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Rome Reports

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Christopher Columbus' letter on discovery of America returned to the Vatican


This letter, written by Christopher Columbus, is now being returned to the Vatican by U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, Callista Gingrich, after years of only having a forged copy.

The “Letter about the Recently Discovered Islands” was published by Columbus in 1493 to share his discoveries about the Western hemisphere. 

The letter had belonged to Giovanni De Rossi, who donated his personal books to the Vatican Library in 1854. However, they didn't arrive until 1921.

Later in 2004, American collector David Parsons had unknowingly purchased the original letter. It was examined in 2013 by Homeland Security art investigators, and Parsons' widowed wife voluntarily returned it to the Vatican. 

JEAN-LOUIS BRUGUES
Vatican Librarian
“...and of course we owe special recognition to Mrs. Mary Parsons for her gracious decision to return this book to us.”

The U.S. Embassy officials met with the Vatican to explain that Parsons' copy had previously been sold to a book dealer in New York by a notorious Italian book thief, Marino De Caro. 

The timing is not confirmed, but De Caro is now serving seven years in jail for stealing around 4,000 books and manuscripts from Italian libraries.