Last year, The Carnegie Library finally decided to hold an audit to check on their various antiques and prized relics. However, upon inspection, it was found out that an alarming amount of the library’s stock had been missing. The duo responsible for the loss of so many treasured books has been apprehended, but their acts of re-selling the antiques still have a long term effect on the industry as a whole.
Image via Palm Beach Post
John Schulman and Gregory Priore worked together to pull off an almost two-decade-long heist. While Priore would sneak out the expensive items while working at the Carnegie Library, John Schulman would try to re-sell them; Schulman’s bookstore, Caliban Book Shop, was a block away from the library. Over 300 books had been stolen amounting up to more than $8 million dollars.
Image via Smithsonian Magazine
Although their plan to sell such valuable books seems so simple, it was nearly foolproof. This is because, in the literary antiquity business, most relationships are built on trust and/or money. And so, because of their extensive illegal sales of high-end books, Schulman and Priore have made the industry realize to take more serious caution when handling their special tomes. As stated by Travis McDade from the Times:
It’s basically a ‘who’s who’ of people in the rare book field
For instance, John Thomson had known Schulman for quite a long time; the two have done business together for about three decades. Thomson purchased an incredibly rare and one of a kind first edition inscribed by no other than Thomas Jefferson himself. Thomson had thought he had gotten extremely lucky, and thanked his friend/business associate.
Bartlby’s Book Store with John Thomson on left | Image via The Georgetowner
Thomson would later find out the exact illegal means of how he came to purchase the book, as did thousands of others who had been sold the antiques. So far, most booksellers who have attained these one-of-a-kind objects have come forward to return the stolen property; any who have come forward have also been free of any liability due to the large scale of Priore and Schulman’s heist.
Image via New York Post
Although most books contained stamps or other signs of being owned by a library, Priore forged letters stating how the books had been officially removed from Carnegie Library’s collection. This adds to the “trust” factor of the industry. Seeing a letter of such caliber convinced many booksellers that the sales were all legal.
One of Greg Priore’s forged letters | Image via The New York Times
Both Mr. Schulman and Mr. Priore are due in court for a prelimenary hearing on Oct. 12. According to the Times, among the stolen items are one-of-a-kind items such as a 1687 version of Isaac Newton’s “Principia,”; a rare copy of “The Journal of Major George Washington”; and expensive prints by Edward S. Curtis, a famous photographer who documented Native American life.
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