Each month ABEBooks produce a list of their most expensive sales… its an interesting distraction. December’s most expensive list spans from the 15th to the 20th century. The oldest and most expensive item was a single leaf from the first edition of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales which sold for £6,818. This fine piece of incunabula is one of the most sought-after works of Middle English writing.
However, the most interesting item included may be a sequence of photos of the notorious French criminal Jacques Mesrine who was responsible for multiple bank robberies, jail breaks, burglaries, murders, and kidnappings in France and Canada. Mesrine’s crimes read like a Hollywood script: robbing multiple banks in a single day, holding a real estate mogul for a 6 million Franc ransom, attempting to kidnap a judge who had once sentenced him to prison, escaping a crime scene by running out of a surrounded building (past police) yelling “Quick! Mesrine’s up there!” as he got away, and of course the multiple jail breaks. Mesrine’s eventual demise was also in Hollywood fashion; police were finally able to track him by means of a woman thought to be his mistress. The two of them were heading out of town for a weekend in the country when police boxed their car in at the entrance to an intersection and opened fire, shooting Mesrine 15 times. Throughout his escapades he earned the title of Public Enemy #1 in France. [I have plundered this from the ABE newsletter, so do go and check them out yourself… they are good people.]