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In April 2012 it was announced that 1500 books were missing from one of the richest and oldest libraries in Italy: the Girolamini Library in Naples. Shortly afterwards the library’s director Marino Massimo de Caro was suspended, then arrested and accused of embezzlement along with four accomplices from Argentina and Ukraine. A number of stolen items from the library were confiscated in Munich, London, New York and Tokyo, but most of the books are still missing. It is not even known right now how many books were actually stolen.

Nearly every day, more and more news and background information become public. The book theft in the Girolamini Library turns out to be one of the most spectacular ever.  

Press release, published on behalf of the Munich auction house ZISSKA & SCHAUER (August 2013)

Statement issued by the Munich auction house ZISSKA & SCHAUER dated 10 August 2013 addressed to the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, for immediate release, requesting distribution to its members

To whom it may concern

For reasons that will become apparent, and for clarification, we are issuing the following statement:

In the run-up to Auction 59 (9-11 May 2012), we were offered – through an intermediary – a valuable consignment of over four hundred books in private ownership in Italy. After careful scrutiny of the owners’ official credentials and the books themselves we said we were ready to accept the consignment.

On the evening before the auction (8 May 2012) we were informed by the Bavarian Landeskriminalamt that a number of books listed in Catalogue 59 would be confiscated on the grounds that ownership thereof was in question. As four of the books to be confiscated were from the private consignment mentioned above, to be on the safe side ZISSKA & SCHAUER decided to withdraw the whole consignment from the auction, particularly as information and rumours were spreading that there had been losses of books from the Girolamini Library in Naples. This suggested to us that there might be a connection with the consignment we had received from Italy.

The Italian authorities have been investigating the Director of the Girolamini Library and a large number of other persons accused. Among those accused is the intermediary who offered the consignment – allegedly in private ownership – to ZISSKA & SCHAUER. However, all the books in the consignment are still in Munich as no conclusive evidence has emerged to date that any of the books we received were in fact stolen from the Girolamini Library.

Quite extraordinarily, early on 2 August 2013 our Executive Director, Mr. Herbert Schauer, was taken from his apartment and arrested by the Munich criminal justice authorities. The Italian authorities had issued a European arrest warrant on the basis of self-exculpatory submissions made by a number of the accused in the Girolamini trials and had forwarded the warrant to the Bavarian authorities.

We are deeply shocked. All those who have worked with Mr. Schauer day in, day out over many years know that the accusations raised against him are preposterous, absurd and totally groundless. The auction house has immediately engaged the services of Dieter Löhr, lawyer and legal adviser to the Bundesverband Deutscher Kunstversteigerer (BDK), as legal counsel.

To ensure that preparations for Auction 62 (scheduled for 6 November 2013) are unaffected, it is essential to keep Mr. Schauer’s position occupied until he can return. Mr. Wolfgang Lacher, his business associate, will assume the role of managing director with immediate effect.

We would ask you, at this difficult juncture, for your continuing support. Rest assured that you can have every confidence in the new interim management.

ZISSKA, SCHAUER & CO. KG (Buch- und Kunstauktionshaus, Unterer Anger 15, 80331 Munich, Germany)

Snippets from some of the most interesting press articles and YouTube clips:

Reflections on Girolamini: Libraries, funding and the people we trust

“Finally, just last week, some resolution was brought to the developing crisis in Naples around one of the region’s oldest libraries, the Biblioteca dei Girolamini. This library, built alongside the Church and Convent of the Girolamini of Gerolamini in the late 16th century serviced the Oratory of the convent, but was also open to the public from its very beginnings. It is one of the richest libraries in the south of Italy, and one of the oldest in Naples and a particular example of the public library in pre-Unification Italy. The library expanded in the following centuries to a collection of almost 160,000 books which range in subjects from theology and church history to contemporary literature, archaeology, numismatics, music and local history, all dating from the 15th-19th century. Since the late 19th century the library has been administered by the local Cultural Ministry (Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali) and the Oratory.

