Christopher Columbus

24 May 2016

A stolen copy of Christopher Columbus’ account of his voyage in 1492 to the New World has been returned to the Riccardiana library in Florence. It was discovered by the Library of Congress who had received it in 2004 as a donation.


Investigation into the theft began several years ago when the Italian Carabinieri art department were informed that the Riccardiana copy had been replaced with a forgery.
Examinations of the forged copy in Italy discovered that ‘the text of the forged letter was a high-quality photocopy, that there was no original library stamp from the [Riccardiana] Library and that the stitching patterns did not match original stitching patterns for known Plannck II Columbus Letters’.

Meanwhile experts at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington carried out their own studies and found that chemical agents had been used ‘to remove the ink of the Riccardiana library stamp and that printed characters had been retouched to further disguise the letter’s provenance, or place of origin’.

Officials said that the Florentine letter was bought by a rare books collector in Switzerland in 1990 and was sold to an anonymous buyer for $330,000 at Christie’s auction house in New York in 1992, the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s first voyage to the New World.