The investigation of the Ministry of Culture uncovers the disappearance of other ‘Galileans’ in the National Library | Culture


The director of the National Library, Ana Santos, at the institution's headquarters in Madrid in 2019.
The director of the National Library, Ana Santos, at the institution’s headquarters in Madrid in 2019.ÁLVARO GARCÍA

The investigation initiated by the Ministry of Culture and Sports on March 15 for the theft from the National Library of a work by Galileo Galilei printed in Venice in 1610, the astronomical treatise A starry Messenger, has uncovered the disappearance of four other ‘Galileans’, according to the editors of the report, to which EL PAÍS has had access and which has been sent to the institution in the last hours. “The checks that are currently being carried out at the BNE to try to locate the copies of five books whose author is Galileo Galilei should be accelerated as much as possible, also extending to the other volumes that have not been located since 2014 or to other books that have not been found. They have been located from other dates, in order to communicate their disappearance immediately to the State Security Forces and Bodies or in case their disappearance could be related to other thefts that occurred, ”the inspectors appointed by Culture to investigate what happened. The National Library has requested the full report of the ministerial inspection, since only the recommendations derived from it were sent to it. The director Ana Santos considers that these proposals are “full of inaccuracies” and cites the example of the galileos missing since 1987, which number nine, according to the data provided this afternoon to EL PAÍS.

EL PAÍS revealed that the institution discovered in 2014 the theft of Galileo’s treaty, valued at around 800,000 euros, but that it did not report the fact to the police until 2018. During that time, the library’s catalog continued to offer as authentic the falsification that the thief left in his place, according to the investigation by EL PAÍS. The director of the BNE, Ana Santos, has always maintained that she had news of the event in 2018, thanks to an email from a British researcher who advised her that the digitized copy was a copy. However, different emails from her team had pointed out that she had been informed since 2014. In those communications, phrases such as “Galileo case manager informed” appeared.

More information

In a previous report, prepared by the National Library on measures for the protection of collections, 14,809 documents “pending to be located” were counted. Of these, 13,204 are modern monographs (published after 1830), that is, publications that in principle have less heritage value and of which it is easier to have more copies. The BNE estimated the works with the highest economic value (those of more than 5,000 euros) at 54. Ana Santos argues that most of these disappearances are “historical faults”, that is, the date of their loss is unknown. The BNE assures that it sent on April 7 the complete list with the 54 disappeared works to the Historical Heritage Brigade of the National Police, in case any of them were to appear on the international black market at some point.

When the Technical Directorate discovered the theft of the A starry Messenger, In 2014, it carried out a study on the 413 volumes stolen in 1987 from the General Deposit, especially scientific books from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, including the work of Galileo. The report indicated that a year after the robbery, the Police recovered all the copies, including the A starry Messenger. However, in that study on “disappeared” works, the “missing” of 13 books were noted, including nine by Galileo (two of them under “verification”). According to sources consulted by this newspaper, it was about the works The Assayer, whose lack was known since 1988; Dialogue on the highest systems of the world, Tolrmaico and Copernican, disappeared since 1995; Speeches and mathematical demonstration around two new sciences alternating with the mechanics of local movements, Since 1990; two copies of Internal history and demonstrations of sunspots and their accidents, missing since 1998 and since 2010; Was radiant as a messenger from the great, and far more worthy of admiration,, detected his disappearance in 1993; Y The dialogue system of the World, since 1988.

Action protocol

Among the proposals of the Culture inspectors in their report, the approval by the BNE management of a protocol of action in the face of faults, mutilations or substitutions of original copies by falsified ones, especially those that have higher equity value. This protocol should define, they add, “the responsibilities, checks to be carried out, procedures to be followed and the maximum periods within which said actions must be carried out, without them being prolonged for so long that they render the complaint before the Forces and Corps inoperative. of State Security ”. And they emphasize that the complaint must be made “when the case in question arises, to avoid situations such as the one that is the subject of this report, in which almost four years elapsed from when the false character of a copy was verified until its complaint. ”.

Pages of the false copy of Galileo's Siderius Nuncius' astronomical treaty.
Pages from the fake copy of Galileo’s astronomical treatise ‘Siderius Nuncius’.NATIONAL LIBRARY OF SPAIN

Furthermore, in order to avoid misunderstandings or communication failures, a protocol is requested that will send in writing and immediately “to the director of the BNE” any suspicion regarding the library’s funds. They also request that all the reports that are being made be sent as quickly as possible, “in order to monitor the verification work that leads, where appropriate, to the presentation of the complaint as quickly as possible before the State Security Forces and Bodies ”.

Toxic situations

However, the report commissioned by the ministry also brings to light another serious aspect, related to the work environment at the National Library. The investigators assure that throughout their actions “it has been revealed that the BNE could be producing situations of inconsideration and lack of respect”. Consequently, they believe that “it would be convenient for a study of the work environment to be carried out, complemented with an evaluation of psychosocial risks, which allows detecting toxic situations, in order to correct them, at the same time that preventive actions could be implemented. to improve labor relations, avoid possible conflicts between the personnel who carry out their work in the BNE, as well as the commission of serious or very serious misconduct ”.

Regarding the “situations of disregard and lack of respect” that the ministry’s text cites, Ana Santos says she does not know “facts of this type” and has requested the details of the department and the historical moment in which they could have occurred. The director explained that the National Library carried out the last psychosocial report in July 2018. Its results showed deficiencies in the field of participation and supervision. Employees demanded greater collaboration in the decision system and closer ties with their bosses. In response to this, the institution began posting the minutes of the board of directors on the intranet on a monthly basis. Each course calls for a presentation of the planned annual actions.

The five proposals of the inspectors also include an improvement in the training of the institution’s staff. Specifically, it is recommended that “conferences, seminars or courses be given regularly to the employees and public employees of the BNE on the techniques, methods, procedures and ways of proceeding of the professionals of the national and international mafias of illegal book trafficking. , given by professionals from the BNE and the State Security Forces and Bodies ”.


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