A Swedish atlas was recovered from a New York City gallery years after it was stolen from the Royal Library of Sweden by one of its chief librarians. According to ABC News, the 415-year-old Wytfliet Atlas was nicked from the country’s collection by Anders Burius, who lifted a number of tomes during his employment. The atlas, which was crafted by Cornelius van Wytfliet and contains some of the earliest known maps of the Americas, is one of eight in existence.
The Wytfliet Atlas, which is thought to have taken between 1995 and 2004, is the first of the missing items to be recovered. In 2011, the Royal Library discovered that their book was being sold by Arader Galleries, a prominent New York City map dealer. However, when the gallery’s owner realized the atlas was part of Sweden’s royal collection, he returned the item in question to Sotheby’s. The auction house reportedly purchased the coveted atlas from a rare book dealer in 2000. Representatives returned the book to its rightful owner on June 15.
In order to prevent others from discovering where, precisely, he had obtained the numerous rare items he’d stolen, Burius removed any identifying marks from the books before selling them under an alias years ago.
“[The atlas] has been available to the kings and queens of Sweden,” explained Greger Bergvall, who is in charge of the Royal Library’s map collection. “It’s important because it’s the only copy of the Wytfliet Atlas in Sweden.”
Burius, who committed suicide following an investigation into the theft in 2004, also managed to get his hands on a number of other tomes, as well, including a 1663 edition of John Donne’s poems and a 1651 copy of Thomas Hobbes’ “Leviathan.” Although whereabouts of the other items are still unknown, officials say they are currently pursuing possible leads.