So why should a blogger working for a Scottish University be concerned about this southern Italian gem? Well, to be honest, I hadn’t heard of the Girolamini library until April, when my attention was caught by a petition started by Italian academics which asked why the current librarian, Massimo Marino De Caro (a man with no professional qualifications and a dubious background), and his staff had been appointed to take care of this beautiful and important library. This came on the heels of De Caro’s announcement earlier in April that over 1,500 books were missing from the library, after which the shady background of De Caro began to unfold. This petition was signed by over 2,000 Italian and international academics and librarians (including this blogger). Three days later, the library was closed by the Naples Public Prosecutor and De Caro had been suspended and placed under inspection for embezzlement.  Following these events,evidence came to light that De Caro had been recorded on surveillance tapes removing boxes of books from the library, and that at least three volumes with the Girolamini stamp had been found in his Verona home.  On Friday, 18 May 2012, 1,000 books were found in a storage facility in Verona connected to De Caro, 250 of which had the Girolamini stamp on them, along with records of other which had been sold to foreign buyers. Last week,  De Caro and five other individuals were formally arrested for suspicion of theft and embezzlement.”

>>> Read the full article by Daryl Green in Echoes from the Vault

Police arrest head of Naples' oldest library for book theft

“ROME -- Italian police on Thursday arrested the director and the curator of the oldest library in Naples for stealing hundreds of books and manuscripts from their own collection. "The Girolamini Library has been the victim of a criminal plot," said Naples public prosecutor Giovanni Mellilo. The library's director, Massimo Marino De Caro, and its curator, Sandro Marsano, have been stealing books from the collection "over a long period of time", Mellilo said. Four others accused of involvement in the theft, three Argentinians and a Ukrainian, were also arrested.”

>>> May 24, 2012: The Herald Sun 

Biblioteca Girolamini, gli inquirenti:"Gente che agiva come struttura parallela"

>>> Video of the press conference held on May 24, 2012

Napoli, furto di libri antichi sequestrata la biblioteca Girolamini

>>> April 19, 2012 (Il Fatto Quotidiana): Interviews after the book thefts were discovered

Girolamini Library’s Disappearing Books

“It all started a couple of weeks ago. Florence-born Tomaso Montanari, who teaches history of modern art at Naples’ Federico II university and wrote a book called A che serve Michelangelo? [What’s the Point of Michelangelo?] advancing serious doubts on the attribution to the Renaissance genius of a crucifix purchased by the Berlusconi government for more than €3 million, wrote a piece for Il Fatto newspaper. Montanari said he had visited the Girolamini library, which holds over 150,000 ancient manuscripts and books, and found an appalling dust-layered mess with invaluable tomes lying on the floor and empty Coca-Cola cans on the ancient reading desks. Professor Montanari wrote: “The library is closed today because it has to be reorganised, says Fr Sandro Marsano, the enthusiastic, exquisitely polite Oratorian priest who welcomes visitors to the stupendous 17th-century complex. No, it’s closed because of the strange goings-on, say people who live nearby and mutter about heavily laden vehicles leaving the library courtyards late at night”.

>>> April 17, 2012: Read the full article in Corriere della Sera 

Leiter von Neapels ältester Bibliothek wegen Buchklaus festgenommen

Die Polizei hat den Direktor und den Konservator der ältesten Bibliothek Neapels wegen des Diebstahls hunderter Bücher und Manuskripte aus ihrer eigenen Einrichtung festgenommen. Staatsanwalt Giovanni Mellilo teilte am Donnerstag mit, Bibliotheksleiter Massimo Marino De Caro und Konservator Sandro Marsano hätten "über einen langen Zeitraum" gestohlen. Die Girolamini-Bibliothek sei das "Opfer eines kriminellen Projekts" geworden. Vier weitere Verdächtige wurden ebenfalls festgenommen.

