Incredible reproduction of Columbus logbook to cost whopping 39,000 PLN
In 1492 Christopher Columbus discovered the new world and changed the course of human history.
For centuries the logbook from his momentous journey, one of the most important documents in the history of mankind, gathered dust in Spain’s national library.
Now, this extraordinary treasure is being offered for sale by a Polish company.
Not the original, but a limited series of expertly-produced, ultra-accurate facsimiles made using a combination of tradition and modern technology.
A team of scientists, specialists and artists from Poland and Italy spent more than 18 months faithfully reproducing the appearance, structure, the rustle of the paper and even the smell of the original.
The company is Warsaw-based Manuscriptum, which, in its short history, has crashed into the dusty but lucrative world of historical manuscript replicas.
As one of only a few Polish companies operating in this niche market, it has quickly built a name for itself, standing out for its workmanship, quality of materials and perhaps most of all for its mouth-watering catalogue of products.
Its meticulously made facsimiles are snapped up by business leaders, governments and the super-rich all over the world, in particular by Saudi princes and Emirati royals. They are sought not just for their investment value, but also for their content and appearance.
“We are possibly the best-known Polish brand on the Arabian peninsula,” cofounder Bartłomiej Feluś told TFN.
Facsimiles are not simply reprints of an old historical book. They are investment-grade, exact copies down to the very last detail. They replicate the original not just in their look, but also in how they feel, sound and even smell.
They are made using authentic materials by master craftspeople. If that is not enough, the covers are often decorated with precious gemstones, making them works of art in their own right.
The degree of replication is so precise, that historical researchers can work with them as if they were the original.
The company’s latest offering, the Columbus Logbook set, includes not just his logbook transcribed by Bartolomeo de La Casa, but also Columbus' letters to the rulers of Spain based on a 1494 print by the Basel printer Johannes Bergmann de Olpe, Columbus' nautical world map from before the discovery of America (1490), and Juan de la Cosa's 1500 world map that incorporate Columbus' discoveries.
The set comes packaged with a bottle of blended liquor that contains the oldest rum in the world from 1780, which was discovered in 2011 in Harewood House in North Yorkshire, England. Columbus’ expedition introduced sugar beet to the region, from which rum is made.
The package comes at a hefty price. Early-bird buyers will need to find PLN 39,000 to own the set, while those who buy later will have to pay a further PLN 10,000.
Those who decide to buy will join a select group, as only 399 will ever be made, a guarantee attested by a notary’s certificate.
The Columbus set rounds out a series of historical replicas that Manuscriptum calls The Seven Wonders of the World, a series of manuscripts that it believes are the most important in world history.
The collection is breath-taking, but that is no accident. Co-founder Artur Sobolewski explained to TFN the company’s philosophy.
“We want to produce everything that is superlative. The most valuable, the most important, the best, the first, the most mysterious, etc.”
Dorota Wielgopolan who heads up the firm’s PR efforts added: “What we offer has universal interest, everyone in the world knows these works.
“Our competitors in Germany and Switzerland often produce facsimiles that are of interest to their local markets, so they have less broader appeal.”
Just one example of the company’s success comes from June this year when the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Education bought a copy of everything that the publishing house presented at Expo Dubai for its collections and to show in schools and universities in the Emirates.
On the sixth floor of the company’s headquarters in a utilitarian, steel and glass office building overlooking a shopping centre, the team wheel out manuscript after manuscript that would leave Indiana Jones drooling saliva.
First is the Voynich Manuscript, probably the most mysterious book known to humanity. The book, an early 15th century document kept at Yale University, was discovered in 1912 by the Pole Michał Wojnicz, who, after various adventures and deportation to Siberia, settled in New York and became a well-known antiquarian.
All attempts to decipher the manuscript's text, made up of a mixture of handwritten Latin letters, Arabic numbers, and unknown characters, have failed.
Because of the many mysteries surrounding its content, it has featured in TV shows, books, music, and even video games.
Sobolewski said that according to researchers, the language used in the book has all the characteristics of any language – melody, dynamics, rhythm, repetition of words – but comparisons with all the languages of the world have found no correlation.
“After the Second World War, Alan Turing, the father of artificial intelligence, wanted to decode the book. Later, the FBI, CIA and KGB all tried to crack the book’s code but failed,” he said.
Those who buy the manuscripts need not worry about losing money. The company’s policy of producing only limited runs with a guarantee that they will never produce anymore produces a healthy resale market.
Wielgopolan said: “They always go up in value, sometimes by as much as 300 percent.”
While most buyers are rich by any standards, there are exceptions. “We have one regular customer who has a normal office job and takes out loans to buy our manuscripts,” she added.
Manuscriptum’s second co-founder Bartłomiej Feluś produces the next Wonder of the World, the Rzewuski Manuscript, the Western world's most important book on Arab culture
The 352 pages with 65 sketches, 400 colour drawings and over 100 other illustrations and maps show the history, customs, culture and nomadic lifestyle of the Bedouin tribes of Arabia.
Feluś said: “The Bedouins, and therefore the current Emiratis, have no written records of their culture and history from two hundred years ago when Count Rzewuski was in Arabia, so this document is extremely valuable for them.”
Count Wacław Rzewuski visited the Arabian peninsula several times at the start of the nineteenth century. As a fluent Arabic speaker, he was able to penetrate what was usually a closed culture.
His main reason for going there were horses. The examples he brought back to partitioned Poland are still bred in Janów Podlaski today and are known and valued among horse breeders around the world.
“When we show this book in the Emirates, there is always a huge amount of interest in it, ” Feluś said, adding: “Rzewuski’s manuscript really opens doors in the Arab world. He was like the Polish Indiana Jones.
“For them it is like the Holy Grail, it shows them their own culture in a way they never knew it before.”
One facsimile was even bought by Prince of Saud bin Neyef, governor of the eastern province for his younger brother the King of Saudi Arabia Salman ibn Abd al-Aziz Al Su’ud.
That the United Arab Emirates is an important market for the company was signalled when it became the only publishing house to be a sponsor of Poland’s pavilion at this year’s Expo in Dubai.
The Seven Wonders of the World collection is rounded off by manuscripts of no lesser importance. They include the Codex Leicester, the most expensive manuscript in the possession of a private individual
The collection of scientific writings by Leonardo Da Vinci was sold to Bill Gates at Christie's auction house on 11 November 1994 in New York for $30,802,500.
The remaining manuscripts include Copernicus’ On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, which the company bill as the most important scientific work in history, the Gutenberg Bible, the first ever book made using moveable print, and the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the largest and best preserved of all ancient Egyptian papyri.
Though the company has achieved great success abroad, Poland is an increasingly important market. Of course, facsimiles are a tiny fraction of Poland’s art investment market, but it is a thin slice of a quickly expanding pie.
Sales of works of art and antiques in 2020 in Poland amounted to PLN 418.5 million, which is an increase of PLN 256 million compared to the previous year.
Meanwhile, the market generated PLN 263 million in the first half of this year, suggesting that 2021 will be another record-breaking year.
With The Seven Wonders of the World behind them, the company is not short of ideas for the future.
Next year, it plans to publish the Magellan manuscript as September 2022 will mark the 500th anniversary of his trip around the globe.
It is also planning to publish the score of Chopin’s concerto in F-minor, as well as Flora Sinensis, a manuscript by Michał Boym, one of the first European works on the nature of East Asian countries, in particular China.