May 24, 2022

Stolen 40 Years Ago, Rare Christopher Columbus Letter Recovered by Delaware Investigators

From the Delaware News Journal:

After arriving in the Americas, Christopher Columbus penned a letter about his find to Spain’s King Ferdinand, a letter that would later be published to spread the news throughout Europe.

For the fourth time in the past four years, federal agents and attorneys in Delaware have recovered a stolen copy of that historic letter, now worth up to $1.3 million.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Delaware and Homeland Security investigators, who specialize in the recovery of stolen rare books and historic artifacts, announced the find this week.

The rare letter, which has been missing for over 40 years since being stolen from a library in Venice, Italy, was found in the hands of a private collector.

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See Also: From a Delaware U.S. Attorney’s Office News Release

Unlike prior recovered Columbus letters, this Columbus Letter-Plannck I was not replaced with a forgery, but instead was missing from the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana for decades.  The investigation determined that, in May 2003, a collector acting in good faith unknowingly purchased the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana’s Columbus Letter-Plannck I letter from a rare book dealer in the United States.

In 2019, following negotiations between the U.S. Attorney’s Office and representatives for the individual in possession of the letter, the parties agreed to permit Dr. Paul Needham from Princeton University to inspect the Columbus Letter-Plannck I, along with important evidence provided by the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana.  Dr. Needham’s inspection ultimately assisted investigators in determining that the Columbus Letter-Plannck I was, in fact, the stolen letter that belonged to the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana.  Accordingly, the individual in possession of the Columbus Letter-Plannck I voluntarily agreed to relinquish title and interest in the letter.

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See Also: Court Filing: In Re: Columbus, Christopher, Epistola De Insulis Nuper Inventis, Rome, Stephan Plannck, After 29 April 1493, Goff C-757

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.