SALT LAKE CITY, UT (AP).- Book dealer Ken Sanders has seen a lot of nothing in his decades appraising "rare" finds pulled from attics and basements, storage sheds and closets. Sanders, who occasionally appraises items for PBS's Antiques Roadshow, often employs "the fine art of letting people down gently." But on a recent Saturday while volunteering at a fundraiser for the small town
museum in Sandy, Utah, just south of Salt Lake, Sanders got the surprise of a lifetime. "Late in the afternoon, a man sat down and started unwrapping a book from a big plastic sack, informing me he had a really, really old book and he thought it might be worth some money," he said. "I kinda start, oh boy, I've heard this
before." Then he produced a tattered, partial copy of the 500-year-old Nuremberg Chronicle.
The German language edition printed by Anton Koberger and published in 1493 is a world history beginning in biblical times. It's considered to be one of the earliest and most lavishly illustrated books produced after Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press and revolutionized publishing. "I was just absolutely astounded. I was flabbergasted, particularly here in the interior West," Sanders said. "We might see a lot of rare Mormon books and other treasures, but you don't expect to see a five centuries old book, you don't
expect to see one of the oldest printed books in the world pop up in Sandy, Utah." The book's owner has declined to be identified, but Sanders said it was passed down to the man by his great uncle and had been just gathering dust in his attic for decades. Because of the cotton bond paper it was printed on, not wood pulp paper like most present-day works, Sanders said the remaining pages have been well-preserved albeit literally coming apart at the seams "Barring further calamity or disaster, it will last another 500 years," he said.
And Sanders is certain it's not a fake. "It passes the smell test," he said. "I'm not sure there's ever been a forger born who is ambitious enough to hand-create a five centuries old book in a manner sufficient enough to fool people." But what's it actually worth? Turns out, not much. It is believed there are several hundred copies in circulation worldwide, making it not-so-rare of a find, and about two-thirds of its pages are missing.
you're collecting monuments of printing history, monuments of human history, if you're collecting achievements of the human spirit through the printed word, this is one of the foundation books ... Every book collector wants a copy of that book or at least some pages from it." Windle noted that while its worth to collectors is priceless, it is "probably the most common book from the 15th century making its way onto the market these days." "We have a saying in the book trade: there's nothing as common as a rare book," he added. Because of this book's tattered state, Windle said it's likely worth less than $50,000.
"It basically kills the value," he said. "If it turned up in perfect condition in Salt Lake City, now that would be amazing. That would be astounding." Luise Poulton, curator and head of rare books at the University of Utah's J. Willard Marriott Library, called it "an exciting find," but largely just because of the way it surfaced.
"It's that classic story," said Poulton, who has several pages from another copy of a Nuremberg Chronicle on display. "You really never know what's in your attic."
7. CAIRO, April 18 (Reuters) - Security has been tightened around Egypt's antiquities trove, the target of looters during mass protests, the country's top archaeologist said on Monday, adding he would now resume a quest to repatriate prized items.Several Pharaonic-era treasures went missing when looters broke into the
Egyptian Museum on Jan. 28 at the height of clashes between police and protesters who eventually deposed President Hosni Mubarak.Thieves also broke into a warehouse near the pyramids of Dahshour, 35 km
(22 miles) south of Cairo, striking twice within the span of a few days and taking hundreds of items.
Some items have since been returned, and security has been reinstated around several tourist sites after the protests died down and a military council took over from Mubarak."We are now protecting the Egyptian monuments, we're putting security everywhere ... we are putting guards with guns everywhere," Zahi Hawass, the Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs, told Reuters. "People feel the stability now."
10. AMMAN (AP).- Jordan on Tuesday launched the world's largest online antiquities database, which details every archaeological site in the country and aims to help preserve its treasures. Its creators said the Web platform could be a model for Iraq, where looters have plundered its ancient heritage. Experts said the Middle Eastern Geodatabase for Antiquities is the first such countrywide system. The site uses Geographic Information System, similar to Google Earth, to map 11,000 registered sites in the country — and a click on
Jordan hosts a number of World Heritage sites, most famously the 2,000 year-old rose rock city of Petra — but also Umm er-Rassas, a city dating back to the 5th century that features ancient Byzantine churches, and Qasr Amra, an 8th century Islamic castle. It is also dotted with sites dating from the Neolithic Age, through Biblical times to the Crusades. The $1 million MEGA program was developed in cooperation with Getty
Institute of Los Angeles and the New York-based World Monuments Fund. "Jordan is at the forefront of safeguarding its heritage," Getty's director Tim Whalen said at an Amman press conference with antiquities chief Ziad al-Saad unveiling the system. "A piece of software is not going to stop looting," Whalen said, but MEGA's cataloging system will enable "greater protection and attention to archaeological heritage."
Archaeologists have increasingly used GIS and similar technologies to inventory digs and other uses. But Barbara A. Porter, director of the American Center of Oriental Research in Amman, said that MEGA "is the first of its kind." "It has been a huge undertaking in terms of its breadth, time and finance. Rarely do you find that amount of money involved in creating such a system," said Porter, whose center was not involved in developing MEGA. Joseph Greene, the assistant director at Harvard University's Semitic Museum, said MEGA stands out from among other GIS archaeological systems, which have been more narrow in scope and intention. MEGA is the "first countrywide system used by an antiquities department" and is unique because it can used both for research and for managing sites in a readily usable format, he said.
