Ancient manuscripts and historic books worth millions of pounds are being trafficked through Britain as criminals look for alternatives to high-risk ventures such as armed robbery and drugs. London has become a centre for the illicit trade with dozens of works being recovered by police in recent months. Scotland Yard's Arts and Antiques Squad is currently following up nine separate requests from overseas detectives who have information that stolen literary works have been smuggled to the UK.
Last week, the squad recovered a consignment of French books worth an estimated £500, 000 from a pub car park in east London. They included several seventeenth- and eighteenth-century illustrated volumes and a book of Picasso sketches.
Last month, an early Muslim text was withdrawn from sale at Christie's auction house after it was recognised as stolen by experts. The thirteenth-century Arabic manuscript, a philosophical work by the Sufi saint Muhyiddin ibn 'Arabi, was among 110 works looted from an ancient library in Konya, Anatolia.
Many of the works being smuggled to Britain are from Italy or Turkey. They include early Renaissance religious texts in Latin, philosophical and scientific works by pioneers of the Enlightenment and heavily decorated early Islamic works.
Scientific works are particularly in demand, leading to speculation that an individual collector - dubbed 'the Astronomer' by investigators - has been commissioning thefts of works by Nicolaus Copernicus and Ptolemy. The stolen Ptolemys, copies of original works, are worth an estimated £500, 000 each. Books worth millions of pounds have been taken from underfunded libraries in Russia, Poland and the Ukraine. Many are believed to have found their way to the UK.
British detectives say the problem is getting worse. 'There is an increasing number of organised gangs who work on an international basis and trade in stolen art, antiquities and cultural goods like books and manuscripts, ' said Det Con Michael Volpe of Scotland Yard. 'They are high-value commodities that are relatively easy to move and are thus attractive to a certain type of criminal.'
Detectives say manuscripts, like works of art, are often used as collateral for drug deals. They say investigations are made harder because many deals are completed privately. Stolen works tend to be spotted when they are put up for auction.
Re: Pricing around Antique books...some advice2010-05-27 18:41:09 by ABECare
I have noticed that in the Toronto area people try to flog what they consider antique books for outrageous prices. Check ABE Books online, as they deal with rare books and the like. for example, one school book published in 1948 was offered at $50. I checked and you can get the same thing on ABE Books for $7 plus $5.99 shipping! Some are offered under the price too. Hope this is useful.
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