Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2019 Issue

Over 600 Books Stolen After World War II Returned to Owner

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California Turkey Vulture from John James Audubon's Birds of America (courtesy Sotheby's).

Over 600 stolen books from World War II were recently returned to their rightful owner. This is not the typical war era returned books story. The normal story, common even today as repatriation has become better recognized as the right course, involves books looted by the Nazis. The Nazis stole books, art, and everything else they could lay their hands on, primarily from Jews and others they considered enemies at home, and from the lands they overran during the war. All these years later, many of the books and artifacts are finally making their way back to their rightful owners, often heirs of owners they murdered.

 

So here is a different story. Some books were also looted from German libraries. This came primarily at the close of the war, when Allied soldiers captured and temporarily occupied Germany. Considering the atrocities committed by the Nazis, and the casualties inflicted on Allied soldiers, some may have had little sympathy for German institutions. Losing books pales in comparison to losing lives. They may have seen this as the spoils of war rather than stealing.

 

Stealing was not the major cause of books being lost. There was heavy bombing of Germany and the buildings of many institutions were destroyed. This was the case of the Bonn University and State Library. They lost 180,000 books, and most were almost certainly destroyed during the war. However, some were removed to safe places, in this case, a bunker in Bonn. Some of those books also disappeared. Fortunately for the library, it had extensive records of its collection. It knew what was missing, even it it didn't know the books' fate, whether they still existed or had been destroyed.

 

Over 600 of these books missing since around 1945 recently showed up at Sotheby's auction house in London. They had been consigned to Sotheby's by Tania Grégoire, a Belgian woman. She had no knowledge of their origin. She inherited them from her father. Sotheby's routinely checks consignments for legitimacy of their background. These books were particularly suspicious. Sotheby's noticed that most of the titles were the same as those missing from the Bonn library. Some were missing title pages or had torn pages where indicia was likely removed, signs that someone was hiding their origin. Some still had identifying markings, such as Bonn library numbers. Sotheby's contacted the Bonn University Library and it did not take long before the identity of these books was known.

 

It turned out that Ms. Grégoire's father was a Belgian soldier during the war. He had been stationed in Bonn after the war's conclusion. While how he ended up with the books cannot be ascertained with certainty, it is likely that he and/or other Belgian soldiers had taken these books back home with them from Bonn. Ms. Grégoire, unaware of their origin, proved to be very cooperative. She willingly returned the books, and did receive a finder's fee for her efforts. However, that amount was nowhere near as valuable as the books she returned.

 

Among the books were some valuable medieval manuscripts, dating as far back as the 13th century. There were also 15th century prints and historical maps. Of particular interest to Americans was a collection of bird books once owned by Prince Maximilian of Wied-Neuwied. Maximilian visited America in the 1830s and provided one of the best accounts of America's midwestern Indians before their way of life was too deeply altered by Europeans. He was accompanied by artist Karl Bodmer, whose illustrations of American natives are among the best ever created. Among Maximilian's bird books was a first octavo edition of John James Audubon's Birds of America.

 

The Bonn University Library has received some stolen books back before, though nothing on this level. In 2011, an American soldier returned a book himself. In 2018, three more books were returned from America, this time by the heirs of an American soldier.

 

According to Charlotte Miller, Specialist in Books and Manuscripts at Sotheby's in London, their restitution and specialists department examines approximately 15,000 books, manuscripts, art works and other lots annually brought to their European locations. Typically, only a few dozen items need further attention, and these are usually only single items. "So," she noted, "the scope of the present return is unprecedented for Sotheby's."

