Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2024 Issue

Document Taken from Peru a Century Ago Returned by the Rosenbach Library

The 1599 contract is returned to Peru.

Some time a century or more ago, a document made its way from Peru to the United States. It had once been included in a volume with other documents currently held in the Peruvian archives. Exactly when or under what circumstances it was separated from the remainder of the volume is unknown, but it eventually found it way to the Rosenbach Library in Philadelphia.

 

The document is historically significant as it was a contract that formed the first theatrical company in the Americas. It was formed in Lima, Peru, and is dated June 28, 1599. That explains why the first theatrical company was not founded in what is today's United States. It would be another two decades before the Pilgrims landed.

 

It is a six-page document that was purchased by the legendary Philadelphia bookseller Dr. A. S. W. Rosenbach in the 1920s. He purchased it from South American scholar Bertram Lee. According to Wikipedia, Dr. Rosenbach handled eight Gutenberg Bibles and 30 Shakespeare First Folios over the course of his career. That's good company. Still, this document must have been extra special to Rosenbach as in 1938 he published an article about it, The First Theatrical Company in America. Rosenbach wrote, “we see an advanced stage of European civilization existed in Peru during the Golden Age of both the Spanish and English drama, before there was a single permanent English colony in North America.”

 

Dr. Rosenbach died in 1952. At his death, he left his estate to the Rosenbach Foundation, which established the Rosenbach Museum and Library. The contract has been in their possession since 1954.

 

In 2017, the Republic of Peru asked the U.S. State Department to look into the possibility of returning the document to Peru and the Peruvian National Archives. This began a slow-moving process that ended with the return of the document on March 14 last. The Rosenbach Library was in full agreement to return it to Peru where it is considered a national treasure.

 

United States Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero and FBI Philadelphia Special Agent in Charge Wayne A. Jacobs announced the repatriation, and a ceremony was held at the State Department by Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Foreign Affairs Minister Javier González-Olaechea accepted the contract on behalf of Peru. The presence of the Secretary of State is a sign that this was considered an important act diplomatically. “Thanks to very good work between our governments, we were able to return these documents to make sure that the extraordinary cultural heritage of Peru is further reinforced,” said Secretary Blinken.


Posted On: 2024-04-01 17:34
User Name: Philabookman

In the public statements of the Peruvian Government and the U.S. authorities NO ONE refers to these documents as having been stolen. When that volume of notarial documents became national property as opposed to private property is in question.


Rare Book Monthly

  • Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Winston Churchill. The Second World War. Set of First-Edition Volumes. 6,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard. A Collection of The Pooh Books. Set of First-Editions. 18,600 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Salvador Dalí, Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Finely Bound and Signed Limited Edition. 15,000 USD
    Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ian Fleming. Live and Let Die. First Edition. 9,500 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter Series. Finely Bound First Printing Set of Complete Series. 5,650 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. First Edition, First Printing. 4,200 USD
  • Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [RUTH, George Herman “Babe” (1895-1948)]. Signed photograph. Circa 1930s. 191 x 248 mm. $1,500 to $2,500.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: HARRISON, Benjamin. Document signed (“Benj Harrison”) as governor of Virginia, certifying the service of Daniel Cumbo, a Black Revolutionary soldier. $6,000 to $9,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: ONE OF THE FIRST PRINTED ANNOUNCEMENTS OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. $4,000 to $6,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: FIRST PRINTING OF LINCOLN’S IMMORTAL GETTYSBURG ADDRESS. $4,000 to $6,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: HIGHLY IMPORTANT MORMON ARCHIVE. ALLEY, George. Archive of 23 Autograph Letters Signed by Mormon Convert George Alley to His Brother Joseph Alley. $10,000 to $20,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [AVIATION]. [ARMSTRONG, Neil A.] Aviation Hall of Fame Gold Medal MS64 NGC, Awarded to Neil Armstrong in 1979. $2,000 to $3,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: NEWLY DISCOVERED FIRST PRINTING OF "WITH MALICE TOWARDS NONE... " FROM THE ONLY NEWSPAPER ACTUALLY ALLOWED TO PARTICIPATE IN LINCOLN’S SECOND INAUGURAL PROCESSION. $4,000 to $8,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: THE MOST IMPORTANT GEORGE WASHINGTON DOCUMENT IN PRIVATE HANDS; GEORGE WASHINGTON’S COMMISSION AS COMMANDER IN CHIEF, 1775, ONE OF ONLY TWO ORIGINALS. $150,000 to $250,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: A VERY RARE ACCOUNT OF BLACKBEARD’S DEATH AND ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT PIRATE ITEMS EXTANT. $3,000 to $5,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: EDISON, Thomas. Patent for Edison’s Improvements on the Electric-Light, No. 219,628. [Washington, D.C.: U.S. Patent Office], 16 September 1879. $2,000 to $3,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [VIETNAM WAR]. The original pen used by Secretary of State William P. Rogers to sign the Vietnam Peace Agreement, Paris, 27 January 1973. $10,000 to $15,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: SONS OF LIBERTY FOUNDER COLONEL BARRÉ ANNOTATED TITLE-PAGE, “WHICH OUGHT TO ROUSE UP BRITISH ATTENTION”. $4,000 to $6,000.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions