NEW YORK — A 415-year-old atlas stolen from Sweden’s Royal Library more than a decade ago was recovered in the United States and has been returned to the Scandinavian country, officials said Wednesday.
The Cornelius van Wytfliet atlas, which contains 19 rare maps, vanished alongside 55 other books, a theft later attributed to the former head of the library’s manuscript department, Anders Burius, who committed suicide in 2004.
“We could not be more pleased to know that this national treasure is finally making its way home,” said Gunilla Herdenberg, a library representative, calling the atlas “an irreplaceable piece of the library’s collection and Sweden’s cultural heritage.”
The work had belonged to the Royal Library for 300 years when it disappeared.
Library officials say the piece is the first printed atlas solely devoted to depicting maps of North and South America and includes the first printed map of California.
Officials were alerted to its whereabouts when they noticed it was being offered for sale by New York’s Arader Galleries in June 2011, who had purchased the piece at Sotheby’s auction house in London, according to the law office of Herrick, Feinstein LLP hired by the library to help retrieve the work.
Upon discovery of its origins, the Arader Galleries returned the atlas to Sotheby’s, who subsequently restituted it to Sweden.
Most of the other missing works were sold in the 1990s by a German auction house.