CRIME

MISSING: THE GLENN GOULD SIGNATURES

How a 62-year-old Texas researcher got snagged on the Web

PATRICIA TREBLE July 1 2006
CRIME

MISSING: THE GLENN GOULD SIGNATURES

How a 62-year-old Texas researcher got snagged on the Web

PATRICIA TREBLE July 1 2006

MISSING: THE GLENN GOULD SIGNATURES

CRIME

How a 62-year-old Texas researcher got snagged on the Web

PATRICIA TREBLE

It might never have come to light if it wasn’t for Kevin Bazzana’s Swedish friend. Last December, Jörgen Lundmark sent an email to Bazzana, joking that if the B.C.-based Glenn Gould biographer had “an extra US$8,500, he might want to buy this! ” Lundmark was referring to an item for sale on the website of a New York music manuscript dealer: a piece of paper containing 18 signatures obsessively written by the reclusive Canadian pianist on March 13,1978. His email turned out to be the first act in a drama that has led to criminal charges and renewed questions about the safety of historic documents: as Brazzana realized when he checked

the site, the document in question belonged to Libraries and Archives Canada.

On Gould’s death in 1982, much of his recordings and letters, and even his piano and chair, were bequeathed to the nation. The Gould collection, which uses the pianist’s signature as its logo, is the pride of Library and Archives Canada. And when Bazzana saw the signatures document for sale, alarm bells rang. Pulling a copy of the page from his own files, he had the curators check on its location. They told him the original was safe, but Bazzana was not reassured. He called Roger Gross, the dealer trying to sell the document. Gross told Bazzana he’d bought it from Barbara Moore, a 62-year-old Texan who’d claimed she was a researcher at the library when it was first organizing Gould’s bequest and had obtained the page when the institution disposed of items it didn’t want. Bazzana thought the story sounded “ridiculous”: cataloguing every item, however ex-

traneous, is common practice in archives.

Bazzana soon heard that the library had started an internal investigation. Then the NYPD’s cyber-crimes unit was called in and the page taken as evidence. In May, Moore was charged with criminal possession of stolen property, grand larceny and attempted grand larceny. If found guilty, she faces 22 years in prison for allegedly taking two documents from the Gould collection (she has pleaded not guilty). Bazzana has closely compared the two versions of the signatures page, noticing that “the one online looks normal—more fluid—while the [library’s microfilm] signatures are a little more halting, suggesting they were written more slowly.” He theorizes the original was replaced with a forgery.

It’s a classic nightmare for archivists: how to allow documents to be used, while keeping them safe. “Every time you bring a book out, you put it at risk,” notes Richard Landon, director of the University of Toronto’s rare books library. He’s sure his collection is “missing the odd thing,” but he points out that in a library with more than 700,000 books, figuring out what’s been stolen rather than simply mis-shelved can be daunting. And it’s only human for staff to relax when it comes to regular users with distinguished credentials: map archivists are still checking for losses after respected dealer Forbes Smiley III was caught stealing a US$150,000 map from Yale University last year. (He pleaded guilty on June 22.) But some institutions have now taken security to the limit. The last time Landon did research at the U.S. Library of Congress, he wasn’t allowed to bring anything in. Staff provided the paper and pencil. As he exited, they pushed the pencil through a pre-punched hole in the pages and shook them to see if anything fell out.

Though Library and Archives Canada is checking its shelves, it wouldn’t say if other authentic Gould items may be gone. With most of the collection now copied, researchers rarely handle the originals any longer. There is one exception, though. To honour a specific request by Gould, pianists drop by regularly to play Gould’s battered and beloved piano. Even the most ingenious thief would have trouble smuggling that out. M u