The Journal of San Diego History
Spring 1978, Volume 24, Number 2
Thomas L. Scharf, Managing Editor

Retired Public Relations Practitioner and free lance writer


15th Century Italian Book of Hours removed from Fine Art Gallery of San Diego. Book about 4½ in. x 6 in., red brown morocco binding. of Bedford, done in marguerites surrounded by oval garlands in style of Cloviseve. Miniatures of very high quality in polychrome and gold. In back, a series of about eight pictures of saints in 16th century style. Book had book-plate of Mr. Newman and Julius Wangenheim, owner. Please send information to above address.1

Images from the article

The classified ad in “The Weekly Book Exchange” section gave Miss Ludington pause. She wired San Diego’s Fine Arts Gallery. The gallery immediately relayed her message to the book’s owner. Its director sent a Postal Telegram, dated October 3,1930, to:



The journey from San Francisco’s Palace Hotel to Oakland’s Mills College is short. Next day, October 4, 1930, Mr. Wangenheim wired via Western Union to:



That same day, a perturbed Henry Stanley, who had evidently misunderstood both the name and sex of the Gallery’s director, wrote a letter of explanation from his home, 2817 Park Boulevard, Oakland, California.

Miss Toler, Director
Fine Arts Gallery
Balboa Park,
San Diego, Calif.

Dear Madam:

This morning I went to Police Hqtrs., this city, in response to an enquiry re one 15th century Italian Book of Hours allegedly stolen from your gallery.

My connection with this book is as follows:

About two months ago, I purchased the book from a Mexican gentleman in Chihuahua, Mexico for the sum of $50.00.

I was given to understand that it might be a piece of church property that was taken during the confiscation raids made upon the Mexican Catholic church of four years ago.

I fell in love with the book, intending to keep such a treasure, and brought it north with me to Oakland. There was no secrecy about my possession of it, as I showed it to various people, experts and others. It was greatly admired, and it was suggested that some institution should have it. It was then suggested that the book go to Mills College of Oakland. I took it there.

This college has a benefactor named Mr. Bender. It was suggested by Mills College that the book be submitted to Mr. Bender with a view of purchase. This was done. Mr. Bender recommended the purchase, and I received $150.00 for it from Mills College.

That is my sole connection with this book. I am deeply grieved about the whole matter, but can rejoice in the fact that the rightful owners can again get the book back. In ignorance, I may have kept the book locked up for years, and it would have remained unfound. My duty, as I see it, is to reimburse Mills College the amount paid, and strive to have the book returned to you.

I am a responsible citizen of this city, a property owner, head of a family and respected. I am an operator of mining properties in Mexico, a frequent traveller to and from that country. I did get a shock upon finding that I was an innocent victim of the theft of this book, but again I rejoice that I was instrumental in its restoration to its rightful owners.

Faithfully yours,

Henry A. Stanley
Vera Cruz, Mexico &
Oakland, California

Next day, October 5,1930, Stanley wrote two more fervid letters. And, he listed a third residence: 18 Venetian Court, Capitola-Santa Crus (sic).

Albert M. Bender
311 California Street
San Francisco

Dear Sir:

It is with the most abject humility that I address this letter to you.

I seem to have been the victim of a circumstance that is altogether too horrible.

Yesterday morning (Saturday) I was called from my home to the Police Hdqtrs., and asked if I knew anything of an illuminated book that was missing from the Fine Arts Gallery at San Diego.

I replied that I had sold to the Mills College such a book and that I had received $150.00 for it. That I had submitted the book to a Mr. Bender of S. F. living at your address. I was then told that it is a stolen book.

The story of my connection with this book is as follows: About two months or so ago, I bought the book for $50.00 in the city of Chihuahua, Mexico from a gentleman named Sanchez…

Stating his belief that the book had been confiscated from a Catholic Church during an enforcement of Mexican law, Stanley went on to say:

A Mr. DeWitte of Oakland, a bookseller to whom I showed it, thought the Mills College should have it. I took it to Miss Ludington who referred me to you. You recommended the purchase and it was made. . .

My great concern now is the restoration to the rightful owner of this property (upon proper identification of course) and the return of the money paid for the book to me to Mills College.

