U.S. District judge Thomas Griesa has ruled that the 16th-century Augsburger Geschlechterbuch (Augsburg Book of Nobles), taken from the collections of a Stuttgart museum at the end of WWII by a U.S. Army captain, must be returned to Germany, Bloomberg reports.
The book, a collection of prints and drawings believed to be the work of Heinrich Vogtherr, has been called a "a fascinating record of an artist's working methods in the mid-16th century" by Sotheby's Old Master specialist Dr. Nancy Bialler. The book includes 53 iron etchings in early states, many unfinished proofs, as well as 43 original drawings.
The Augsburger Geschlechterbuch was owned by the Stuttgart Staatsgalerie prior to WWII, and was stored during the war with other materials from the museum's collections in a Waldenburg castle. Its next known location was the Richmond Heights, MO home of John Hewitt Doty, a German interpreter for the 63rd Infantry Division which attacked Waldenberg at the end of the war. When Doty's books were sold in 1999, the Augsburger Geschlechterbuch was purchased by book dealer Sheldon Margulis, who in turn sold it to Rod Shene in 2001 for $3,900. Shene had the book appraised by Sotheby's (at $600,000), but when Staatsgalerie officials were contacted about it, they wanted it back, and filed suit against Shene for its return.
More than four years later, after many complicated legal maneuvers, the case has been decided. Judge Griesa ruled in favor of the German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, saying that their "motion for summary judgment is granted in all respects. ... Although Doty's motives may have been admirable, this evidence nonetheless establishes that he took the book without the permission of the German owner. Shene has failed to produce any evidence to the contrary."