Cristoforo Colombo letter back in Italy

Stolen Columbus letter about discovery of new world returned to Italy


Original copy of explorer’s 1493 letter was found in US Library of Congress, with the one held in Florence proved to be a forgery



A rare copy of a letter written by Christopher Columbus in 1493 that was stolen from a library in Florence has been returned to Italy after US investigators discovered it was in the collection of the Library of Congress.

The return of the letter, which had been sent to the king and queen of Spain, describing the Italian explorer’s first impressions of the new world, was hailed by US and Italian officials.

But the mystery of how it ended up in the Library of Congress after being sold at auction at Christie’s in the early 90s is still being investigated by the US Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security.

The letter had been stolen from Florence’s Riccardiana library and replaced with a forgery that no one noticed until US law enforcement officials received a tip in 2012 from a confidential informant. 

According to court documents released by the US Justice Department, the individual had been conducting research on the eight-page letter, which was bound in a book along with other documents, and found that it appeared to be printed by lithography rather than type, and did not possess a library stamp as the other documents did.

Subsequent work led investigators to believe that the original Columbus letter was “possibly” in the Library of Congress, which had received it as a donation in 2004. By July 2013, investigators concluded that the letter held by the Library of Congress was in fact the original letter, and that it had been stolen from Florence. On page four, according to a US seizure warrant, there were “unmistakable signs” that someone had attempted to delete the Riccardiana library stamp from the page and used bleach to hide it. The distance between sewing holes that were found on the letter also identically matched sewing holes of the bound manuscript in Florence where the document had been kept.

The letter was seized from the Library of Congress in 2014 and sent to the Smithsonian Institute for further analysis, confirming initial findings that it was stolen.

The head of the Riccardiana, Fulvio Stacchetti, said the original letter was likely substituted with a fake around 1950-51, when the letter was loaned to national library authorities in Rome. He said that was the only time the document had left the Riccardiana, and that it would have been impossible for it to have been substituted with a fake while it was home because the reading room was so closely monitored.

The original letter had been sold to a rare book collector in Switzerland in 1990, then purchased by another collector at auction at Christie’s in 1992 in New York. That buyer – whose identity has not been revealedbequeathed it to the Library of Congress in 2004. Christie’s did not respond to a request for comment.

Jamie McCall, an assistant US attorney with the justice department who worked on the investigation and was in Rome to oversee the handover of the artefact, said the letter had been acquired in good faith by its final owner and by the Library of Congress.

There is no evidence that they [the final owner] committed any wrongdoing in acquiring it themselves. They legitimately bought it at auction so when the Library of Congress received it, they believed it was legitimate and lawful,” McCall said.

The Columbus letter was written while the explorer was still in the high seas, and was dated upon his arrival in Lisbon on 4 March 1493. It provided the first communication of his voyage, and copies began to spread across Spain, Italy, France, Switzerland and the Netherlands. According to court records, 11 editions were published in 1493 and six more were published before 1497.

In the letter, Columbus describes discovering “many islands inhabited by numerous people,” according to a translation of the letter by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. “I took possession of all of them for our most fortunate King by making public proclamation and unfurling his standard, no one making any resistance.” The land and fruit trees were “as green as lovely as they are wont to be in the month of May in Spain”.

The native people whom he met had no weapons, Columbus wrote, and were “fearful and timid … guileless and honest” and easily conquered by Spain. In the letter, he wrote that he had given them gifts to win their affections in hopes “that they might become Christian and inclined to love our king and queen and princes and all the people of Spain.”.



Passive Voice

As you can see, there are quite a few examples of the Passive form in the above text.

Past Simple -

A rare copy of a letter (that waswritten by Christopher Columbus in 1493 that...  PASSIVE
Christopher Columbus wrote a rare copy of a letter  in 1493 that...  ACTIVE

... after being sold at auction at Christie’s = after it was sold at auction at Christie's  PASSIVE
... after they sold it at auction at Christie's  ACTIVE

Present Continuous -

the mystery ... is still being investigated by the US Department of Justice.  PASSIVE
The US Department of Justice is investigating the mystery.  ACTIVE

Present Perfect -

A rare copy of a letter ... has been returned to Italy.  PASSIVE
They have returned a rare copy of the letter to Italy.  ACTIVE

That buyer – whose identity has not been revealed...  PASSIVE
They haven't revealed the identity of that buyer.  ACTIVE

Past Perfect -

 It had been stolen from Florence.   PASSIVE
They stole it from Florence.   ACTIVE

Infinitive -

It appeared to be printed ...  PASSIVE   See Passive of Reporting Verbs
It appeared that they printed ...   ACTIVE



Change the following sentences from passive to active or vice versa.

