' I salute the great generosity of the Swedish researcher. His deep scientific and personal commitment to the preservation of French written heritage now allows the city of Avignon to recover a precious medieval manuscript, illicitly removed from its municipal collections. Many thanks to him», Franck Riester, Minister of Culture.
The French authorities welcome the presentation today, at the Embassy of France in Stockholm (Sweden), of 36 leaflets of a medieval manuscript, referenced «Avignon BM 1903» and probably dating from the first half of the XIVe century. These sheets belong to the Ceccano municipal library-media library, direct heir to the primitive library of the city of Avignon created during the French Revolution, installed in a cardinal livery of the XIVe century.
These leaflets, the loss of which was recorded in 1980, were acquired by a Swedish citizen, mainly from December 2003 to May 2004 via an online sales platform. Having started by acquiring two, he gradually bought back until 2011 the various slips available for sale to obtain the 36 slips that are gathered today. Only by undertaking more in-depth research on these leaflets, particularly on the database Initial, the computerized catalogue of illuminated manuscripts from the Middle Ages of the Institut de Recherche et d'Histoire des Textes (IRHT), which this specialist in art and book history has been able to identify strong similarities between the leaflets in his possession and the manuscript Avignon BM ms 1903 preserved in Avignon. After discussions with the Ceccano Library, he understood that the origin of the leaflets he held probably resulted from a theft, and decided to give them, without conditions, to their rightful owner.
This manuscript has a certain importance in the history of written heritage as evidenced by the presentations or publications to which it has been subjected, notably that in the catalogue of the exhibition Manuscripts with paintings in France from the 13th to the 16th century of the National Library of France in 1955 or its citation in the catalogue of the exhibition in Modena The miniatura ad Avignone al tempo dei Papi 2007.
The Swedish buyer had taken care to keep the slips in optimal conditions of storage. Recently the sheets were kept in a strong cabinet of the library of the University of Lund.
Finally, in 2018, he spotted in a Parisian public sale another sheet of the same manuscript and, having reported it in time, allowed the French Museum Service of the Direction Générale des Patrimoines of the Ministry of Culture to obtain its return. Thanks to his intervention, this illuminated leaflet has already joined its original collection in Avignon.
The French authorities are very grateful to this Swedish national for his action in favour of the French cultural heritage and also thank the Swedish authorities and all those who helped facilitate this return.