Newton's Principia Mathematica, George Washington's journal: archivist stole $8m worth of rare books from Pittsburgh's Carnegie Library

For the record, this hits very close to home for me.
University of Pittsburgh is my alma matter for the Japanese degree, and Caliban is right around the corner from it.

And I know people who are friends with the owner of Caliban.

I have spent countless hours in Caliban book shop, and after the news of this story first broke a couple years ago I stopped going there.

I refuse to shop there now.

I can’t tell you how sad this makes me for so many reasons, the least of which that someone I gave my money to participated in this makes me utterly sick.
The fact that the owner of my favorite bookstore, the only antiquarian bookseller I know of in Pittsburgh also participated in this enrages me.

Much of what I own of value are rare books, mostly on horology, and there aren’t many places you can just walk in and find stuff like that. I have boughten quite a bit at Caliban over the years, but I will never give them a cent of my money again.

Since Townsend went away maybe 10 years ago, theres no one left in the city that sells real old books on technical stuff.

Anyone who harms books is scum to me.


another story from the atlantic, focusing on this particular case:

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Can you explain what this means for me? What do mean by plates that were cut out?

Many 19th century books were sold in a manner vaguely reminiscent of Kickstarter.
The top rewards were “double elephant folio versions”, containing all the hand colored plates. The ordinary versions might contain black and white engravings, published in octavo versions. Many of the premium versions are now in rare book libraries.

The hand colored plates have some value to the unscrupulous collector who wants something to hang on his wall, as do the maps. It is easier for a thief to cut potions out of the book than it is to steal the book itself-- but dealers have been known to acquire a book for the purpose of selling its illustrations.

(Hmm. This is causing me some unease about my habit of buying 19th century periodicals. Much less rare, though.)

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A version of “Reise in das Innere Nord-America" is available at the internet archive-- which, is where I think such books should live, assuming due care has been paid to imaging.

Can’t help but notice that a great many of those works feature Native Americans. Perhaps NAGPRA is making those who would collect artifacts get books instead.

I assume that’s why the guy fencing the books was charged with forgery (i.e. “yes, this is the copy once owned by Carnegie library before they sold it to me, as you can see from this totally legitimate bill of sale.”)

Thanks. Interesting (but very sad in this context) stuff.

Lots of details in this New York Times article.

It has an image of one of the forged documents.


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