  1. They make the best whisky in Scotland.
  2. How much did they steal?
  3. She doesn't allow pets in her home.
  4. Where was your wallet found?
  5. They are building a new stadium for the Olympics.
  6. The minister hasn't made a decision yet.
  7. The money can't be refunded.
  8. I wish I had been told sooner.
  9. They estimate that 100,000 joined the protest.
  10. He will have been told the news by now.
  11. The city hall is going to ban cars from the centre.
  12. 3 people have been taken to hospital.
  13. It is said that the economy will improve next year.
  14. The actress didn't want to be photographed.
  15. They should jail all corrupt poiliticans.
  16. You must wear a suit and tie to the event.
  17. Have they ever invited you to their house?
  18. Who drove the car?
  19. New elections will be held in Spain next month.
  20. Nadal was beaten by Murray in the final 



Comments

Silvia Manzano said…
Throughout History ever you can find people who make a lot of wrong things to obtain money.
Graham said…
Hi Silvia,

I've just added some notes and an exercise on the Passive Voice.

You are still using "ever" in the wrong way! (ever = alguna vez)



Throughout history you can always find people who do a lot of wrong things to obtain money.
Anonymous said…
Hi! My exercice about passive voice.

1. They make the best whisky in Scotland.///// The best whisky is made in Scotland

2. How much did they steal?//////// How much

3. She doesn't allow pets in her Home./////// Pets weren´t allowed in her home

4. Where was your wallet found?/////// Where are you find your wallet?

5. They are building a new stadium for the Olympics.///// A new stadium was being built for the Olympics

6. The minister hasn't made a decision yet./////// A decision hasn´t been made by the minister yet

7. The money can't be refunded./////

8. I wish I had been told sooner.///// I wish I had told soon

9. They estimate that 100,000 joined the protest.///// The protest was estimated that 100,000 joined

10. He will have been told the news by now. ////// The news will have tell him now.

11. The city hall is going to ban cars from the centre.///// The centre was being gone the city hall

12. 3 people have been taken to hospital.///// They have taken to hospital

13. It is said that the economy will improve next year.//// it is said that next year the economy will been improved

14. The actress didn't want to be photographed.////

15. They should jail all corrupt poiliticans. /// All corrpt politicians were should jailed

16. You must wear a suit and tie to the event. /////

17. Have they ever invited you to their house?/////

18. Who drove the car?///// Who is driven the car?

19. New elections will be held in Spain next month.////// In Spain next month will hold new elections

20. Nadal was beaten by Murray in the final ////// In the final Murray beat Nadal

Virginia
Hi, I read the text and I think, how exist people that can forgery a letter?!!

1.They make the best whisky in Scotland.
~the best whisky is made in Scotland.
2.How much did they steal?
(How many do they steal?)

3.She doesn't allow pets in her home.
~Pets weren´t allowed in her home
4.Where was your wallet found?
~Where are you find your wallet?
5.They are building a new stadium for the Olympics.
~A new Stadium was being built for the Olympics
6.The minister hasn't made a decision yet.
~ A decision hasn´t been made by the minister yet
7.The money can't be refunded.
~
8. I wish I had been told sooner.
~I wish I had told soon
9.They estimate that 100,000 joined the protest.
~The protest was estimated that 100,000 joined
10. He will have been told the news by now.
~The news will have tell him now.
11. The city hall is going to ban cars from the centre.
~The centre was being gone the city hall
12. 3 people have been taken to hospital.
~They have taken to hospital
13. It is said that the economy will improve next year.
~ it is said that next year the economy will been improved
14. The actress didn't want to be photographed.

15. They should jail all corrupt poiliticans.
~All corrpt politicians were should jailed
16. You must wear a suit and tie to the event.

