Boston Public Library Repatriates Historical Artifacts to Italy

In partnership with Department of Homeland Security; U.S. Attorney’s Office, BPL returns three items to Italy

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by rlavery

Today Boston Public Library announced the return of three items from its Special Collections to the State Archives of Venice, Italy and the Library of Ludovico II De Torres in Monreale, Italy. During a repatriation ceremony with Mayor Martin J. Walsh and representatives from Homeland Security, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the Italian Carabinieri, Boston Public Library formally returned the Mariegola della Scuola di Santa Maria della Misericordia, a medieval manuscript dating to 1392; an illuminated leaf from the manuscript Mariegola della Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista, dating from between 1418-1422; and Varii de natvralibvs rebvs libelli, a  collection of works by Bernardino Telesio, published in 1590.

“These three items represent Italy’s rich history, and I’m pleased that through the cooperation of the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Boston Public Library was able to ensure the safe return of these artifacts to their rightful homes in Italy,” said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “I thank everyone involved in this successful process.”

“Boston Public Library took action upon learning of the claims and that the provenance of these historical treasures was incomplete, and we are very pleased to report that these items are returning home to Italy after being cared for by the BPL for decades,” said David Leonard, President of the Boston Public Library.

“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. We are fully committed to their safe return to Italy so they can continue to be utilized and appreciated by new researchers and scholars,” said Beth Prindle, Boston Public Library’s Head of Special Collections.

Boston Public Library legitimately purchased all three items from well-known rare book dealers during the mid-twentieth century. Mariegola della Scuola di Santa Maria della Misericordia was acquired in 1960 from Philip Duschenes of New York, the illuminated manuscript leaf was obtained in 1955 from the Italian dealer Olschki, and the Bernardino Telesio volume was purchased in 1980 from Michael R. Thompson of Los Angeles. The medieval manuscript and leaf became part of the library’s Medieval and Early Renaissance Manuscripts Collection of Distinction, a notable collection which totals nearly 250 volumes and single leaves dating from the 10th through the early 16th centuries. These special collections materials are administered through the BPL’s Rare Books & Manuscripts Department, which holds nearly 250,000 rare books and one million manuscripts.

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