America Returns Stolen Christopher Columbus Letter

Playing U.S. Returns Stolen 500-Year-Old Christopher Columbus Letter to the Vatican

The United States has returned a stolen letter written by Christopher Columbus in 1493 about the discovery of the New World to the Vatican Library.

The original letter was stolen and replaced by a forgery. However, the authentic letter was found after U.S. investigators were tipped off by rare book experts, who determined that many letters written by the Italian explorer were swiped from libraries across Europe and replaced with phony copies without officials' knowledge. 

It is not clear when the letters were stolen.

U.S. Ambassador Callista Gingrich presented the letter to the chief Vatican archivist, Archbishop Jean-Louis Brugues, and the prefect of the library, Bishop Cesare Pasini, at a Vatican library ceremony Thursday.

The monsignors thanked the investigators for their “keen eye and fine detective work" in locating the document.

The letter came from Mary Parsons, the widow of David Parsons, an Atlanta actuary who purchased the document from a rare book dealer in New York in 2004. He was unaware it had been stolen from the Vatican.

The eight-page letter, written in Latin, discusses what Columbus saw in the New World and his impression of the region. 

He said the land was "full of the greatest variety of trees reaching to the stars." 

Columbus had sent the letter to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain to offer his first impressions of the riches that were to be found in what he believed to be the eastern edge of Asia after he set sail from Portugal in 1492. 

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