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The recovered manuscript of Cicero returns to the University Library in Wrocław

On 10.03.2023, the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage solemnly handed over to the University Library the medieval manuscript of Marcus Tullius Cicero, which was stolen from the Library in the 1960s - 1970s, and in 2022 was put up for sale in a New York antique shop Jonathan Hill Bookseller and identified by the employees of the University Library as the lost manuscript M 1305, which came from the former City Library, to which it came from the St. Mary Magdalene church library in 1865.

The manuscript was probably created in Florence around 1450, it is written on parchment, it has 42 cards, containing 3 philosophical writings of Cicero, i.e. the dialogue "On Old Age", the dialogue "On Friendship" and "Stoic Paradoxes". The text is written in Latin with quotations in Ancient Greek, it features eight small gold initials on a red, green and blue background. The main ornament is four large, golden initials on a red, green and blue background, decorated with a white geometric flagellum. The ascetic nature of the ornaments is characteristic, which contrasts with the late medieval, richly decorated manuscripts. The Florentine humanists tried to approach antiquity through this style. According to the old documentation, the manuscript had its Renaissance binding made of cedar wood, with fittings, knobs and blind embossing. Unfortunately, it was preserved only fragmentarily. After the theft, the manuscript ended up in France, where it got a new binding from the famous bookbinder Jean de Gonet.

The manuscript was put up for sale and was noticed and recognized by the employees of the University Library. This fact was reported to the Department of Restitution of Cultural Property in the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. At the same time, the Wrocław University Library sent documentation confirming its rights to the manuscript, including microfilm of the M1305 manuscript, made in 1954. On the basis of a comparative analysis carried out on site in the USA by the employees of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage - it was confirmed that it was the missing property of the Wroclaw University Library. On the basis of the provided documentation, Jonathan Hill, the owner of the antique shop, recognized the WUL's rights to the manuscript and handed it over for its return to the Library.

The ceremony of handing over the manuscript was attended by: Jarosław Sellin, Deputy Minister of National and National Heritage, Elżbieta Rogowska, director of the Department of Cultural Property Restitution, Jonathan Hill - owner of a New York antiquarian bookshop, Tomasz Makowski – director of National Library, and on behalf of the University of Wrocław - vice-rector for research, prof. dr hab. Artur Błażejewski, director of the University Library - Grażyna Piotrowicz and an employee of the WUL's Manuscripts Department - Antoine Haaker.