Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2017 Issue

Columbus returns to the Vatican: it's a miracle!

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Eight pages and two guards

In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue but only after the kings of Portugal, France and England turned down the opportunity to finance his adventure and King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella stepped in.  In so doing they rescued their careers from oblivion, earning a place in thousands of textbooks that have carried their names into the present and certainly on into the future.  It was an excellent career move.  For this, Spain was awarded a significant piece of the New World that today speaks their language.  It pays to be first.

 

As a riff on this historical melody it’s long been known that first printed references to Columbus’ discovery have also been desirable.  So desirable in fact that some copies are known to have been stolen.

 

Recently a copy, long missing from the Vatican’s archives, has been discovered in the United States and returned to the home of Saint Peter’s Basilica.  The Pope, we assume, is overjoyed.

 

The rare artifact was found in Georgia, the state, not the nation, some dozen years ago.

 

So this is a reminder that the right of replevin, the unlimited right of those who have had material stolen, can, if their material surfaces, demand its return.  The law is alive, well and probably gaining strength as the internet shrinks the globe making material missing in one country increasingly transparent to institutions, dealers and collectors worldwide.  To paraphrase Columbus, “it’s a new world.”

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>View Our Record Breaking Results</b>
    <b>Swann:</b> Scott Joplin, <i>Treemonisha: Opera in Three Acts,</i> New York, 1911. Sold March 24 — $40,000.
    <b>Swann:</b> Louisa May Alcott, autograph letter signed, 1868. Sold June 2 — $23,750.
    <b>Swann:</b> Anne Bradstreet, <i>Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning, full of Delight,</i> Boston, 1758. Sold June 2 — $21,250.
    <b>Swann:</b> William Shakespeare, <i>Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. Published according to the true Originall Copies. The Second Impression,</i> London, 1632. Sold May 5 — $161,000.
    <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>View Our Record Breaking Results</b>
    <b>Swann:</b> John Bachmann, <i>Panorama of the Seat of War,</i> New York, 1861-62. Sold June 23 — $35,000.
    <b>Swann:</b> Charlotte Bronte, <i>Jane Eyre,</i> first edition, London, 1847. Sold June 16 — $23,750.
    <b>Swann:</b> Elihu Vedder, <i>Simple Simon, His Book,</i> 1913. Sold June 9 — $12,350.
    <b>Swann:</b> Frederick Catherwood, <i>Views of Ancient Monuments in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan,</i> London, 1844. Sold April 7 — $37,500.
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    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Benjamin Franklin Signed Receipt for “Pennsylvania Gazette,” Important & Beautifully Displayed
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    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Jefferson Davis ALS: “the negroes are humble and generally inclined to cling to their masters…neither crop or stock could be protected from their thieving” – Incredible!
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    <b>University Archives, Aug. 17:</b> Babe Ruth First Edition Biography Signed Just Months Before His Death, Excellent Signature!
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