February 23, 2016
One beautiful van and $350,000 worth of rare books stolen in San Francisco
by Simon Reichley
Lawrence Van De Carr, owner of Chicago’s Bootleggers Books was recently making one of his many pilgrimages to the San Francisco Bay area, hoping to unload some of the rare and antiquarian books which he collects and sells for a living. He had about 400 gems loaded into the back of a silver Ford Econoline, including a first edition I, Robot by Isaac Asimov, worth an estimated $8,500. Van De Carr was hoping to sell off some of his more valuable pieces at one of San Francisco’s many book fairs. But then, as SFGate reports, tragedy struck, and the van—along with its valuable cargo—was stolen outside of the house where Van de Carr was staying in Oakland.
Smartly, Van de Carr made his first call to the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America, who immediately leapt action, sending out an alert to its vast, secretive network of collectors and booksellers. Sure enough, within hours one suspect had been arrested, with an alleged accomplice still at large:
Joshua Anderson, 30, went to Moe’s Books in Berkeley shortly after the bookseller’ association sent out an alert. He and an alleged accomplice had four books, valued around $14,000, that they were trying to sell, said John Wong, manager at the store.
Among the classic first-editions they were trying to deal were A Hornbook for Witches: Poems of Fantasy by Leah Bodine Drake, one of only 563 known copies; No Country for Old Men by McCarthy, Always Comes Evening by Robert E. Howard, and Pylon by William Faulkner.
The staff on hand at Moe’s tried to keep the suspects corralled in the rare-books room, but before the authorities could arrive, the two men fled the scene. One managed to evade capture, sneaking out the emergency exit in the back of the store, while the other tried to escape through the main entrance, and was taken into custody in relatively short order.
The other suspect and the Econoline full of antique tomes remain at large.
Simon Reichley is the Director of Operations and Rights Manager at Melville House.