As he had in his letter to the director of San Diego’s Fine Arts Gallery, Mr. Stanley emphasized his reputation as a responsible citizen of Oakland, adding:

I signed my name at Mills College. I spoke to Miss Ludington of my friendship with former pupils of that school. I gave my name to you. I endorsed the check with my name and address. I have not been in San Diego for a long, long time and I think all of these circumstances will prove my innocent connection with this book5

In a letter to Miss Ludington, also dated October 5, 1930, Stanley reverted to his Oakland residence for a dateline. Addressing her “with a most humble spirit,” he repeated much of the information he had given Mr. Bender. Mr. Stanley included the circumstance of his purchase of the book “about two months or so ago,” and stressed the same two points:

It now remains for me to see that the Book is returned to the rightful owners, and reimburse Mills College the money paid out for the Book.6

By October 9, Julius Wangenheim had returned home to San Diego. There, among his many commitments, he resumed his duties as president of the Fine Arts Society.7 A graduate engineer—University of California, Berkeley, 1887—J. W. was a Renaissance man in the early 20th century. As a mathematician, he had invented a solar clock, a surprisingly accurate sundial that won national recognition.8 He was also a merchant, banker, civic leader patron of all the arts. (On his 75th birthday, a family member, identified only as “E.E.K.,” described him in verse as: “Philosopher and Financier, Philanthropist and Engineer, Keen judge of every French liqueur, Of all the arts, a Connoisseur.”)9

J. W. worked with gusto, laced with humor, for every civic and cultural activity in San Diego. It was part of the Wangenheim philosophy. In his autobiography he states:

“Too many students matriculate as school boys and emerge with their degrees still the same schoolboys. . . . I have long contended there should be a year between high school and college in which one should engage in practical work. This would be a boon to the institutions of higher learning, sifting out many students who should never go there. . . . Lately I have added the proposal that the year’s interim should be spent in public service which would inculcate a sense of civic responsibility and appreciation.”10

J. W. was also a Collector, as he put it, “with a capital C.” “A person is a Collector or he isn’t,” he wrote in an article for the San Diego Union. “It’s something in the blood that commences with Shoes and Ships and Sealing Wax and ends with Gutenberg Bibles or dreams of them…”

“The big ‘C’ depends on the number of times one’s ‘been stung’ and you don’t get a degree until you’re thoroughly grounded in that experience. . . . as to my own record, my sleeves are well and plentifully adorned with Collector’s chevrons.”11

Despite his wry approach, the Wangenheim collections were highly respected. Books and rare editions were an early and continuing enthusiasm. In 1906, during a business sojurn in San Francisco, he wrote to his brother-in-law, Melville Klauber.12

Dear Mel:

This is to advise you that subject to the money being raised within a week, I have sold the stamp collection for $2,000. When I receive the money will buy 20 shares of (not decipherable) stock and can use the income on some hobby, probably books.

J. W.13

Some two decades later, J. W. had collected so many manuscripts and incunabula he was able to mount an Exhibition of Rare Books for San Diego’s Fine Arts Gallery. Opening August 17, 1929, the exhibit traced the art of writing from ancient coins, medals and manuscripts to examples of fine printing in the 20th century.14

“It has been aptly said,” J. W. wrote in The Modern Clubwoman of November 1929, “that the greatest achievement of the human race is its language: its greatest art, the art of writing; that the first differentiates man from the brute, while the second distinguishes civilized man from the savage.

“If this be true, then the history of writing is, in a sense, the history of civilization, and it is around this idea that I have made the exhibition now in the Fine Arts Gallery.”

The exhibit began with a series of coins minted during the four great periods of Western culture-the Greek, Roman, Medieval and Renaissance.

The second case illustrated the history of manuscripts and printing. It began with Babylonian tablets—lent by Yale authorities—-from the 24th Century B.C. Next came Egyptian hieroglyphic and hieratic examples, one on a rare piece of papyrus. “This latter was the writing material of the ancient world, with practically none of it preserved except in Egypt, and there, only on account of the dry climate,” J. W. explained.

In the next exhibit case were two Bibles of the 13th Century, “beautifully written on very thin vellum made from the skins of stillborn calves.

“There is then considerable Fourteenth Century work,” wrote J. W., “and much of that glorious production of the Fifteenth Century when the Renaissance was at its height.” Here were “a number of books and specimens illustrated in burnished gold and brilliant colors.”15

This was the display case that some other “collector” could not resist. For in it, on August 31, 1930, a Fifteenth Century “Book of Hours,” done entirely in manuscript save for a Nineteenth Century binding by Bedford, turned up missing.16


On October 9, 1930, both J. W. and Reginald Poland wrote to Henry Stanley. Poland expressed appreciation for Stanley’s explanation.. .”and, of course, for saying that you are willing to refund the $150.00 to the Mills Library and to see that Julius Wangenheim is once more in the possession of the 15th Century ‘Book of Hours’!”17

J. W. must have asked Stanley for more details. Three pages of them were handwritten in a reply dated October 11,1930 and addressed to:

Julius Wangenheim
First National Bank Bldg.
San Diego, Calif.

