Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Canada gets pricey gift from Italy

Prime Minister Stephen Harper received the rarest and most expensive gift doled out at the recent G8 summit — a book given by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi that was appraised by one dealer Monday at up to $460,000.

"You have to know that copy No. 1 in this type of limited edition is always worth much more than all the other copies," said Gilles Tremblay of Montreal's Librairie Librissime Inc., which has distribution rights to the book in Canada.

It's a gift more valuable than any recalled by some veterans of international summits and an uncommonly extravagant example of the souvenir trinkets world leaders tend to give each other.

It landed in Canada's lap by sheer luck. By virtue of this country's place in the alphabetical pecking order — because Canada starts with a 'C' — Stephen Harper received the first in a series of serial-numbered, limited edition, marble-covered art books.

A limited-edition book dealer with exclusive rights to distribute the tome in Canada said copy No. 1 — the one given to Harper — holds up to double the value of those received by other leaders at the July summit in Italy.

But Harper won't get to keep the book because federal politicians can't accept gifts worth more than $1,000. The book becomes government property and will likely be donated or displayed.

The books given by Berlusconi feature the works of famed neoclassical Venetian sculptor Antonio Canova, and are among just 33 copies produced by Italian publishing company Fondazione Marilena Ferrari.

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