The front page of the recovered document.
The front page of the recovered document. / EFE

Antique newspaper recovered by police

  • The document printed in 1619, which went missing from the University of Seville 20 years ago, was for sale online

During the 17th century, a group of chroniclers decided to relate and distribute information about what was happening in different towns, in articles which are now considered to have been the origins of Spanish journalism.

One of these documents has just been found and returned to Seville University, about 20 years after it mysteriously went missing. A bookseller from Barcelona, who specialises in antique books, was advertising it for sale on the internet for 1,000 euros, but experts say its real value is incalculable.

The document consists of two pages, printed on both sides by a printer in the centre of Seville, and is dated 1619. It was written in the Spanish language of the time and has some hand annotations.

The author had written about the death by drowning of a couple of unfaithful lovers in Constantina, a village in the north of Seville province, but then discovered that one of them was still alive. He therefore had to explain this, which he did by referring to a “supernatural deed”, and “prodigious marvel”.

This document initially formed part of a volume called ‘Relación de sucesos’, which contained similar chronicles of this type and has been owned by Seville University since the second half of the 18th century. It was registered in the Antique Collection and Historical Archive of the ‘Biblioteca de la Hispalense’ library, but two decades ago they lost track of it. There is nothing to show exactly when it went missing, nor who could have taken it.

Experts at the university spotted the document by accident on a British website, and after requesting photos from the vendor to ascertain that it was the item they were looking for, they reported the matter to the police, who discovered that the bookseller who was offering it for sale had bought it at an auction in Madrid for about 500 dollars.

It had previously been owned by an aristocratic family who said it had been in their hands for at least a century, so the police are still trying to find out how it was removed from the Hispalense.

After investigating further and taking statements from different people, although at present it appears that everybody had acted in good faith, the police officially returned the document to the University of Seville, whose rector, Miguel Ángel Castro, said that it is an “incredibly valuable” part of the Library’s collection and will be put on display there.

Those responsible for the archive also stressed that the historical, artistic and documentary value of this work is incalculable, not only because it is so old, dating back to 1619, but also for the way it has been produced and the fact that it provides information from the period and is therefore a part of the history of Spain.