Dear Sir:

Your letter of Oct. 9th reached me last night for which I thank you.

In compliance with your wish I hasten to send you the particulars of my connection with the little Book.

About two years ago I met in Mexico City a gentleman by the name of Sanchez. I understood at that time that he was connected with the control of Church property by the Mexican Govt.

He found that I was a collector of Indian relics (on a small scale, of course) and I purchased some small articles from him at that time.

It was on the 28th or 29th of August last, I was in Chihuahua, Rep. of Mexico, when I again met Mr. Sanchez. I was on my way home via El Paso.

I spoke to him about general conditions and he asked me if I was still collecting. He said that he had a small collection of minature (sic) weapons. I examined them and found that they were of Philapino (sic) origin. I bought them from him. He then told me of a book that he had and showed it to me. He left me with the inference that the Book may have come from some church during the many raids on Church property. I examined the Book very carefully for any mark that would disclose its ownership. The only mark I found was the name of a bookbinder on the lower edge of the front cover. The more I examined the Book the more I liked it. I eventually bought the Book from him for the sum of fifty dollars.

I was aware of the fact that there was, in the Republic of Mexico, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Church property being sold to people from all over the world and that there was not an earthly chance of this property ever getting back to the Churches. This Book, being a religious book, I assumed that his inferences were correct. I had, of course, never questioned his honesty.

I arrived home in Oakland on the 2nd of Sept. Of course, I showed the Book to all my friends, cleric and lay. They all admired it and everyone suggested that it should be in some institution. I thought at first that I should present it to my Alma Mater in England. In fact, I had written a letter to England to that effect. I had not mailed it when a friend suggested that it should be kept in the U.S.A. Mills College was suggested and I was told to take it to Mr. Bender of San Francisco. Mr. Bender was a patron of Mills College.

I submitted the Book to them for consideration with the view of purchase by Mr. Bender for the College. I waited upon Mr. Bender and we went over the Book very carefully. I pointed out to Mr. Bender the only mark on the Book. The Binder’s name. I told Mr. Bender how I got the Book.

Mr. Bender approved the purchase by Mills College, and it was not until the Captain of Police called me that I had any idea the book was a stolen one.

It was purchased by me innocently and in good faith, and sold by me in the same good faith.

All things seem to have worked for good, inasmuch as the Book has again got back to its rightful owners, and I was permitted to be the instrument of its return.

Very truly yours,

Henry A. Stanley 18

But the Book had not “got back to its rightful owners”—at least, not by October 11. This fact prompted a letter on that date from Mills College to: Fine Arts Gallery Director Poland.

Dear Mr. Poland:

We, too, have had letters from Mr. Henry A. Stanley of Oakland regarding the 15th century “Book of Hours” belonging to Mr. Wangenheim. l enclose copies of his letters to us. Needless to say, we have had no further word from him, nor did he send us the money for the book.

You should, however, know that it was through no effort on the part of Mills College that Mr. Stanley was called to Police Headquarters in Oakland. Mr. DeWitt, the Oakland bookdealer, who sent him to Mills College, also read the item in the Publishers’ Weekly that caught my eye and reported the matter to them. At about the same time, I telephoned to Mr. DeWítt to ascertain, if possible, anything regarding the salesman, as you requested in your wire to me.

Mr. Stanley evidently satisfied the Oakland Police with his account of his ownership of the book, so I presume that we, too, should all be satisfied. The important point is that the book is located. I am pleased that we at Mills happened to see your notice.

Sincerely yours,

Flora B. Ludington
Acting Librarian

A month passed.

On November 12, Director Poland decided to try again. He wrote to Mr. Stanley in Oakland:

Dear Sir:

From word received from you we have understood that you would reimburse Mills College for the Italian Fifteenth Century Book of Hours taken from the Fine Arts Society (building) of San Diego, California, a short time ago, which book it was later discovered, belonged to Julius Wangenheim of San Diego. We have waited to learn of your payment of this amount, $150.00, so that Mr. Wangenheim, himself, would not have to pay the $150.00.

Trusting to learn just as soon as possible that you have taken care of this matter so that the man whose book was stolen will not have to lose thereby,

Very truly yours,

Reg. Poland20

Ten days later, November 22, a reply was addressed to Director Poland from a Jennie Stanley.

Dear Sir:

I am answering your letter to Mr. H. A. Stanley of Nov. 12th, 1930, and wish to say that Mr. Stanley is in Mexico and has been there for some time and will return here about the 1st week in December. It is rather difficult to reach him with letters as he is up at the mines. Rest assured from me that he will attend to the payment of this matter as soon as he returns.