>>> May 24, 2012: Die WELT 

Undici libri «sospetti» della Curia genovese a casa di don Marsano

“Tre depositi di libri antichi. E' questo l'ultimo riscontro delle indagini della Procura di Napoli nell'ambito dell'inchiesta sui furti di volumi antichi alla biblioteca dei Girolamini. I tre depositi sono stati scoperti in provincia di Verona dove già nei giorni scorsi gli inquirenti avevano trovato prove del furto dei testi dalle stanze della biblioteca.”

>>> May 28, 2012: A summary of the events in Corriere del Mezzogiorno

Napoli, traffico di libri antichi ai “Girolamini”: cinque arresti

“Tra loro c'è il contestatissimo direttore della struttura, Marino Massimo De Caro, per ottenere la rimozione del quale migliaia di intellettuali avevano firmato una petizione. In carcere sono finiti anche tre suoi collaboratori stranieri e un ricettatore veronese, Mirko Camuri, insegnante di ballo coinvolto in numerosi compravendite sospette di libri antichi. Numerose le perquisizioni disposte dal procuratore aggiuntoGiovanni Melillo e dai sostituti Michele Fini e Antonella Serio; tra i destinatari dei decreti figurano anche don Sandro Marsano, conservatore della biblioteca, e Maria Grazia Cerone, collaboratrice del senatore del Pdl Marcello Dell'Utri; sia Marsano sia Cerone sono indagati.”

>>> May 24, 2012: Eolo Press about the Marino Massimo de Caro and his accomplices

Girolamini, due nuovi arresti - Altre accuse all'ex direttore

“Nuova misura cautelare e nuovi indagati nell'inchiesta sulla gestione della Biblioteca dei Girolamini di Napoli, dalla quale sono stati trafugati migliaia di libri antichi. Un nuovo provvedimento restrittivo è stato notificato al direttore della struttura, Marino Massimo De Caro, a Mirko Camuri, Eloy Alejandro Cabello e Viktoriya Pavlonskiy, già arrestati nelle scorse settimane con l'accusa di peculato: a tutti viene ora contestato il reato di associazione per delinquere e, dopo un più accurato conteggio dei volumi ritrovati e sequestrati, il peculato per 2.200 libri, cui potrebbero aggiungersi alcune altre centinaia di testi sotto sequestro presso una casa d'aste in Germania.”
>>> On June 9, Corriere del Mezzogiorno reports that two more suspects were arrested and that even more books were stolen. It could be more than 2.200 books. The suspects are now accused of embezzlement and conspiracy.

Girolamini, il gip: il nome di Dell'Utri bloccò il sequestro

“Nell'ambito dell'inchiesta sulla gestione della biblioteca dei Girolamini, la Procura di Napoli intendeva perquisire un appartamento di via Crispi a Roma le cui utenze telefoniche risultano intestate a Marino Massimo De Caro, direttore della biblioteca ritenuto il promotore dell' assoziazione a delinquere finalizzata all'acquisizione dei libri. … Secondo il gip, dunque, nelle stanze usate da De Caro i carabinieri trovavano molte scatole piene di libri provenienti dalla biblioteca dei Girolamini.”

>>> On June 13, 2012, La Republicca Napoli reports that the police searched an apartment in Rome the other day. There they found several boxes with book from the Bibliotheca Girolamini.

Biblioteca Girolamini svuotata, il giudice: «Organizzazione criminale, De Caro capo»

“I libri antichi custoditi nella biblioteca dei Girolamini «venivano trasferiti da Napoli a Verona per essere poi spostati in altre regioni d’Italia e all’estero» da una «vera e propria organizzazione criminale che ha in Marino Massimo De Caro il capo e promotore»: lo scrive il gip Francesca Ferri nell’ordinanza di custodia cautelare notificata sabato scorso al direttore della storica biblioteca, accusato ora non solo di peculato ma anche di associazione per delinquere.”

>>> On June 6, 2012, L’Arena characterizes De Caro as the head of an international organization and says that the theft from the Girolamini Library is part of an organized "looting".

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