17. Have they ever invited you to their house?

18. Who drove the car?
~Who is driven the car?
19. New elections will be held in Spain next month.
~In Spain next month will hold new elections
20. Nadal was beaten by Murray in the final.
~ In the final Murray beat Nadal
By, see you tomorrow...
Anonymous said…
Hi Graham, I did this exercise in my book, I'll compare it with the solution you wrote for Virginia.

Bye Bye

Irina
Graham said…
Hi Virginia,

I think in this exercise you should first decide if it is Active or Passive. Then you should decide what tense it is before changing it.


1. They make the best whisky in Scotland. (A)
The best whisky is made in Scotland. RIGHT

2. How much did they steal? (A)
How much was stolen? (Past Simple)

3. She doesn't allow pets in her home. (A)
Pets aren´t allowed in her home. (Present Simple)

4. Where was your wallet found? (P)
Where did you find your wallet? (Past Simple)

5. They are building a new stadium for the Olympics. (A)
A new stadium is being built for the Olympics. (Pres Cont)

6. The minister hasn't made a decision yet. (A)
A decision hasn´t been made by the minister yet.(Pres Perf) RIGHT

7. The money can't be refunded. (P)
They can't refund the money. (Aux)

8. I wish I had been told sooner. (P)
I wish they had told me sooner. (Past Perf)

9. They estimate that 100,000 joined the protest. (A)
100,000 are estimated to have joined the protest. (Reporting Verbs)

10. He will have been told the news by now. (P)
They will have told him the news by now. (Pres Perf)

11. The city hall is going to ban cars from the centre. (A)
Cars are going to be banned from the centre. (Fut)

12. 3 people have been taken to hospital. (P)
They have taken 3 people to hospital. (Pres Perf)

13. It is said that the economy will improve next year. (P)
They say that the economy will improve next year. (Reporting Verbs)

14. The actress didn't want to be photographed. (P)
The actress didn't want them to photograph her.(Verb+Inf)

15. They should jail all corrupt poiliticans. (A)
All corrupt politicians should be jailed. (Aux)

16. You must wear a suit and tie to the event. (A)
A suit and tie must be worn to the event. (Aux)

17. Have they ever invited you to their house? (A)
Have you ever been invited to thier house? (Pres Perf)

18. Who drove the car? (A)
Who was the car driven by? (Past Simple)

19. New elections will be held in Spain next month. (P)
They will hold new elections in Spain next month. (Fut)

20. Nadal was beaten by Murray in the final.
Murray beat Nadal in the final. RIGHT


This exercise was tricky - much more difficult than what we did in class. Have a go at the Grammar Challenge links that I sent you.
Silvia Manzano said…
Hi Graham,
Here is my exercise (I couldn't answer in 2 sentences):
1.- The best whisky is made in Scotland.
2.- How much it was stolen?
3.- Pets aren't allowed in her home.
4.- Where did they find your wallet?
5.- A new stadium is being built for the Olympics.
6.- A decision hasn't been made yet by the minister.
7.- It can't refind the money.
8.- I wish, I had told sooner.
9.- 100.000 were joined the protest according by their stimates.
10.-
11.- Cars are going to be banned from the centre by the city hall.
12.- They have taken three people to hospital.
13.- It is said that the economy will be improved next year.
14.-
15.- All corrupt politicians should be jailed.
16.- A suit and tie must be worn to the event.
17.- Have you ever been invited to their house?
18.- Who was driven the car ?
19.- New elections will hold in Spain next month.
20.- Murray beated Nadal in the final.
Graham said…
Hi Natalia,

You have been very busy in the blog lately - keep it up !

This is a tricky exercise so there is no need to get downhearted.

1.They make the best whisky in Scotland.
The best whisky is made in Scotland. RIGHT

2.How much did they steal?
How much was stolen?

3.She doesn't allow pets in her home.
Pets aren't allowed in her home.

4.Where was your wallet found?
Where did they find your wallet?

5.They are building a new stadium for the Olympics.
A new Stadium is being built for the Olympics.

6.The minister hasn't made a decision yet.
A decision hasn´t been made by the minister yet. RIGHT

7.The money can't be refunded.
They can't refund the money.

8. I wish I had been told sooner.
I wish they had told me sooner.

9.They estimate that 100,000 joined the protest.
100,000 are estimated to have joined the protest.

10. He will have been told the news by now.
They will have told him the news by now.

11. The city hall is going to ban cars from the centre.
Cars are going to be banned from the centre.

12. 3 people have been taken to hospital.
They have taken 3 people to hospital.

13. It is said that the economy will improve next year.
They say that the economy will improve next year.

14. The actress didn't want to be photographed.
The actress didn't want them to photograph her.


15. They should jail all corrupt poiliticans.
All corrupt politicians should be jailed.

16. You must wear a suit and tie to the event.
A suit and tie must be worn at the event.

17. Have they ever invited you to their house?
Have you ever been invited to their house?

18. Who drove the car?
Who was the car driven by?

19. New elections will be held in Spain next month.
They will hold new elections next month in Spain.

20. Nadal was beaten by Murray in the final.
Murray beat Nadal in the final. RIGHT

Graham said…
Hi Irina,

That's fine. Just let me know if you aren't sure about any of the answers.
Graham said…
Hi Silvia,

It's a toughish exercise but you seem to have done pretty well.

1.- The best whisky is made in Scotland. RIGHT

2.- How much was stolen? (See Subject Questions)

3.- Pets aren't allowed in her home. RIGHT

4.- Where did they find your wallet? RIGHT

5.- A new stadium is being built for the Olympics. RIGHT

6.- A decision hasn't been made yet by the minister. RIGHT

7.- They can't refund the money.

8.- I wish they had told me sooner.

9.- 100.000 are estimated to have joined the protest.

10.- They will have told him the news by now.

11.- Cars are going to be banned from the centre by the city hall. RIGHT

12.- They have taken three people to hospital. RIGHT

13.- It is said that the economy will improve next year.

14.- The actress didn't want them to photograph her.

15.- All corrupt politicians should be jailed. RIGHT

16.- A suit and tie must be worn to the event. RIGHT

17.- Have you ever been invited to their house? RIGHT

18.- Who was the car driven by?

19.- They will hold new elections in Spain next month.

20.- Murray beat Nadal in the final.


Well done!

Anonymous said…
Hi Graham,
It's Nuria. I have tried to do this exercise however I have had problems with someones such as 14, 17 and 18.

1. The best whisky is made in Scotland.

2. How much was stolen?

3. Pets aren't allowed in her home.

4. Where did they find the wallet?

5. A new stadium is being building for the Olympics.

6. A decision hasn't been made yet by the minister.

7. It can't refused the money.

8. I wish they had been told me sooner.

9. 100,000 are joined the protest by their estimates.

10. They will have told him the news by now.

11. Cars are going to be ban from the centre by the city Hall.

12. They have taken 3 people to the hospital.

13. Someone said that the economy will improve next year.

14.

15. All corrupt politics should be jailed.

16. A suit and tie must be worn to the event.

17. Have your ever been invited by them?

18. Who was the car driven?

19. They will hold new elections in Spain next month.

20. Murray beat Nadal in the final.

Thanks.
Graham said…
Hi Nuria,

It's true. I threw in a few tough ones.


It's Nuria. I have tried to do this exercise; however, I have had problems with ones such as 14, 17 and 18. ("someone" refers to a person and is always singular)

1. The best whisky is made in Scotland. RIGHT

2. How much was stolen? RIGHT

3. Pets aren't allowed in her home. RIGHT

4. Where did they find the wallet? RIGHT

5. A new stadium is being built for the Olympics. (the main verb always takes the past participle form)

6. A decision hasn't been made by the minister yet. ("yet" at the very end)

7. They can't refund the money. (Active)

8. I wish they had told me sooner. (Active)

9. 100,000 are estimated to have joined the protest (See Passive of Reporting Verbs)

10. They will have told him the news by now. RIGHT

11. Cars are going to be banned from the centre by the city hall.

12. They have taken 3 people to the hospital. RIGHT

13. They say that the economy will improve next year.

14. The actress didn't want them to photograph her. (want + sb + to + verb)

15. All corrupt politics should be jailed.

16. A suit and tie must be worn to the event. RIGHT

17. Have your ever been invited to their house?

18. Who was the car driven by? (Prepositions are at the end of questions)

19. They will hold new elections in Spain next month. RIGHT

20. Murray beat Nadal in the final. RIGHT


Well done!