Spanish library in turmoil over stolen maps

A real life literary thriller is unravelling in Spain with priceless documents disappearing, police mounting an international hunt for the thief and the country's cultural chief and literary guardian embroiled in a juicy political controversy.

Copies of two Ptolemaic world maps, which were more than 500 years old and inspired by the astronomer and geographer Claudius Ptolemy, were stolen from Spain's National Library, from a section which is accessible to official researchers.

The chief suspect is thought to be a researcher who had been given accreditation by the Spanish embassy in Buenos Aires, suggesting they are of Argentinian origin. But the thief is thought to have fled abroad before the loss of the maps was discovered. Four other precious written documents, dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, were also damaged.

Ptolemy was a Greek or Egyptian astronomer and geographer who lived between AD85 and AD165, but his works were vastly influential until the 16th century. Copies of his original maps of the world made Columbus decide to head west in search of India – only to discover the Americas in 1492.

The stolen maps, dating from 1482, form part of Ptolemy's foremost geographical work, Cosmography, and the maps could have been stolen to order for the illegal market in stolen valuable documents.

The normally genteel and prestigious world of the National Library has been rocked further by the resignation of its director, Rosa Regas. The 73-year-old writer claimed her position had become untenable after she lost the confidence of her boss, the Culture minister, Cesar Antonio Molina.

Ms Regas told Catalunya Radio station she had been forced by Mr Molina to "give a press conference" about the theft of the maps, "against the orders of the Civil Guard, who had asked us not to give any more information to the media". Mr Molina had said that Ms Regas' three-year tenure at the head of the nation's library "had amounted to nothing" – a comment which appears to have been straw that broke the camel's back.

The embarrassment of the thefts in a library with a supposedly hi-tech security system led deputies in the Spanish Congress to ask questions about the whole affair. Mr Molina told politicans that a modernisation plan was under way which would be "very relevant" – taken as a reference to raising security.

The right-wing daily El Mundo commented yesterday: "The minister says one thing and the ex-director the other. The only thing that remains clear to the astonished citizen watching this spectacle is one is lying."

Ms Regas is no stranger to controversy. The former guardian of the country's reading heritage provoked an incredulous reaction from Spain's chattering classes when she admitted this month she did not read newspapers.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Investigo: Group Financial Controller

£50000 - £55000 per annum: Investigo: A growing group of top end restaurants l...

Ashdown Group: HR Generalist - 2 week contract - £200pd - Immediate start

£200 per day: Ashdown Group: Working within a business that has a high number ...

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Recruitment Genius: Business / Operations Manager

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This well-established and growi...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible