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And We're Back

We owe a big thank you to Blogger for providing a fix for the formatting problems you have noticed here the past several days. Thanks to their work to correct the bug they introduced, Ionarts should be formatting as intended, and we now resume our regularly scheduled programming.

On a brief break from the lake, I was able to catch up a bit on my regular reading. A little article (Vols massifs à la BNF, June 27) from France 2 Cultural News follows up on the discovery of devastating thefts from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (see my post on August 22, 2004). In September 2004, a report was published in Le Figaro that some 30,000 items were determined to be missing in a recent inventory: nearly 2,000 are works considered precious and irreplaceable. That summer, Michel Garel, the head conservator of Hebraic manuscripts at the library was put on trial for allegedly stealing documents from the collection in his care. One of the manuscripts in question ended up at auction at Christie’s in New York. Garel appeared before a judge again last week, and he now claims that he “never stole manuscripts or tore out pages with the goal of selling them,” which contradicts his initial confession to the theft of the Christie’s manuscript (my translation):

He claims that his bosses are getting even with him. When questioned about his confession, Michel Garel declared to Le Figaro that he had admitted to the theft in the hope of avoiding prison, which was being threatened by the captain of police. He insists further that he made himself the object of a “shame vendetta” when he tried to warn his bosses of the many security weaknesses regarding the works under his charge.
We need a better system to catalogue the collections of institutions like the BNF, so that items can be tracked in a way that makes their resale impossible or at least more difficult.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a friend of Michel Garel, I believe unequivocably in his innocence. There is much, much more to the story than has appeared in the press, including the fact that one of his chief accusers also vetted the manuscript in question for sale by Christie's over a year earlier. Aside from jumping on the very earliest accusations, the press has been little interested in following this story, or playing any investigative role in what actually happened. BE