By Norbert Donhofer (ILAB President)
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 All of the then withdrawn books– totaling up to 540 – are still kept under lock by the Bavarian Police and that factor was forgotten by the Italian investigators!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)