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    Thursday, April 11th, 2019

    More than 600 books and manuscripts lost during the Second World War were today returned to Bonn University in Germany. The repatriation was facilitated by Sotheby’s. The books were discovered in a Belgian private collection. This is one of the largest single returns of objects lost during the war. Among them are numerous historical works of high cultural and material importance, including medieval and modern manuscripts, medieval documents, historical maps, early 15th-century prints, rare prints of the 16th century and numerous colored bird books. The most valuable bird book is Audobon’s The Birds of America.

    How exactly the books and manuscripts found their way to Belgium is not known. It is possible that they were taken by Belgian soldiers in the years after the war. Curator of Manuscripts and Historic Books at ULB, Dr. Michael Herkenhoff said: Many valuable volumes were stored between 1946 and 1950 in a bunker in Bonn. They may have been stolen during the period of the Belgian occupation in Bonn.”

    Charlotte Miller, Specialist in Books and Manuscripts at Sotheby‚Äôs in London explained that in 2017 a large collection of books was offered to Sotheby’s from a private collection in Belgium. Many had their library stamps expunged, bindings removed or title pages destroyed. Sotheby’s set out to discovered the true provenance of the library. The medieval manuscripts were listed on Bonn University’s Inventory of Losses.

    Left: A manuscript of the “Comoediae” of Terenz, written in the 13th century

    Centre: Book of Hours, Use of Rome, in Latin [southern Netherlands (Bruges), c.1460-70

    Right: John James Audubon, The Birds of America from drawings made in the United States, printed in New York between 1840 and 1844 in 7 volumes