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on May 27th</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:</b><br><i>Breviarium Romanum,</i> before 1478. Est: € 15,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:</b><br>C. Ptolemaeus, <i>Geographie,</i> 1513.<br>Est: € 140,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:</b><br>M. Chagall, <i>Daphnis & Chloé,</i> 1961.<br>Est: € 130,000
    <center><b>Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on May 27th</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:</b><br>F. Colonna, <i>Hypnerotomachia Poliphili,</i> 1499. Est: € 20,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:</b><br>J. H. van Linschoten, <i>Itinerarium,</i> 1644. Est: € 50,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:</b><br>M. Chagall, <i>Cirque,</i> 1967.<br>Est: € 120,000
    <center><b>Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on May 27th</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:</b><br>G. L. L. Buffon, <i>Histoire naturelle des oiseaux,</i> 1765-83. Est: € 30,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:</b><br>K. Marx, <i>Das Kapital,</i> 1867.<br>Est: € 30,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:</b><br>P. J. Redouté, <i>Les liliacées,</i> 1802-16.<br>Est: € 120,000
    <center><b>Ketterer Rare Books<br>Auction on May 27th</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:</b><br>M. E. Bloch, <i>Naturgeschichte der Fische,</i> 1782-95. Est: € 50,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:</b><br>H. A. Châtelain, <i>Atlas historique,</i> 1718-20. Est: € 18,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:</b><br>Bauhausbücher, complete series, 1925-30. Est: € 28,000
  • <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Darwin, Charles. <i>On the Origin of Species.</i> Presentation Copy. Very Fine. $200,000 to $300,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Darwin, Charles. Autograph Letter Signed, 3 pp, negotiating the 2nd American edition with Appleton $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Hemingway, Ernest. Autograph Letter Signed, 8 pp, Paris, 1924, to his father discussing Bullfighting, Stories, and his new baby. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Corialanus.</i> London, 1623. 1st printing [Extracted from the First Folio]. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Swift, Jonathan. <i>Gulliver's Travels.</i> London, 1726. 1st edition, Teerink's A edition, fine, large copy. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Neill, John R. Pen-and-ink drawing from Oz, "He raised his gun, took aim and fired," $6,000 to $8,000
    <center><b>Bonhams<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts<br>June 13 - New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Sonnets.</i> 1901. 2 volumes. Printed on vellum and illuminated by Ross Turner, bound by Trautz-Bauzonnet. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Thompson, Kay. <i>Eloise at Christmastime.</i> New York: Random House, [1958]. First edition. In custom binding by Asprey. $3,000 to $5,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Beardsley, Aubrey. <i>The Birth, Life, and Acts of King Arthur.</i> 1893-94. 2 volumes. Contemporary painted vellum gilt by Chivers. $2,000 to $3,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Assisi, St. Francis. <i>The Canticle of Brother Sun.</i> Illuminated on vellum, for the Grolier Society. $7,000 to $9,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Taylor, Deems. <i>Walt Disney’s Fantasia.</i> New York: 1940. In custom binding by Asprey. $3,000 to $5,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Proust, Marcel. <i>Du coté de chez Swann.</i> 1st edition, 1st issue. Inscribed by Proust. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Rackham, Arthur. <i>Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.</i> 1/500 copies signed by Rackham. $1,500 to $2,500
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 23:</b> <i>Dramatized Sales Methods,</i> designers unknown, 36 pamphlets, 1930. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 23:</b> Paul Rand, <i>IBM,</i> 1982. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 23:</b> Charles Loupot, <i>Peugeot,</i> 1926. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 23:</b> Wladyslaw Strzeminski, <i>[Create the “Week of the Red Gift” Everywhere],</i> 1919. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 23:</b> Charles Loupot, <i>Twining,</i> 1930. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 23:</b> Charles Loupot, <i>Lion Noir / Cirage – Crème,</i> 1949. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 23:</b> Adolphe Mouron Cassandre, <i>Triplex,</i> 1931. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 23:</b> Adolphe Mouron Cassandre, <i>Étoile du Nord,</i> 1927. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 23:</b> Edward McKnight Kauffer, <i>Shop Between 10 and 4, The Quiet Hours, And by Underground,</i> 1930. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 23:</b> Lester Beall, <i>Rural Electrification Administration,</i> 1939. $20,000 to $30,000.
  • <center><b>Chiswick Auctions</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, May 29:</b> Rumphius (Georgius Everhardus). <i>D’Ambionsche Rariteitkamer,</i> FIRST EDITION, 61 handcoloured engraved plates, 1705. £10,000 to £15,000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, May 29:</b> Collodi (Carlo) Le avventure di Pinocchio. <i>Storia di un burattino,</i> FIRST EDITION, frontispiece and 61 illustrations by Enrico Mazzanti, 1883. £8,000 to £12,000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, May 29:</b> De Bry (T, J T & J I). <i>[Great Voyages, part IV] Americae sive Insignis & Admiranda Historia de Reperta primum Occidentali India,</i> FIRST EDITION, 23 engraved plates, 1594. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, May 29:</b> Wine & Beer.-Kellermaysterey. <i>Gründtlicher bericht wie man alle wein Teütscher und Welscher landen vor allen zufallen bewaren...,</i> 16 leaves of manuscript notes, 1548. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, May 29:</b> Table Globe'- Doppelmayr (J G) & Puschner (J G, engraver). An 8-inch German terrestrial table Globe, diameter c.200 mm, height c.300 mm, 1730. £6,000 to £8,000
    <center><b>Chiswick Auctions</b
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, May 30:</b> An album with 107 original watercolours featuring landscapes and views of various places in England, Scotland and Ireland, late 1840s. £600 to £800
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, May 30:</b> Hemingway (Ernest). Black and white, landscape photograph of man on horseback, signed and inscribed by Hemingway. £1,000 to £1,500
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, May 30:</b> Unrecorded autograph letter by Charles William Stewart to his father the Marquess of Londonerry, describing the ceremony of the presentation to Consul Bonaparte in January 1803. £6,000 to £8,000.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, May 30:</b> Davis (William Heath). <i>Seventy-five Years in California,</i> Author's Section of the Argonaut Edition, no. 142 [of 250 copies] signed by the editor and publisher on limitation leaf. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, May 30:</b> Prussian Royal Family. Six signed photographs of members of Prussian Royal Family, in a contemporary folding triptych, ebonised wood display case. £1,500 to £2,000

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