We’re off this afternoon for the New Jersey Antiquarian Book Fair in East Hanover, New Jersey. Set up isn’t until tomorrow morning, but we usually go up the night before, and this year we have a better than usual reason to do so. Our usual reason is to have cocktails and a lovely dinner with Peter Stern and whatever other amusing booksellers choose to roll in early, and this is usually excuse enough.

However, this year we need to go to the East Hanover Police station to pick up six books that were stolen from us at the fair two years ago. Over $100,000 worth of books were stolen from us when someone broke in (or more likely just entered an open door, of which the ballroom at the Ramada Inn where the fair is held, seems to have dozens) and went into our glass case.

After the theft, with the help of our friends at Bauman Rare Books, and particularly the manager of their Madison Avenue store, Eric DuRon, several of the books were recovered quickly, and a suspect (a shipper of rare material for an auction gallery) was apprehended, and eventually convicted. However, not all the books were recovered until just a week or two ago. The insurance company has authorized me to pick them up and examine them, and possibly buy them back (the insurance company paid for them sometime ago, and for now at least, are the rightful owner of the books). We’ll see how they’ve fared over the past two years.

Theft in the rare book world has become an increasing problem as the values of better books go up and up. I’m happy to say that everyone who has stolen from us has been caught and convicted. We are pretty relentless in pursuit of the Evildoers, more out of orneriness and spite than out of any finally honed sense of justice.

One time this did lead to a fairly amusing restitution hearing where for nearly half an hour, while others waited to have their cases heard, I ended up fielding the usual questions about the values of books that we hear every day, but this time from the Judge, the defendant’s lawyer, and random felons and spectators who were in the courtroom.

If you’ve been a bookseller for any length of time, you know these kinds of questions: “I have a red book, and it’s about this size, and it’s really old, how much is it worth?”

Just this one time, I was under oath, so I told the truth…