Culture creates a working group to improve security in libraries after the theft of the Galileo | Culture

The Minister of Culture, José Manuel Rodríguez Uribes, during the meeting of the Royal Board of the National Library in Madrid.
The Minister of Culture, José Manuel Rodríguez Uribes, during the meeting of the Royal Board of the National Library in Madrid.David Fernandez / EFE

The Ministry of Culture wants to reinforce security at the National Library (BNE), after the theft of the A starry Messenger, a valuable treatise on astronomy by Galileo Galilei printed in Venice in 1610. Hence, the minister, José Manuel Rodríguez Uribes, announced today, Friday, during the celebration of the institution’s board of trustees, that he has commissioned the creation of a working group that draw up a protocol of actions on professional deontology, security and communication in the library field. This new team, which will have to create and lead the General Director of Book and Reading Promotion, María José Gálvez, will have some professionals from the BNE itself and will seek to improve the conservation and control over the heritage of the 14 state libraries, including the National, as Uribes assured at the meeting and EL PAÍS was able to confirm. The minister explicitly referred, among other matters, to officials or persons who may intervene in the security and preservation of these documents.

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Uribes also recalled that the ministry is finishing its own investigation into the disappearance of the Galileo treaty, the conclusions of which will arrive in the coming days. BNE workers discovered in 2014 that the original of the A starry Messenger, one of the most important treatises in its catalog, valued at 800,000 euros according to experts consulted by this newspaper, had been replaced by a forgery. However, the institution did not report the abduction to the National Police until 2018; meanwhile, its catalog continued to offer as authentic the forgery left by the thief, according to an investigation by this newspaper.

The director of the BNE, Ana Santos, has always defended that she did not know about the theft precisely until September 2018, 52 months after the discovery of the false copy, when she received an email from the British researcher Nick Wilding, a professor at the University of Georgia (USA), in which he warned that the A starry Messenger digitized by the library was a copy. From there, he denounced it, according to his version. Mar Hernández, the then technical director who is now retired, however assures that the director was informed of the theft in 2014 and therefore knew since then that the BNE was offering a forged copy instead of the original.

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