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Boston library to return historical artifacts to Italy

Published

By Associated Press

The Boston Public Library is returning to Italy medieval manuscripts and a volume of works, ending in one case a mystery dating back seven decades.

This June 1918 photo provided by Rick Maynard of Guilford, Conn., shows a letter sent by his great uncle Sgt. Paul Maynard to his family from France during World War I. Rick Maynard found the letter in a basement and is having it and other World War I items he found digitally preserved with the help of the Connecticut State Library, which is in the midst of a project to archive artifacts from the war. (Rick Maynard via AP)

This June 1918 photo provided by Rick Maynard of Guilford, Conn., shows a letter sent by his great uncle Sgt. Paul Maynard to his family from France during World War I. (Rick Maynard via AP/ Manila Bulletin)

The items include a manuscript from 1392, an illuminated leaf from a manuscript dating between 1418 and 1422, and a collection of works by Bernardino Telesio, published in 1590.

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said Wednesday he’s glad the items are being returned, saying they “represent Italy’s rich history.”

Library officials say the items were bought legitimately from well-known rare book dealers during the mid-20th century.

“Boston Public Library purchased these rare and important materials in good faith for the public to see and study and we took our stewardship of them seriously during the many years that they were in our care,” said Beth Prindle, the library’s head of Special Collections. “We are fully committed to their safe return.”

True ownership of one of the items — the Mariegola della Scuola di Santa Maria della Misericordia manuscript dating to 1392 — emerged as the library was preparing its medieval manuscripts for digitization.

The library bought the item in 1960 from a New York dealer.

The manuscript was written in Bologna for Our Lady of Mercy at Valverde, a spiritual and charitable brotherhood that kept the manuscript in its collection until the brotherhood was dissolved in 1803. At that point, the manuscript passed into the collection of the State Archives of Venice.

In 1879, the manuscript was put on permanent display. When it was taken off exhibition in the late 1940s, it disappeared under unknown circumstances.

The Boston Public Library said new research conducted as it was preparing the manuscript for electronic cataloging helped track down its history.

The two other items were an illuminated leaf from the manuscript Mariegola della Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista, dating from sometime between 1418 and 1422; and Varii de natvralibvs rebvs libelli by Bernardino Telesio, published in 1590.

The Telesio item is a printed collection of works by the Italian philosopher and natural scientist. It bears the signature of Cardinal Ludovico II De Torres, who served as Archbishop of Monreale, Italy, in the 1600s and donated his book collection.

 

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