A 404-year-old Bible stolen decades ago from the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh is finally being returned, the FBI announced.The Geneva Bible, published in 1615, was one of more than 300 items including rare books, atlases and maps worth an estimated $8 million that were discovered missing in 2017, according to Robert Jones, special agent in charge of the Pittsburgh FBI office.
"This Bible is more than a piece of evidence in a case," Jones said at a press conference Thursday. "It is a priceless artifact of religious significance to people of many faiths."The stolen book is commonly referred to as a "Breeches Bible" because its Genesis chapter describes Adam and Eve sewing fig leaves together to create breeches, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Historians believe Pilgrims who arrived in Massachusetts on the Mayflower in 1620 carried Geneva Bibles, the newspaper reported.
Gregory M. Priore, a former Carnegie Library archivist, and John Schulman, a rare book dealer, are accused of stealing and selling the items over the course of about 20 years, the Post-Gazette reported.The Bible was found in the Netherlands, and the FBI worked with officials at the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum, the District Attorney's office and the FBI's art crime team to secure its return, Jones said."From a dollar-figure sense, it is not priceless,"Jones told the Associated Press. "From a history perspective, it is priceless."
The Dutch museum had paid $1,200 for the Bible, according to District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr.Jeremy Dupertuis Bangs, the director of the Leiden museum, told CNN that he bought the Bible from what he thought was a "reputable dealer in antiquarian books" and was planning to display it in an exhibition celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower landing.Suzanne M. Thinnes, a spokeswoman for Carnegie Library, issued a statement thanking authorities for ensuring the book was returned, according to the Post-Gazette.
"The news that two people who were close to the library broke the public's trust by not treating our collections with the respect and care they deserve has been absolutely devastating for all of us," her statement read. "We look forward to invigorating community interest in our unique collections over the next year as we move toward restoring public access to the rare book collection."