsable y el seguimiento de las piezas, generalmente destinadas a coleccionistas privados.

La experiencia de los robos ocurridos en bibliotecas a lo largo de la historia, generan mejoría en las medidas de seguridad, pero todavía se debe aunar esfuerzos con el objetivo de reducir totalmente las acciones de los delincuentes, destacando las siguientes recomendaciones:
  • La digitalización total del patrimonio documental reduciría considerablemente el contacto directo con la obra y por tanto sus robos.
  • Aplicación de normas de la ACRL y RBMS en todos los centros poseedores de materiales históricos.
  • Los investigadores, únicos usuarios a los que se les permite el acceso, deben ser vigilados permanentemente mediante personal formado adecuadamente.
  • A nivel nacional, las bibliotecas poseedoras de material histórico susceptible de robo deben conectarse entre sí, a través de redes y bases de datos compartidas con el fin de facilitar los seguimientos y detecciones de los supuestos ladrones.
  • Nunca debe permitirse la entrada de objetos capaces de facilitar la extracción de documentos.
  • Optimas medidas de seguridad físicas y electrónicas sobre las instalaciones y sobre los mismos soportes documentales.
Es importante destacar que los controles de seguridad resultan considerablemente más económicos y eficaces si se incorporan en la etapa de especificación de requerimientos y diseño de las instalaciones.

Esto no ocurre en muchos casos, ya que en la actualidad, muchos de los edificios destinados a bibliotecas no han sido construidos para desempañar esta función.
Aun así, la seguridad puede lograrse, debiendo ser respaldada por una gestión y procedimientos adecuados. En estos casos la identificación de los controles que deben implementarse requiere una mayor planificación y atención a todos los detalles.
Pero en general la administración de la seguridad, exige, como mínimo, la participación del responsable de la biblioteca, proveedores y empresas de seguridad, gerente y administrador del edificio e incluso si las acciones lo requieren no se debe dudar en contratar el asesoramiento experto de organizaciones externas.


Juan José Prieto Gutiérrez
Universidad Complutense de Madrid

July 20, 2009

ARCAblog Podcast: The Vinland Map

Reading from the research of John Yates, Yale 2010, ARCA Director Noah Charney discusses the mysteries behind Yale's acquisition of the Vinland Map. Additionally, he explains the multi-faceted controversy surrounding the authenticity of this mappa mundi, which some scholars believe is evidence supporting the theory that the Vikings were the first Europeans to land in North America. On Friday, 17 July 2009, at an international cartographers' conference in Copenhagen, Rene Larsen, rector of the School of Conservation under the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, told Reuters, "All the tests that we have done over the past five years -- on the materials and other aspects - do not show any signs of forgery." Accordingly, the map continues to make headlines. The podcast can be found here or by clicking the title of this post.