The online system defines the boundaries of each site, an important factor in trying to prevent urban encroachment on antiquities zones, its creators say. It can help authorities in planning strategies for research and tourism development, and makes it easier for government agencies to share information. Those working in the field can report theft of wear and tear caused by tourist traffic. Al-Saad said the system is expected to be used regionally, especially in Iraq, which has seen widescale damage and theft of its extensive archaeological treasures. Whalen said MEGA will give Iraqi colleagues a modern way to inventory the
country's sites, their condition, potential threats, but "most importantly identify their geographical boundaries in a relatively easy-to-use system."
8. The Art Newspaper The price of a Picasso loan Musée Picasso director reveals the cost of borrowing
By Gareth Harris | From issue 223, April 2010 Published online 6 Apr 11 (Museums) Anne Baldassari defends the Musée Picasso’s loan fees PARIS. The director of the Musée Picasso has defended her decision to organise an international touring exhibition to raise money for the Paris museum’s renovation. Anne Baldassari, the museum’s director, told Le Monde: “Producing exhibitions abroad is our only resource. Japanese museums suggested remuneration for loans, which has been a practice of US and European museums for a while.” She added that money received also helps finance conservation and acquisitions.
Baldassari revealed the museum raised between €1m and €3.5m a year since 2008 from the touring exhibition “Masterpieces from the Picasso Museum”. It has visited eight cities so far, including Madrid, Helsinki and Tokyo. “We have made [in total] €16m,” she said, adding that the museum levied different
charges for loans. “The tariffs vary according to the number of works, the team [involved] and the expertise.”
the General Association of Curators of French Public Collections expressing concern about cuts in state funding for French museums. Over 1,000 curators signed the document that reportedly criticised the “extreme free-market logic” increasingly adopted by national museums, a barb aimed at the Musée
Picasso. “My aim is to find ways of reopening this museum to the biggest audience possible,” said Baldassari, adding: “Our exhibitions are not mercantile, cynical or without value.”The director was recently at the centre of another furore when she refused to loan 12 works to the Kunsthaus Zürich for its 100th anniversary Picasso show, which closed in January. Baldassari said that some of these pieces were too fragile to travel.
She also added that there was a “loan freeze” implemented by the French government in 2009 for works that were not already on tour.
9. ROUEN, FRANCE (AP).- A French museum has returned the mummified and tattooed head of a Maori to New Zealand officials after spending 136 years in a Normandy museum, a belated gesture to restore dignity to the first of 16 such human heads once displayed as exotic curiosities. Representatives of New Zealand's native Maori people sang traditional songs during an elaborate ceremony at Rouen City Hall to hand over the head to New Zealand diplomats, the first to be returned from of a total of 16 in France.
"It's truly a solemn and symbolic day," New Zealand ambassador Rosmary Banks said. "We are very happy at the return" of the tattooed head after so many years in Rouen, Banks said. For years, New Zealand has sought the return of Maori heads kept in collections abroad, many of which were obtained by Westerners in exchange for weapons and other goods. Dozens of museums worldwide, though not all, have agreed to return them. Maori, the island nation's indigenous people, believe their ancestors' remains should be respected in their home area without being disturbed. Michelle Hippolite, a Maori spiritual leader and co-director of the museum in Wellington that will take possession of the head, welcomed the return. She said
that the other 15, now at museum all around France, will be returned in 2012. Hippolite said that "though it may appear" that Rouen's museum is losing part of its collection, it is gaining "an ongoing relationship with a modern people, a people of its time who are tenacious, a people of its time who are courageous."
offered by a Parisian named Drouet. "It's an enigma," said museum director Sebastien Minchin, adding that neither Drouet's full name nor profession is known. The head has not been displayed since 1996, when the museum was closed for a decade. Prior to that the head was displayed with the prehistoric collection.
"As was done at the time, they compared the 'savage' from the other side of the world with our local cavemen," Minchin said in a telephone interview. It isn't known whether the Rouen museum's head belonged to a warrior or a slave. The head will be first taken to London where New Zealand officials are collecting other Maori heads that have been returned from collections in Germany, Sweden and Norway, before being flown to New Zealand, where they will be handed over during a ceremony at the Te Papa museum on
Thursday. So far the Te Papa museum has repatriated more than 180 ancestral remains from 12 countries. Museum officials estimate that there are still more than 500 around the world. When Minchin became director in 2006 and discovered the head, he decided to store it because exposing it "could pose problems" for both the Maoris and the public. Minchin said that the problem goes beyond legal issues in France. He said he was criticized for opening "Pandora's box" when he first tried to return the head. "There is a fear of emptying our museums," he said. "There is a fear of restitution demands for other human remains, and notably Egyptian mummies." France passed a special law before the 2002 return to South Africa of the skeleton and bottled organs of Saartjie Baartman, a 19th century African woman exhibited in Paris and London, sometimes in a cage, sometimes dressed in feathers, under the pejorative nickname, "the Hottentot Venus."