Stolen Columbus Letter Returned to Vatican

A 525-year-old copy of a letter by Christopher Columbus, stolen from the Vatican, was returned this week. An investigation by the United States Department of Homeland Security and the Vatican located the letter.

We are returning it to its rightful owner, said U. S. ambassador to the Vatican, Callista Gingrich, at a ceremony in the Vatican Library. Columbus wrote the letter to the king and queen of Spain after discovering The New World.

He described what he had found and requested money for another trip. His original letter was written in Spanish. But several copies of a Latin translation were made to spread news of his discovery to the royal courts of Europe and the Pope. One of the Latin letters, copied by Stephan Plannack in 1493, was put in the Vatican Library.

Known as the Columbus Letter, it has eight pages, each about 18.5 cm by 12 cm. In 2011, an American expert in rare manuscripts received a similar looking letter.

After reviewing it, he decided that it was real. The year before, the same expert had studied a Columbus Letter in the Vatican Library and suspected that it was a fake.

One reason was that the stitching marks on the letter were not the same as those on the cover. The letter in the United States, however, had the exact same stitching marks as the leather cover of the fake letter he had studied in the Vatican.

The expert, who was not identified, contacted Homeland Security art investigators, who began working with Vatican inspectors and rare book experts.

They believed that someone took the real letter out of its cover at the Vatican Library and replaced it with a fake one. Archbishop Jean-Louis Brugues is the Vatican's chief librarian.

He said, We do not know exactly when the substitution took place. We will probably never know who the forger was.

Their investigations found that Marino Massimo De Caro, a well known Italian book thief, had sold the real letter to a New York book dealer. De Caro is serving a seven-year prison sentence in Italy for stealing about 4,000 ancient books and manuscripts from Italian libraries and private collections. The late collector David Parsons bought the letter for $875,000 in 2004.

After the investigations, his widow agreed to return the letter to the Vatican Library. Officials said the letter is now worth about $1.2 million.

Stolen Christopher Columbus letter returned to Spain 8 June 2018

The US has returned a 500-year-old stolen Christopher Columbus letter to Spain after a seven-year hunt.
Written in 1493, the letter describes the explorer's discoveries in the New World and was addressed to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain.

However, authorities received a tip in 2011 that several copies had been stolen and replaced with forgeries.
Spain's US ambassador Pedro Morenes received the letter in a repatriation ceremony in Washington.

Mr Morenes described the event as "a showcase of the ties that bind the United States and Spain together".

Homeland Security Investigations, a division of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), conducted the investigation with the Department of Justice (DOJ), according to a statement from ICE.
The letter was a manual copy of the original, known as the Catalonia Plannck II Columbus and written in Spanish to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.

It describes the people, landscape and wealth Columbus found when he arrived in the Americas.
The monarchs had sponsored his journey, and forwarded the message to Rome to be translated into Latin, manually copied, and then sent to kings and queens across Europe to spread word of the discovery.

After receiving the tip about forged letters, the investigators sent an agent to the National Library of Catalonia in Barcelona in 2012 and determined their version was a fake.

However, according to Bloomberg, the expert who helped them determine it was forged was consulted by the real letter's latest buyer to check its authenticity.

Investigators say the authentic letter was first sold for 600,000 euros ($706,000) by two Italian book dealers in 2005, and most recently to another buyer in 2011 for 900,000 euros ($1.1 million).

Authorities contacted this latest buyer, who agreed to hand over the document. ICE has not named the person.

US attorney David Weiss said that they were "truly honoured to return this historically important document back to Spain - its rightful owner."
According to their release, since 2007 ICE has given back 11,000 artefacts to more than 30 countries - including 1,800-year-old Peruvian pottery, some highly valued ancient royal seals from Korea and recently thousands of pieces smuggled out of Iraq and shipped to arts and crafts retailer Hobby Lobby.

This is the second such letter ICE has returned, giving back another copy to Italy in 2016.


ICE returns stolen Christopher Columbus letter to Spain

An Italian security officer in Rome stands with a rare copy of a letter written by Christopher Columbus in 1493 to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. The letter apparently was stolen from a Florence museum more than 65 years ago.

(CNN)The United States returned a rare copy of a letter by Christopher Columbus describing his discoveries in the New World, after it had been stolen from a museum in Spain.

The investigation into the stolen letter spanned seven years and on Wednesday it was transferred back to Spanish authorities during a repatriation ceremony, according to the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
ICE, which investigates looted cultural heritage and stolen artwork, and the Department of Justice worked on the case after receiving a tip in 2011 that several manually printed copies of the letter had been stolen from European libraries.
Known as the Catalonia Plannck II Columbus Letter, it contains the explorer's 1493 account of his discoveries, addressed to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. Only about 80 copies of all editions have survived.
Back home: Stolen Christopher Columbus letter returned to Italy
Back home: Stolen Christopher Columbus letter returned to Italy
Investigators learned that one of the copies had been stolen from the National Library of Catalonia in Barcelona and determined in 2012, that the one at the library was a forged copy.
The stolen letter had been sold for about $1 million in June 2011, according to ICE.
The person who had the letter volunteered to transfer it after "extensive negotiations with the US Attorney's Office for the District of Delaware," ICE said.
Experts examined the document and found that a chemical had been used to bleach the ink of the library's stamp and that the original paper fibers had been disturbed. It was also determined that the letter was "beyond all doubt" the original that was stolen from the National Library of Catalonia.
"I am pleased to be able to return a priceless piece of cultural property to its rightful owners," Alysa D. Erichs, the Homeland Security Investigations acting deputy executive associate director, said in a statement.

In 2016, the US returned an eight-page copy that had been stolen from a library in Florence, Italy, and donated to an unsuspecting US Library of Congress. The letter from Italy is believed to have been stolen and replaced with forgery in about 1950.
That document was consigned in late 1992 to a New York auction house by a rare-book dealer who purchased it two years before "from an unknown entity." A private buyer paid $300,000 in November 1992 and donated the item to the Library of Congress in 2004, where it had remained.

Federal investigators took custody of it in March 2014 and had further testing conducted. It showed a chemical was also used to bleach the ink of the Italian library's stamp. The US returned the document, which was a copy printed in Latin by Stephan Plannck.

ICE has returned more than 11,000 artifacts to over 30 countries, the agency said.

Updated 2034 GMT (0434 HKT) June 7, 2018


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