Genoa maritime museum seeks possession of Columbus letter


Milan (AP) – A state maritime museum in Christopher Columbus’ birthplace of Genoa is challenging a Florence library to be the custodian of the recently returned 1493 letter in which the explorer described his voyages to Spanish royals.

Maria Paola Profumo, the director of the Galata Sea Museum, told The Associated Press she wants to put the letter on display in a room with other important Columbus artifacts, including an urn with his ashes, where it can be both protected and on public view, not left out of sight in a library.

A reprinted copy of Christopher Columbus original letter written in 1493 about the discovery of the New World is displayed during a press conference in Rome, Wednesday, May 18. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis)

Profumo made her request, with the backing of city officials, in a letter to Culture Minister Dario Franceschini.  The minister said at a ceremony announcing the letter’s return from the United States that the document would be returned to the Riccardiana library in Florence, which was its home before it was replaced with a forgery.

“For them it is one of many documents.  They don’t have a specific mission focusing on Columbus and the discovery of America,” Profumo said.  “The wonder of this document should not be in an archive, but on view, well-preserved and well-conserved and well-shared.”

The Galata’s Columbus collection includes the Code of Privileges issued to Columbus by King Fernando and Queen Isabel implementing the voyage, the famous Columbus portrait by Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio as well as Juan de la Cosa’s first chart of the new world and the urn containing Columbus ashes donated by Santo Domingo, where his body was found.

The 1493 letter is one of some 30 authentic period copies of a letter that Columbus wrote on his return voyage.  The Spanish-language original hand-written letter was almost immediately reprinted in Latin by a Roman printer.