14:09 GMT19 February 2020
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    US federal agents in Delaware have recovered a more than 500-year-old stolen copy of a letter written by Italian explorer Christopher Columbus that has an estimated value of more than $1.3 million.

    In the 1493 letter, Columbus describes his discoveries in the Americas to the Italian government, according to the US Attorney’s Office in Delaware and Homeland Security investigators. The letter is known as the Plannck I or “Columbus Letter Plannck I” - a reference to Stephan Plannck, the Roman printer who translated the letter from Spanish to Latin and reproduced it - and is “exceptionally rare” because it is the first edition of the letter, addressed only to the king of Spain. The second edition, which is known as the Plannck II, mentions both the king and queen of Spain. 

    ​According to a Wednesday press release by the Department of Justice, the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, which is a public library in Venice, Italy, obtained a copy of the Plannck I around 1875. Some time between 1985 and 1988, the letter was stolen from the library.

    Having been missing for decades, the letter was eventually found in the possession of a private collector. According to the news release, an investigation revealed that back 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.”

    The collector “voluntarily agreed” to “relinquish title and interest in the letter.”

    “We continue to be thankful for our strong law enforcement partnership with the Government of Italy to combat cross-border crimes that bring stolen cultural property into the United States for sale. This recovery is an excellent example of international law enforcement collaboration resulting in the return of world treasures to their rightful owners,” US Attorney David C. Weiss said in the Wednesday statement.

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