Stolen Christopher Columbus Letter Found in Privately Owned Library and Returned to Italy

A rare letter by explorer Christopher Columbus was recently uncovered in a privately owned library in the United States and successfully returned to Italy. The letter was stolen from Venice’s Marciana National Library in the 1980s.

Columbus embarked on a journey to find a waterway to Asia in 1492 and spent more than six months exploring the Americas. When he returned in 1493, he penned a letter to Spanish rulers Ferdinand II and Isabella I, who financed his journeys, describing his voyages.

The letter made its way to Rome, where it was translated to Latin and printed by printer Stephan Plannck to be distributed across Europe. Plannck produced two print runs of the letter, as the first one didn’t mention Queen Isabella I in the pamphlet’s introduction.

The letter returned to Marciana National Library is from the first print run, which is referred to as Plannck I, and is considered extremely rare. Its value was estimated to be around $1.3 million back in 2020.

Announcing the return of the letter to Italy, Minister of Culture Gennaro Sangiuliano said that the country plans to “enhance this document” by organizing a traveling exhibition that “explains it and makes it appreciated.”

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