It was 1921 when the Vatican Apostolic Library managed to acquire a very valuable copy of a letter written by Christopher Columbus back in 1493. In the letter, he was describing the Caribbean islands and his first impressions of them to the Spanish monarchy. About 90 years later, American officials contacted the library to say that they believed that real letter was actually stolen and replaced with an almost perfect fake. Fortunately, last week, the original letter was found in Atlanta, Georgia, and returned to its place in the Vatican library.
However, this doesn’t mean that the mysterious case of this letter’s disappearance has been solved. The problem is that the authorities still don’t have a clue regarding the date when the letter was stolen and who the thief was. Moreover, they are uncertain if this Vatican theft has anything to do with other similar cases which took place in other two libraries. The letter, which has eight pages, has been valued at $1.2 million. It is basically a copy of a message in Spanish which Columbus wrote to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. The letter was also translated into Latin and now, about 80 copies of it exist in the entire world.
The mysterious case of Christopher Columbus’ missing letter
Initially, the version that the Vatican has was printed in 1493, in Rome. Centuries later, collector Giovanni Francesco De Rossi gave it to the Apostolic Library. Back in 2011, a rare book and manuscript expert informed the United States Homeland Security Investigations about the possibility that the version in Vatican was a fake.
After a long investigation, the officials traced the real letter to a collector in Atlanta. The man had reportedly purchased it from a New York dealer for $875,000, in 2004. But who did it? Timothy Janz, director of the printed books department at the Vatican Library, thinks it was a binder. It seems that the library usually sends books out to be bound. A researcher who was reading in the reading room couldn’t have possibly done it without being seen.
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