A rare atlas that was stolen from the Royal Library of Sweden a decade ago has been recovered by the New York Gallery on Wednesday. The atlas is a very important collection of documents because it contains the first maps of the Americas that were created 415 years ago by Cornelius van Wytfliet, says the Associated Press.
The United States were able to recover a small part of their history when the New York Gallery got hold of a rare atlas containing 19 maps of the Americas. The collection was preserved in the Royal Library of Sweden for more than 300 years, but it was stolen a decade ago by Anders Burius, the chief of the Royal Library’s manuscript department.
This was not the only book that Burius stole during his employment period at the library which lasted from 1995 to 2004. Latter investigations have shown that the former librarian took away 56 rare books including Cornelius van Wytfliet’s 415-year-old atlas.
According to Steven Feldman, one of the library’s representatives in New York, Anders Burius raised suspicions of theft and confessed his deeds when he found out that the library was going to undertake an inventory. He was arrested in 2004 and committed suicide. The Royal Library of Sweden has been collaborating ever since with various cultural institutions to trace the rare manuscripts.
It was important for Sweden to recover the atlas because it is an important piece of its patrimony. Greger Bergvall, the library’s map librarian, told the press that the 1597 collection of maps belonged to the kings and queens of Sweden. The fact that there was only one copy of the Wytfliet Atlas contributed to its value.
The United States are also interested in protecting the collection of maps because it displays the evolution of the Americas. In fact, the Wytfliet Atlas is the first document to portray California as a peninsula. Until then, California was depicted as an island.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan stated that they will continue the investigation to find the remaining 55 books that were stolen from the Swedish library. Some books have already been tracked down because the stolen volumes were all sold by a German auction house called Ketter Kunst.