Trusting this explanation will meet with your approval.

Yours sincerely,

Jennie Stanley21

Nearly another month passed by before J. W. received a most welcome letter.

My dear Mr. Wangenheim:

The money for the now famous Book of Hours reached us late yesterday via Western Union Telegraph. We are pleased to be able to forward it to you. It closes an interesting chapter in the history of one book as far as Mr. Henry A. Stanley and Mills College are concerned. We incurred no particular expense regarding this book.

I was naturally most curious when the Oakland Police Department telephoned to me on Monday to ask if we had received the check from Mr. Stanley. I still wonder whether it was at your instigation or that of the Book Sellers’ Association or if they pursued the matter on their own responsibility.

I hope that you will let us know when you come north again in order that we can arrange for you to visit Mills College. It will give me great pleasure to show you our own collection of books.

With cordial best wishes, I am,
Sincerely yours,
Flora B. Ludington
Acting Librarian

Dec. 17, 1930


That should have tied up the case of the stolen “Book of Hours” with a neat bow. But a loose end still dangles.

Fine Arts Gallery Director Poland expressed his skepticism to the Mills College librarian in the early days of the hectic correspondence regarding the “Book.” On October 13, he wrote:

Dear Miss Ludington:

In regard to the letter from Henry A. Stanely, a copy of which we sent you last week, you will note that he says, speaking of the purchase of the 15th century “Book of Hours,”: “About two months or so ago I purchased the book from a Mexican gentleman in Chihuahua, Mexico, for the sum of $50.00.”

The date of the disappearance of this book from the showcase in our Gallery was August 30 or August 31. It was offered to you for purchase, by Mr. Stanley, on October 2nd-not much more than one month after its disappearance from San Diego. And he states that he had purchased it in Chihuahua, about two months or so ago. The dates do not seem to agree very well. There is a discrepancy here which would seem to need accounting for.

Sincerely yours,




1. Publishers’ Weekly, September27, 1930, p. 1464.

2. Wire from Reginald Poland to Julius Wangenheim, October 3, 1930, copy, Wangenheim Collection, San Diego History Center Library and Manuscripts Collection (Hereinafter cited as SDHC Library).

3. Ibid.

4. Letter from Henry A. Stanley to Miss Toler, October 4, 1930, copy, Wangenheim Collection, SDHC Library.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid.

7. Directors’ Report, Minutes, Fine Arts Society of San Diego Annual Meeting, 1931.

8. Christian Science Monitor, February 4, 1928, Wangenheim Collection, SDHC Library. San Diego Union, October 2, 1962, Wangenheim Sundial installed in front of entrance of Natural History Museum, Balboa Park by Mrs. George Heyneman, daughter of Julius Wangenheim.

9. Wangenheim Collection, SDHC Library.

10. “Julius Wangenheim, An Autobiography,” The California Historical Society Quarterly, XXV (June, 1956), p. 262.

11. San Diego Union, November 16, 1941.

12. Brother of Laura Klauber Wangenheim, Laurence M. Klauber, Klauber Family History, SDHC Library, p. 3.

13. Letter from Julius Wangenheim to Melville Klauber, 1906, Wangenheim Collection, SDHC Library.

14.Minutes, Fine Arts Society Annual Meeting, 1931.

15. Modern Clubwoman, November 1929, SDHC Library.

16. Letter from Robert G. Heyneman (grandson of Julius Wangenheim) to Trudie Casper, May 31, 1977. The Book of Hours is now safely ensconced in the Heyneman Library, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

17. Letter from Reginald Poland to Henry A. Stanley, October 9, 1930, copy, Wangenheim Collection, SDHC Library.

18. Letter from Henry A. Stanley to Julius Wangenheim, October 11, 1930, Wangenheim Collection, SDHC Library.

19. Letter from Flora B. Ludington to Reginald Poland, October 11, 1930, Wangenheim Collection, SDHC Library.

20. Letter from Reginald Poland to Henry A. Stanley, November 12, 1930, copy, Wangenheim Collection, SDHC Library.

21.Letter from Jennie Stanley to Reginald Poland, November 22, 1930, copy, Wangenheim Collection, SDHC Library.

22. Letter from Flora B. Ludington to Julius Wangenheim, December 17, 1930, Wangenheim Collection, SDHC Library.

23. Letter from Reginald Poland to Flora B. Ludington, October 13, 1930, copy, Wangenheim Collection, SDHC Library.

*Book of Hours: A book containing the prescribed order of prayers, readings from Scriptures and rites for canonical hours.