According to a statement released on Wednesday by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the US has returned a stolen letter written by Christopher Columbus to Italy.
It is one of about 30 early editions of the explorer’s letter from 1493 to Spain’s King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella that have survived. The letter was written in Latin.
The artefact is thought to be a copy that was taken in the 1980s from the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana in Venice, Italy. It was discovered to be in the custody of a private American collector.
ICE and the US Attorney’s Office of Delaware announced the finding in 2020 and claimed that the collector had unknowingly purchased the letter from a rare book vendor in 2003. However, authorities have not provided any additional information regarding how the letter was taken or ended up in the dealer’s possession.
The letter is quite rare, and collectors and historians greatly value copies of it.
The version delivered to Italy this week is known as the Plannck I edition. It bears the name Stephan Plannck in honour of the eminent printer who released two copies of the letter more than 500 years ago.